Hail Mary: Kecharitomene, A Unique Word for a Unique Lady
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, "the best translation," and the one most in accord with the analogy of faith, "is the most exalted one," In other words, "full of grace" best fits the bill to translate kecharitomene, though Hahn acknowledges the word is not quite a perfect fit.
The reason why "full of grace" does not go far enough and so is not a perfect fit is that "full of grace" is the literal translation of the Greek πληρης χαριτος (pleres charitos). That phrase is used to refer to St. Stephen, the first martyr, in Acts 6:8. It is also used to refer to Jesus, the Word made flesh, in The Gospel of John 1:14.
The same words ("full of grace"), it would appear obvious, ought not to be used to translate different Greek words (pleres charitos in Acts 6:8 and John 1:4 and kecharitomene in Luke 1:28). This is what drives the "most highly favored" crowd.
This is particularly true in that in both Acts 6:8 and John 1:4, the words "full of grace" are used in an obvious adjectival sense, and not as a noun, even a proper name or title, which is the case in Luke 1:28.
What the Angel Gabriel wants to communicate to Mary and to us is in the word kecharitomene is that Mary has a unique name, a unique title, a unique role in sacred history, and so--though human--is a unique being in the economy of salvation.
Mary is she whose very name, whose very title, whose very office, whose very person is to have been endowed with grace in anticipation of her role as Mother of God and Mother of the Church.
That's one reason why using "full of grace" does not go far enough. It is remarkable--in fact it is of utmost importance--that kecharitomene is clearly used by the angel Gabriel--the messenger of the most High God--as a proper noun, as Mary's heavenly name.
God gave Abram the name Abraham, the "Father of Nations." (Gen. 17:5) Jesus called Simon by the name Peter, meaning "Rock." (Matt. 16:18) God-given names are important in Scripture. Similarly, through the Angel Gabriel, God named Mary Kecharitomene. (Luke 1:28)
Since the word kecharitomene is tied with the expression "Hail" (Greek Chaire, sometimes translated "Rejoice"), it also seems to indicate a title or an office when tied to a person, as in "Hail Caesar." We actually see this usage in Scripture, such as when Judas greets Jesus as "Hail Rabbi" (Matt. 26:49), and the mocking Roman soldiers refer to Christ with the words "Hail, King of the Jews" (Matt. 27:29, Mark 15:18; John 19:3).
Though "Full of Grace" is the best we have, we should not be satisfied with the best we have. It helps us therefore to know that "full of grace" with respect to Mary refers to that unique nature of Mary's "fullness of grace." That is to say, "Full of Grace" it is her title, even her name.
Before Mary was the Mother of God (Theotokos) (cf. Luke 1:43), before she was Mother of the Church (Mater ecclesiae) (cf. John 19:27) she was Full of Grace (Kecharitomene) (Luke 1:28).
Kecharitomene is who Mary is, and not only what she has. She is Kecharitomene as a result of that "singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race," as Piux IX put it in his constitution Ineffabilis Deus which defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
That "singular privilege" requires a "singular word," and Mary has such a word: Kecharitomene.
The word Kecharitomene was like a grain of mustard seed, a tiny seed of Gospel truth, which was sown among the hearts of the faithful and grew into a tree so huge that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches and enjoy the cool of its shade. Wordsworth's poem is simply one of this tree's many fruits. But it all started with that small seed, that nonce word, kecharitomene.
"I am Kecharitomene" becomes, through proper doctrinal development, "I am the Immaculate Conception."
What the Angel Gabriel told Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself told St. Bernadette Soubirous.
In his On Nature and Grace, St. Augustine--the expounder par excellence of the doctrine of original sin--explains Mary's unique situation in this manner: "An abundance of grace (plus gratiae) was conferred on her, who merited to conceive and bear Him of whom we know was without sin." In other words, there is a parallelism between the absence of original sin in Mary (through grace), and the absence of sin (by necessity) in ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Mary, Marian, mother of God, rosary, marian devotion, Annunciation, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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