Reading the Bible from The Heart of The Church

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The Angel and Mary: Scott Hahn Reflects on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception


Readings: 
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 
Psalm 98:1-4 
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 
Luke 1:26-38

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the angel Gabriel greets Mary in an unusual way: “Hail, favored one” (see Luke 1:28).

Kecharitomene, the Greek word translated as “favored one,” is very rare, used in only one other place in the New Testament. It comes from charis, the Greek word for “grace” and basically means “made full of grace” or “transformed by grace.”

This is how the word is used in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he describes how God “granted” His grace to all of us in Jesus (see Ephesians 1:6-7). This sheds light on what the angel means - Mary has been “transformed by God’s grace.”

Notice that the angel doesn’t mention Mary’s name. That’s odd, too. There’s no other angelic greeting like this in Scripture. It’s as if Mary’s name is “favored one” or “made full of grace.”

In Scripture, when God gives a person a new name, it reveals the person’s role in His saving plan. Think of Abraham - the father of all nations (see Genesis 17:5), or Peter, the Church’s “rock” (see Matthew 16:18). Mary is God’s favored one, transformed by God’s grace to be the sinless mother of His only-begotten Son.

That’s why the angel’s greeting is one of the biblical foundations for Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate December 8. Listen closely to the Mass readings that day - you’ll hear the angel’s greeting, and Paul’s beautiful words about God’s transforming grace.


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