. . . Gabriel’s greeting to Mary takes up and brings into the present the prophecy of Zeph 3:14-17: “Rejoice, daughter of Zion; shout, Israel… the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”
There is no need here to enter into a detailed textual comparison between the angel’s greeting to Mary and Zephaniah’s prophecy. The essential reason for the daughter of Zion to rejoice is stated in the text itself: “The Lord is in your midst” (Zeph 3:15, 17). Literally it says: “he is in your womb.” Here Zephaniah is alluding to the passage in the Book of Exodus which speaks of God’s dwelling in the ark of the Covenant as dwelling “in Israel’s womb” . . . This same word reappears in Gabriel’s message to Mary: “you will conceive in your womb” (Lk 1:31).
Whatever view is taken regarding the details of these parallels, there is clearly an inner resemblance between the two messages. Mary appears as the daughter of Zion in person. The Zion prophecies are fulfilled in her in an unexpected way. Mary becomes the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the Lord truly dwells.
“Rejoice, full of grace!” One further aspect of the greeting chaire is worthy of note: the connection between joy and grace. In Greek, the two words, joy and grace (chara and charis) are derived from the same root. Joy and grace belong together.
from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI
The idea of Mary as the Ark of the new Covenant is not new to me. What I found absolutely delightful was how with Mary God makes literal what already existed as a figure of speech: God dwelling within Israel’s womb. I just love how the Bible is a great poem written not merely in words on paper but in the very fabric of history itself. I think it was Seamus Heaney who wrote something about hope and history rhyming. Oh yes. And I think this moment when Gabriel announces the coming of God to Israel is the pinnacle of that: the moment where most definitively hope rhymes with history.