Since Mary was *full *of grace, doesn’t that mean there was no room in her for sin? How long was she filled with grace? For only nine months while she was pregnant with our Lord? The Angel Gabriel said she was “full of grace” *before *she said yes.
I am responding to your post with some thoughts and questions of my own. While I question the Catholic belief that Mary was without sin all her life, I don’t discount it entirely. Note: I’m not addressing the Immaculate Conception in this discussion, although I realize that it is the foundation for Mary being “full of grace.”
Is one’s grace permanent? If you are in a state of grace, is it impossible to fall out of it?
Or, if you have a glass of water that is filled to the brim, there’s no room for anything else, right? But what happens if you pour some tomato juice into the full glass? Some of the water is forced out, displaced by tomato juice. Is it not possible for sin to displace grace?
On the other hand, it is possible to protect the glass of water from having anything else poured into it. It would seem to be possible, too, that the Holy Spirit could provide Mary with protection from sin entering into her.
How long was she filled with grace? For only nine months while she was pregnant with our Lord? The Angel Gabriel said she was “full of grace” *before *she said yes.
Well, certainly at the time of Gabriel’s greeting, unless Gabriel was (choose one) wrong, kidding, sarcastic, etc. I believe he meant exactly what he said although I can’t be sure that he referred to a permanent, unchangeable condition. But I will admit that it was within the power of the Holy Spirit to keep Mary full of grace at all times.
Just a few thoughts to encourage conversation.
Protestants might argue that the Bible doesn’t say she was “full of grace” but rather “highly favored”. But we’ve been down that road ad nauseum already.
When speaking to some Protestants about the whether Mary was sinless or not, often times the response that Catholics get is less than charitable, or at least less than respectful of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Pastor Gary, your response was both respectful and charitable as well as being rather thoughtful. Thank you for your kind attitude and your contribution.
My conversion to the Catholic Church was from atheism. It was also sudden and miraculous. However, that does not mean that I agreed with or knew the essentials right away. As I went through the RCIA, Mary’s sinlessness was one of the teachings I struggled with. For a long time I could only cling to the attitude of “I know the Church is right, but I do not understand this teaching or why it is important.”
By the time of my confirmation, I had a little better understanding of this, but I still did not understand the why.
Then, later that summer, I joined a Catholic Bible study group and we were studying the book of Exodus. Suddenly, there is was.
God is so holy, so pure, so powerful, that only Moses was permitted the briefest glimpse of His back, and that filled him with so much grace his face shone so brightly that he had to wear a veil to prevent others from being dazzled.
And then there is the Arc of the Covenant. Made of everyday wood, but lined inside and out with gold and it contained three object that represented God power, His Law, and His priestly authority. The Arc was so holy and precious, it could not be touched.
Mary was the true Arc of the Covenant as she carried God Himself in her womb. She had to be sinless in order to do that. Thus God granted her that special grace from conception in order that she may be able to one day carry Him, the Creator of the Universe and Savior of mankind.
That is how I came to more fully understand the Church’s teaching on this as well as to firmly accept it with no doubts.
Now, as for how long she remained sinless, one can look at her life up to the birth of Jesus. She was completely aware of what was going on, who Jesus was and why He was there. She many not have know how He would go about it (e.g. crucifixion, death and resurrection), but she knew she was in the presence of God Himself. She had every reason to continue to pray for the grace to remain sinless in order to be a worthy mother of the Lord. After His death, she continued in this manner in order to uphold the nascent Church and because she knew she needed to remain pure in order to fully partake in the plan and will of God. Since she already had that special grace, being preserved from Original Sin, she did not have the concupiscence that we have. Thus remaining sinless was possible for her due solely to the special and singular grace from God.
Another reason why she needed to be sinless, even from Original Sin, was because Christ needed her to make a FULL, CONSCIOUS descision of whether She wanted to take on the responsbility of carrying the Son of God in her womb, and suffering with Him. The Son, Jesus, knowing all, decided to make her sufferings fruitful and since Original Sin disorders the passions, and hinders preternatural intelligence which Adam and Eve had, she must be preserved to make an intelliable decsion.
Luke 2:35 And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.
Mary sufferings are fruitful; She gave birth to all of us at the foot of the Cross, St. John being the first.
*Rev 12:2 *She was pregnant and was crying out from her labor pains, the agony of giving birth.
She who gave birth to our Head, must, consequently, give birth to the entire body.
- Leaving aside charity towards God, who can contemplate the Immaculate Virgin without feeling moved to fulfill that precept which Christ called peculiarly His own, namely that of loving one another as He loved us? “A great sign,” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: “A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head” (Apoc. xii., 1). Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our Head. The Apostle continues: “And, being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered” (Apoc. xii., 2). John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness. And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.
- We are then, it will be seen, very far from attributing to the Mother of God a productive power of grace – a power which belongs to God alone. Yet, since Mary carries it over all in holiness and union with Jesus Christ, and has been associated by Jesus Christ in the work of redemption, she merits for us “de congruo,” in the language of theologians, what Jesus Christ merits for us “de condigno,” and she is the supreme Minister of the distribution of graces. Jesus “sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high” (Hebrews i. b.). Mary sitteth at the right hand of her Son – a refuge so secure and a help so trusty against all dangers that we have nothing to fear or to despair of under her guidance, her patronage, her protection. (Pius IX. in Bull Ineffabilis).
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS X ON THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
FEBRUARY 2, 1904
the authorized king james version uses the term" highly favored" but why? is that the most literal interpretation of the greek and hebrew? i dont believe so. the douay-rheims which was influential in the authorized version uses full of grace as well as the rsv which is a very literal interpretation. in ephesians 2:8 the authorized ver. states we are saved by GRACE through faith. as does the other interpretations. it doesnt say by favor we are saved through faith. it should be noted the authorized version is a protestant bible and thus contains some of its prejudices.
when the angel came to mary she was full of grace. this is evident when he says hail full of grace. first the angel says hail , to show respect to the one who was full of grace. it was by no act of the angel that Mary became full of grace. but it is a great mystery of God. our lord entered a womb that was not defiled by man just as he entered a body that was not defiled by sin.
In the greek
"plhrhs xaritos" in John 1:14 is
"full of grace"
“kexaritwmenh” in Luke 1:28 is
the Vulgate uses
"plenum gratiae" in John 1:14 and ~similar
"gratia plena" in Luke 1:28
Douay-Rheims (from the Vulgate…right?)
uses “full of grace” in both verses
"Even a Catholic source such as Zerwick avoids the translation ‘full of grace,’ opting instead for the less theologically loaded praises ‘endowed with grace; dearly loved.’ The MNT task force translates it as ‘graciously favored by God,’ while noting that the Douay Rheims translation, ‘full of grace,’ is not literal and is gradually being replaced among Roman Catholic translators. The most recent standard Catholic translations the NAB and the JB, have followed suit in their renditions (NAB, ‘O highly favored daughter’; JB, ‘So highly favored’) [Eric Svendsen, Who Is My Mother? (New York: Calvary Press, 2001) p. 129].
I would stay away from www.aomin.org. That is a very anti-catholic website full of personal, fallible interpretations of scripture. Not worth the time for sure.
The expression “full of grace” is the translation of the Greek word kecharitoméne, 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 (Eph 1:6), and which Mary receives as the first fruits of Redemption (cf. Redemptoris Mater, n. 10).
The first thing one has to do is to define what “Grace” means. Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary’s say this,
graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): - acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).
Dictionary.com says this,
- elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
- a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
- favor or good will.
- a manifestation of favor, esp. by a superior: It was only through the dean’s grace that I wasn’t expelled from school.
- mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace.
- favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.
- an allowance of time after a debt or bill has become payable granted to the debtor before suit can be brought against him or her or a penalty applied: The life insurance premium is due today, but we have 31 days’ grace before the policy lapses.
I am going to do some more research but so far none of these mean or say anything about “Sinless”.
The Oxford dictionary defines Grace as “The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings”
Free and unmerited means that it costs us nothing and that we don’t deserve it. I says nothing of being “Sinless”.
Okay…are you trying to say that someone that is 100% full of grace can at the same time have sin?
St. Paul goes further in Rom 6:14 when he says in Rom. 6:14.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. So while Grace is a free gift as acknowledged by all Catholic and Protestants alike and is a virtue of blessings, Paul links Grace and sin as antithetical. In other words they are diametrically opposite. Hence to be full of Grace means to have no sin or be sinless since that person [Mary] has all of God’s blessings
just rendering the meaning of grace will not give you the full understanding of mary being sinless. it is important to consider the Churches teaching, since as Catholics we believe the Church to be guided by the Holy Spirit in matters of faith and morals. and we take into consideration sacred tradition which gives us a deeper understanding of the early Church beliefs.long before the protestants, the early Church understood mary as being without sin. long before immaculate conception and original sin were defined, the early Church writings imply these doctrines.
Ambrose of Milan wrote around the year 387 ** “Come, then, and search out your sheep, not through your servants or hired men, but do it yourself. Lift me up bodily and in the flesh, which is fallen in Adam. Lift me up not from Sarah but from Mary, a virgin not only undefiled, but a virgin whom grace had made inviolate, free of every stain of sin” (Commentary on Psalm 118:22–30 [A.D. 387]). **
and Augustine writes around 415 ** “Having excepted the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, on account of the honor of the Lord, I wish to have absolutely no question when treating of sins—for how do we know what abundance of grace for the total overcoming of sin was conferred upon her, who merited to conceive and bear him in whom there was no sin?—so, I say, with the exception of the Virgin, if we could have gathered together all those holy men and women, when they were living here, and had asked them whether they were without sin, what do we suppose would have been their answer?” (Nature and Grace 36:42 [A.D. 415]). **
there are more than these, but the point is that we believe what the Church founded by Christ teaches and has always taught. there was no need to defend the Churches understanding of immaculate conception until those beliefs were attacked or put into question during the DE-formation.
provided or supplied or equipped with (especially as by inheritance or nature); “a well-endowed college”; “endowed with good eyesight”; “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”
endowed is a fine translation, impling that mary inherited this grace when her soul was infused into her body. and its ok to use highly favored as long as you do not mar the context of its meaning with mary.
The JB and NAB are the works od Liberal theologians, full of biblical-critical theorizing, and overly concerned to please ecumenical protestant opinion. Thus they use the faulty KJV translation. (Even Tyndale, who the KJV is based on, used Full of Grace).
The Greek word used by the angel is Kecharitomene. The root of this word is Charis, meaning Grace. The prefix **Ke ** means that the grace was already perfectly present before the angel appeared. The suffix **mene ** means that Mary was the recipient of this grace.
Now Charis can also be translated simply as favour. So Highly-favoured could be a conceivable translation - but this would only be acceptable if the word “favour” were used as a translation for “Charis” everywhere else in the New Testament. But THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN. Even those bibles which translate “Charis” as Favour" when referring to Mary, translate it as “Grace” everywhere else. This is highly misleading because in the New Testament the word “Grace” has a particular meaning distinct from “Favour”. In the New Testament “Grace” is a gift of God that saves from sin and its effects. So translating the word any differently is wrong. The correct translation is rightfully “Full of Grace”.
Division in the Roman Catholic Church on whether Mary is sinless??
Are you sure your interpretation isn’t motived by the fact that you believe Mary is sinless?