“full of grace”
To praise God is to recall and admire his wonderful works!
You can praise God for the natural beauty of his painted sunrise and sunsets. You can praise God for the beauty of every person who he immediately created in his image and likeness when he gave them an immortal soul. But most especially, we praise God for the supernatural work of our redemption in Jesus Christ who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On Dec. 8 Catholics of the United States of America were invited to celebrate the Immaculate Conception to praise God for creating Mary without Original Sin. The Gospel reading is from Luke 1:26-38 which describes the Virginal Conception of Jesus Christ, the Immaculate Conception of Mary is different.
To clarify, the Immaculate Conception of Mary describes when God created Mary without any stain of Original Sin in the womb of St. Anne. Whereas, the Virginal Conception of Jesus is when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary bringing the Eternal Word of God the Father into Mary‟s pure womb. Thus, the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity took on human flesh and was named Jesus. The Eternal Word of God entered our human history and leads the faithful to the fullness of heaven.
The Church chooses to read from the Gospel of Luke 1: 26-38 on Dec. 8 because these scripture passages contain the primary basis for promulgating that Mary is the Immaculate Conception.
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God…to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin‟s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, „Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.‟” Cf. Lk. 1:26-28
The Greek word for “full of grace” is kecharitomene (kay-caree-toe-may-nay) which is mentioned uniquely here in the Bible and means that Mary has been filled with grace and continues to be so.
When you are filled with God‟s grace at the very conception of your life, and continue to be so, you have no room for sin in your life. It is clear that God has “highly favored” the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is another translation found in some Bible translations, but it still means, “full of grace”.
God did this for Mary because it was proper and fitting that his Eternal Son should have a pure home from which to take on our human nature, “And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father‟s only Son, full of grace and truth.” Jn 1:14.
This is not the first time God created a woman who was free from Original Sin. God created the first man and woman without Original Sin, Adam and Eve. We read in the Book of Genesis (Chapters 1-3) how our first parents were in a state of Original Justice, that is to say, they were in perfect relationship with God, each other and all of creation, since they had sanctifying grace within them. But then they disobeyed God which pushed grace aside and thus Original Sin came into the world, stained their soul and was passed on to all of us except for Jesus and Mary, who God created to be the New Adam and the New Eve.
The Old Testament reminds us that, despite Original Sin, every human being is still made in God‟s image and likeness and thus we are called to follow the Ten Commandments with the sufficient grace to avoid mortal sin. However, since we are not born with sanctifying grace and thus are sinful, we cannot win redemption by our own power. Rather, we need to be baptized into Jesus Christ and call upon God as “Our Father,” and call upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, which honors her.
Only by the merits of Jesus Christ, through his sacred humanity which he received with the cooperation of Mary, can we receive sanctifying grace and travel on the straight and narrow path to heaven by following God‟s Holy Commandments with the help of the graces within the Seven Sacraments.
Since all grace comes to us through Jesus Christ, who was born of Mary, we can see how important Mary is to all Christians. And since Jesus loved Mary as his Mother, we should also love Mary and honor her by praising how God worked in her life. We celebrate Holy Mass which is the best way to thank God for Mary.
On this Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, Jan. 1, let us celebrate the fact that the Eternal Word became one with us by being born of Mary, the Blessed Virgin. And since we have been baptized into her Son, we call Mary our Mother, and we call God our Father.
With devout and fervent hearts, let us praise God for the work of his redemption through Jesus born of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Mother of God.
Christmas Peace and Joy in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe