Blessed Virgin was Filled with God's Grace
by Pope John Paul II
from General Audience given 8 May 1996.
1. In the account of the Annunciation, the first word of the Angel's greeting, "Rejoice",
is an invitation to joy which
recalls the oracles of the Old Testament addressed to
the "daughter of Zion". We pointed this
out in our previous catecheses and also explained the reasons for this invitation: God's presence among His people, the coming
of the messianic king and maternal
fruitfulness. These reasons are fulfilled in Mary.
The Angel Gabriel, addressing
the Virgin of Nazareth after the
greeting, chaire, "Rejoice", calls her
Kecharitomene, "full of grace". The words of the Greek
text, chaire and Kecharitomene, are deeply interconnected: Mary is invited to rejoice primarily because God loves her
and has filled her
with grace in view
of her divine
The Church's faith and the experience of
the saints teach us that grace is a source of joy, and that true joy
comes from God. In
Mary, as in Christians,
the divine gift produces
2. Kecharitomene: this term
addressed to Mary seems to be the proper way
to describe the woman destined to become the
mother of Jesus. Lumen
Gentium appropriately recalls this when it
affirms: "The Virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding
angel, by divine command, as 'full of grace'" (Lumen gentium,
The fact that the heavenly messenger
addresses her in this way enhances
the value of the angelic greeting: it is a manifestation of
God's mysterious saving plan in Mary's regard. As I wrote in the encyclical
Mater: "'The fullness of grace'
indicates all the supernatural munificence from which Mary benefits by being chosen and
destined to be the Mother of Christ" (n 9).
God granted Mary the fullness of grace
"Full of grace" is the
name Mary possesses in the eyes
of God. Indeed,
the angel, according to the Evangelist
Luke's account, uses this expression even before he
speaks the name "Mary",
and thus emphasizes the predominant aspect which the Lord perceived in the Virgin of Nazareth's personality.
The expression "full of grace"
is the translation of the Greek word Kecharitomene,
which is a passive participle. Therefore to render more exactly the
nuance of the Greek word one should not say merely "full of grace", but "made full of grace", or even
"filled with grace",
which would clearly indicate that this was a gift
given by God to
the Blessed Virgin. This term, in the form
of a perfect participle, enhances the image of a perfect
and lasting grace which
implies fullness. The same verb, in the sense of "to bestow grace", is used in the
Letter to the Ephesians to indicate the abundance of grace granted to us
by the Father in
His beloved Son (Ephesians
1:6), and which Mary receives
as the first fruits of Redemption
Mater, n. 10).
3. In the Virgin's case, God's action certainly seems surprising. Mary has no human claim to receiving the
announcement of the Messiah's coming.
She is not the high priest,
official representative of the Hebrew
religion, nor even a man, but a young woman without any influence in the society
of her time. In addition, she is a native of Nazareth, a
village which is never mentioned in the Old Testament. It must not
have enjoyed a good reputation, as Nathanael's question, recorded in John's
Gospel makes clear: "Can anything good come out of
Nazareth?" (John 1:46).
The extraordinary and gratuitous nature of
God's intervention becomes even clearer in
comparison with Luke's text which recounts what happened to Zechariah.
The latter's priestly status is highlighted as well as his exemplary life which make him
and his wife Elizabeth models of Old Testament righteousness: they walked "blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord"
But we are not informed of Mary's origins
either; the expression "of the house of David"
(Luke 1:27) in fact refers only to Joseph.
No mention is made then of Mary's behavior.
With this literary choice, Luke stresses that everything in Mary derives from a sovereign
grace. All that is granted to her
is not due to any claim of merit, but only
to God's free and gratuitous
God's mercy reaches the highest degree in Mary
4. In so doing, the Evangelist does not of course intend to downplay
the outstanding personal value of the Blessed Virgin.
Rather, he wishes to present Mary
as the pure fruit of God's goodwill:
He has so taken possession of her as to make her,
according to the title used by the Angel,
"full of grace". The
abundance of grace itself is the basis of Mary's hidden spiritual
In the Old Testament, Yahweh
expresses the superabundance of His love in
many ways and on many occasions. At the dawn of the New Testament, the gratuitousness of God's mercy reaches the
highest degree in Mary. In her, God's
predilection, shown to the chosen people and in particular to the humble
and the poor, reaches its culmination.
Nourished by the Word of the Lord
and the experience of the saints, the Church urges believers to keep their gaze fixed on
the Mother of the Redeemer and to
consider themselves, like her, loved by God. She
invites them to share Our Lady's humility
and poverty, so that, after her example
and through her intercession, they may
persevere in the grace of God Who sanctifies
and transforms hearts.