The biblical narratives do not reveal the exact age of the Virgin Mary when the angel Gabriel asked her to bear the Savior of the world.
However, the tradition of the Jewish people at that time gave us some insight and provided an approximate age range.
The Catholic Encyclopedia explains, “Jewish maidens were considered to be ready for marriage at the age of twelve years and six months, though the actual age of the bride always varied with circumstances. The marriage was preceded by the betrothal, after which the bride would legally belong to the bridegroom, though she did not live with him till about a year later when the marriage used to be celebrated.”
In agreement with the above and other historical sources and this was still the practice in the Holy Land even up until the early 20th century.
According to a Biblical historian, “Some customs of biblical Palestine continued through the centuries, and after her trip to the Near East around 1910, Alma White made a comment on the age of marriage in Palestine, ‘A girl is usually married in her twelfth or thirteenth year, and sometimes as early as her tenth year”.
Short life expectancy was one of the factors that motivate this early age because the average life expectancy for most people in the ancient world was between 30-40 years of age. In addition to that, the earliest age a woman can conceive and bear a child is typically between 12 to 14 years old.
In that case, the Annunciation is an even more remarkable event. An event where a young teenager said “Yes” to bearing the Messiah in her womb. She was just a little older than a child and the task of raising Jesus, the Son of God was entrusted to her.
It’s an inspiring reality, that one can create a greater love and admiration of the Virgin Mary.