Highly Favoured Lady?

I remember talking once with a lady from our old parish who is a good friend of ours. Briefly, she is a very devout woman whom my wife and I always joke that if we ever need anything, we just get her to pray for it. She prays with great trust, and subsequently has tremendous faith. So there we were happily conversing on a Sunday afternoon. I was enthusiastically telling her about the Mariology course I was working on at the time. I was about to talk about something really special that I had just learned, that is, the importance of a proper translation of Luke 1:28.

Warning: Nerdy Biblical Exegesis Ahead

You see, Luke 1:28 is where the angel Gabriel greets Mary with, what Luke writes in Greek as, "kecharitomene." In the RSV Bible kecharitomene is translated as “Hail, O favoured one!” Yet, in this instance the translator is indeed a traitor. O favoured one? Do we not pray "full of grace" in the rosary?

Examining kecharitomene closer reveals much more than Mary as being simply favoured. Indeed, kecharitomene is, in fact, the perfect past participle of the verb charitoo, A perfect past participle, despite being a mouthful to say, carries the connotation of a previous passive change. Ok, bear with me on this...

To be passive means that it is done to you, to be past means it, well, happened in the past, and to be perfect means the past action is completed. In other words, if kecharitomene is the perfect past participle of charitoo, or “grace,” then Mary passively received this fullness of grace, in the past, and that this previous reception is completed. 

Ok, what am I saying here? Simply this: Gabriel's greeting to Mary declares a previous completed action of grace in Mary. In other words, kecharitomene essentially teaches that Mary was Immaculately Conceived; that God perfectly prepared her with the fullness of grace in correlation with her impending Divine motherhood. The translation of “Hail, full of grace,” then, is much more suitable than “O favoured one,” for it declares that Mary had the fullness of grace already done to her (i.e. Immaculately Conceived) which has made her suitable to be the Mother of God.

Nerdy Biblical Exegesis Completed: Resume Reading

So there I was about to tell this person all these incredibly exciting biblical insights regarding the necessity of the Immaculate Conception, and how it is evident in a true translation of Scripture. But she cut me off... She started going on about how the more she prays about it, the more she knows that Mary must have been Immaculately Conceived because of how humble she was. She explained that not only the humility of Mary is evidenced in the Annunciation, but also that this humility allows for her to be declared full of grace. Finally, she concluded that, after praying about it, she believes Mary was given the fullness of this humility beforehand in preparation for her mission, and thus ultimately the angel Gabriel in the Annunciation is simply declaring to Mary what has already been completed by God: i.e. the Immaculate Conception.

"Oh wow." I replied to her. "Sort of like a perfect past participle... er, yeah, that's great!"

By deep prayer with God she figured out exactly what countless hours of my Master's studies had brought to my attention. "So there..." I thought, "what a waste!" Why spend thousands of dollars on courses and books, and hours and days and months and years studying, when you can know all of this by meditating on it through prayer?

Some are just more favoured than others, I guess.




Photo Credit: archbalt.org

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