The title "Full of Grace" attributed to Mary holds deep meaning in Catholic theology. But what does it truly signify? In this article, we delve into the profound significance of Mary's fullness of grace. Drawing upon biblical evidence and scholarly works, we explore the theological foundation behind this belief and why it holds great importance for believers.
What does the Bible say?
The Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words, "Hail, full of grace" (Luke 1:28). This phrase, in the original Greek, carries the sense of being "completely and perfectly graced." Mary's fullness of grace is a unique quality bestowed upon her by God, indicating her exceptional role in salvation history. This biblical passage serves as a powerful testimony to Mary's unique status. As renowned theologian Scott Hahn explains, "The Greek word used here, kecharitomene, implies a perfection of grace in the past with continuing effects in the present."
What does theology teach?
The belief in Mary's fullness of grace aligns with the Catholic understanding of her Immaculate Conception. As Pope Pius IX declared in 1854, Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin, from the moment of her conception, by a special grace from God. This immaculate state allowed her to be a fitting vessel for the Incarnation of Christ. In the words of Pope Pius IX, "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."
What do the scholars say?
Marian scholars throughout history have reflected on the significance of Mary's fullness of grace. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his work "Summa Theologiae," emphasized Mary's unique sanctity and the singular abundance of grace bestowed upon her. He writes, "God so prepares and endows those whom He chooses for some particular office that they are rendered capable of fulfilling it, according to 2 Corinthians 3:6: '(Who) hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament.'" Aquinas highlights Mary's exceptional preparation and sanctification for her role as the Mother of God.
Another contemporary scholar, Fr. Michael Gaitley, explores Mary's role as the perfect model of discipleship in "33 Days to Morning Glory." Gaitley emphasizes Mary's fullness of grace and how it empowers believers. He writes, "She alone fully cooperated with God's grace at every moment of her life and was, therefore, filled with God's divine life as no other created person has ever been or ever will be."
Why should we believe that the Virgin Mary was "Full of Grace"?
Believing in Mary's fullness of grace holds profound implications for our understanding of salvation and the redemptive work of Christ. Mary's unique role as the "New Eve" symbolizes the restoration of humanity through Christ's sacrifice. Her fullness of grace serves as a model and inspiration for our own journey of holiness, reminding us of God's transformative power in our lives. As Pope Benedict XVI states, "Mary, through the grace of God, anticipated in herself what the Church receives in a sacramental manner in her, the fullness of grace."
Understanding Mary's fullness of grace brings us closer to appreciating her pivotal role in salvation history. Rooted in biblical evidence and supported by theological interpretation and scholarly works, this belief enriches our understanding of God's plan of redemption. Mary's fullness of grace inspires us to strive for holiness, relying on God's grace to transform our lives. As we embrace this profound truth, may we grow in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, seeking her intercession and following her example of total surrender to God.
Hahn, Scott. "Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God."
Pope Pius IX. "Ineffabilis Deus" (Apostolic Constitution on the Immaculate Conception).
Aquinas, Thomas. "Summa Theologiae."
Gaitley, Michael E. "33 Days to Morning Glory."
Pope Benedict XVI. "Spe Salvi" (Encyclical Letter on Christian Hope).