Mary: Kaire, Kecharitomene – Hail, full of grace
Mary was chosen by God as His most perfect creation for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to come into the world. In Lk 1:26-30, the Angel Gabriel, God’s messenger, spoke extraordinary words to Mary: “Hail, full of grace”, in Greek, “Kaire, kecharitomene”. The angel does not call her by her earthly name, Miryam, Mary, but ‘Kecharitomene’, ‘Full of Grace’, as if this were her real name.
The Scripture scholar, Carroll Stuhlmuelle, explains that the reference “Full of Grace” indicated that Mary was the object of God’s grace and was chosen from a long time in the past, as prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Thus, God, to fulfil this prophesy, bestowed bountiful supernatural blessings on the virgin chosen to be the Mother of Immanuel, God with us. Mary is that virgin and that Mother.
In this regard, biblical scholars conclude that Mary, addressed as Kecharitomene, signifies that she was not simply blessed with grace, but she was filled with grace, that is, blessed with a permanent state incompatible with sin; and would remain free from all sin by God’s prevenient grace (saved from sin before the fact cf Eph 1:3-6).
Martin Luther explains that God’s grace fills Mary with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil ... . God is with her, means that all she did was divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God protected her from all that might be hurtful to her.
According to Tim Staples, a Catholic convert, if Mary had been simply blessed with ‘grace’ as any other Christian, or even if she were greatly but less-than-perfectly graced, she would not have been declared “full of grace”. Greek scholar Fr Mateo states, “It is correct to paraphrase kecharitomene as ‘completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace’. Therefore, Mary will always be in a permanent state, ‘full of grace’.”
Furthermore, theologian Ludwig Ott points out: Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost, greets Mary: “Blessed (Gk eulogeme’ne) art thou among women, and blessed (eulogeme’nos) is the fruit (Jesus) of thy womb”. So the blessing of God which rests upon Mary is parallel to the blessing that rests upon Jesus Christ in his humanity. Ephrem, a 4th century Church Father, indicated this interpretation of Luke 1:42 and 48, was common in the early Church. He explains that so radical is this blessing in the life of Mary that it becomes another name for Mary: “all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). Ephrem concludes: “The first mother, Eve, was cursed, the second mother, Mary, bears the name blessed.”
These brief biblical and historical evidence indicates Mary is not just an insignificant person in God’s plan. Scripture reveals her as the chosen one according to God’s providence to be the Mother of the Saviour, God become incarnate, dwelling among us. Yes, indeed, Mary is ‘Eulogeme’ne’, Blessed, and ‘Theotokos’ Mother of God, because she is ‘Kecharitomene’, Full of Grace!
Most Rev Kenneth
Archbishop of Kingston