- To understand the relationship between Catholic teaching about Mary and the Scriptural portrayal of Mary.
- To understand the biblical foundations of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
- To appreciate how Catholic belief in the Immaculate Conception flows from the New Testament portrait of Mary as the “New Eve”
III. Hailing Mary
A. Full of Grace
The annunciation scene in Luke’s Gospel, in which the angel Gabriel greets Mary by the title "full of grace," is also cited as a biblical foundation for the Immaculate Conception.
We discussed the annunciation scene in detail in our first lesson.
Here we want to focus on the angel’s greeting: "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you" (see Luke 1:28).
This is a greeting found nowhere else in Scripture. Kecharitomene, the word translated "favored one," or "full of grace" is extremely rare, used only in the annunciation text and in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.
In each case, the verb is used to indicate an action that causes some effect in the object of the verb.
Paul speaks of how God "granted" or bestowed His grace upon us in Jesus (see Ephesians 1:6-7). In this instance, Paul uses the word to describe how God’s grace causes a transformation in us - forgiving our sins, making us His adopted sons and daughters.
In the same way, the use of kecharitomene in the angel’s address implies that Mary has been favored by the bestowal of God’s grace.
Some Church fathers and scholars believe that the sense of the term would best be translated as "made full of grace" or "transformed by grace." The sense is that Mary has already been "graced" and is now and will be in the future, filled with grace.
Another thing to note about the angel’s greeting - she is not hailed as Mary, but as "full of grace." No other person is addressed this way by an angel in Scripture. It’s almost as if "Full of Grace" is Mary’s name.
Throughout Scripture, when God gives a person a new name it indicates that person’s true place in God’s plan of salvation.
Abram’s name is changed to "Abraham," signaling his role as designating him to be the "father of a host of nations" (see Genesis 17:5). Simon is called "Peter," because he will be the rock upon which Christ founds His Church (see Matthew 16:18).
And, by the command of God, Mary is called "full of grace." In this name, her destiny is revealed. From before the foundation of the world, she was chosen to be sinless mother of His only-begotten Son.
This is how Pope John Paul II interpreted this Scripture in the homily he preached on the 150th anniversary of the dogma. Full of grace, he said, "is the name that God, through His messenger, chose to use to describe the Virgin. This is how He had always seen and thought of her, ab aeterno (from all eternity)."
B. From Bible to Liturgy
All these scriptural images of Mary are brought together in the liturgy for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The Entrance Antiphon for the Mass, puts the words of the prophet Isaiah in the mouth of Mary: "My soul rejoices in my God, for He has clothed me in the garment of salvation . . . like a bride adorned with her jewels" (see Isaiah 61:10).
The Opening Prayer explains the great mystery of the Immaculate Conception in God’s plan for the world’s salvation - "Father, you prepared the Virgin Mary to be the worthy mother of Your Son. You let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by His death, and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception."
The First Reading for the feast is the story of Adam and Eve’s sin and the proto-evangelium (see Genesis 3:9-15,20). The Second Reading is drawn from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, including the same verse we discussed earlier - the only other place in the New Testament where the Greek word kecharitomene is used (see Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12).
Paul’s words were originally addressed to every believer in Christ. Read in the Liturgy, they apply first and foremost to Mary - who is to be the forerunner of every Christian. "Before the foundation of the world," she was chosen "to be holy and without blemish" by the "grace that God granted" her in the Beloved, Jesus. The grace given to Mary in her mother’s womb, is to be the destiny of all who believe in her Son and are baptized.
The reading reminds us, too, that Mary was "destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will." In other words, God’s will, expressed in the First Reading, is accomplished in Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her bearing of Christ.
This is reinforced by the Gospel reading for the feast - the annunciation (see Luke 1:26-38).
Finally, the special Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for the feast is another summary of the biblical testimony to Mary’s Immaculate Conception, revealing Mary to be a sign of the Church and "a promise of its perfection."
- Lesson One: A Biblical Introduction to Mary
- To understand the basic outlines of the New Testament’s witness to Mary.
- To appreciate how the Old Testament forms the essential background for what the New Testament teaches about Mary.
- To understand “typology” and its importance for reading the New Testament texts concerning Mary.
- Lesson Two: Wedding at Cana, Garden in Eden
- To appreciate the Old Testament symbolism that forms the deep background to the Gospel account of the wedding feast at Cana.
- To understand how Mary is depicted as a “New Eve” in this account.
- To appreciate the importance of the Old Testament marriage symbolism for John’s recounting of the “sign” at Cana.
- Lesson Three: The Ark of the New Covenant
- To see how Mary’s visit to Elizabeth parallels David’s bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
- To understand how the book of Revelation uses the startling image of the rediscovered Ark of the Covenant to introduce a vision of the Mother of Christ.
- To understand why the New Testament writers see Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant.
- Lesson Four: Mother Crowned in Glory
- To see the importance of the Queen Mother in the Davidic kingdom of the Old Testament.
- To understand the duties and privileges that came with the position of Queen Mother.
- To see how Mary fills the position of Queen Mother in the kingdom of Christ.
- Lesson Six: The Queen Assumed into Heaven
- To understand the biblical foundations of the Dogma of the Assumption.
- To understand the deep Old Testament symbolism and imagery in Revelation 12, and its relation to Catholic beliefs about Mary.
- To appreciate how the biblical portrait of Mary is reflected and interpreted in the Church’s liturgy.