Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin's Commentary on the Hail Mary, pt. 3: "Full of Grace"

Full of Grace

1. Exegesis. The Greek word employed by St. Luke in his Gospel is κεχαριτωμένη, which signifies highly graced [translator's note: one could also translate the Spanish as highly favored], most graceful, or according to Spanish tradition, full of grace, corresponding to the Latin of the Vulgate: gratia plena. The Greek expression employed by St. Luke is very rare in Sacred Scripture. It appears only three times in the Old Testament and twice in the New (cf. Eccl. 9:8; Ps. 17:26 [Vulgate numbering]; Lk. 1:28; Eph. 1:6). The Greek participle expresses three ideas in the Latin "full of grace": 1) the idea of grace; 2) the idea of possession, a permanent and established state of being; c) the idea of abundance. The tradition of the Jerusalem Bible is considered to be the most clear and exact: You, who have been given and are full of grace. [1]

2. Theology. First, let us listen to the magisterial commentary of the Angelic Doctor [(Expositio salutationis angelicæ, article 1: "Full of grace"; trans. by Joseph B. Collins (New York 1939); available here: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/AveMaria.htm; for the reader's benefit, I quote more of St. Thomas's commentary here than Fr. Marín originally did)]:
The Blessed Virgin was superior to any of the Angels in the fullness of grace, and as an indication of this the Angel showed reverence to her by saying: “Full of grace.” This is as if he said: “I show you reverence because you dost excel me in the fullness of grace.” 
The Blessed Virgin is said to be full of grace in three ways. First, as regards her soul she was full of grace. The grace of God is given for two chief purposes, namely, to do good and to avoid evil. The Blessed Virgin, then, received grace in the most perfect degree, because she had avoided every sin more than any other Saint after Christ. [For sin is either original, and from this she was cleansed in the womb, or mortal or venial, and from these she was free.] Thus it is said: “You are fair, My beloved, and there is not a spot in you” [Sg 4:7]. St. Augustine says: “If we could bring together all the Saints and ask them if they were entirely without sin, all of them, with the exception of the Blessed Virgin, would say with one voice: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’[1 Jn 1:8]. I except, however, this holy Virgin of whom, because of the honor of God, I wish to omit all mention of sin” [De natura et gratia 36]. For we know that to her was granted grace to overcome every kind of sin by Him whom she merited to conceive and bring forth, and He certainly was wholly without sin. [...]
She exercised the works of all the virtues, whereas the Saints are conspicuous for the exercise of certain special virtues. Thus, one excelled in humility, another in chastity, another in mercy, to the extent that they are the special exemplars of these virtues—as, for example, St. Nicholas is an exemplar of the virtue of mercy. 
The Blessed Virgin is the exemplar of all the virtues. In her is the fullness of the virtue of humility: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” [Lk 1:38]. And again: “He has looked on the humility of his handmaid” [Lk 1:48]. So she is also exemplar of the virtue of chastity: “Because I know not man” [Lk 1:34]. And thus it is with all the virtues, as is evident. Mary was full of grace not only in the performance of all good, but also in the avoidance of all evil. 
Again, the Blessed Virgin was full of grace in the overflowing effect of this grace upon her flesh or body. For while it is a great thing in the Saints that the abundance of grace sanctified their souls, yet, moreover, the soul of the holy Virgin was so filled with grace that from her soul grace poured into her flesh from which was conceived the Son of God. Hugh of St. Victor says of this: “Because the love of the Holy Spirit so inflamed her soul, He worked a wonder in her flesh, in that from it was born God made Man.” “And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God” [Lk 1:35]. 
[Thirdly, t]he plenitude of grace in Mary was such that its effects overflow upon all men. It is a great thing in a Saint when he has grace to bring about the salvation of many, but it is exceedingly wonderful when grace is of such abundance as to be sufficient for the salvation of all men in the world, and this is true of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin. Thus, “a thousand bucklers,” that is, remedies against dangers, “hang therefrom” [Sg 4:4]. Likewise, in every work of virtue one can have her as one’s helper. Of her it was spoken: “In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue” [Sir 24:25]. Therefore, Mary is full of grace, exceeding the Angels in this fullness and very fittingly is she called “Mary” which means “in herself enlightened”: “The Lord will fill your soul with brightness” [Is 48:11]. And she will illumine others throughout the world for which reason she is compared to the sun and to the moon.
Following this authoritative theological commentary of the Angelic Doctor, let us listen to the mystical commentary of St. Bernard, full of mildness and affection [(Hom. 3 in laud. Vir. Mat., nn. 2-3)]:
We have here, then, what the angel presented to Mary, saying: "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee." We read in the Acts of the Apostles of St. Stephen who was "full of grace" (Acts 6:5) and of the apostles who also were "full of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:4), but quite differently from Mary; because, among many other reasons, neither in the former did the fullness of the divinity dwell bodily as it did within Mary, nor did the latter conceive by the Holy Ghost as did Mary. "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee." To what extent was she full of grace if the Lord was with her! What we ought to admire more is how the angel found the One who sent him to the Virgin already present with her. Was God faster than the angel so as to arrive on earth before His messenger? I ought not be surprised because while the King was in his rest, the nard of the Virgin was spreading its scent, and the perfume of its aroma was rising up before the presence of His glory, and in this way she found grace in the eyes of the Lord, while those around Him cried out: "Who is this, rising up from the desert as a column of smoke, formed by the perfumes of myrrh and frankincense?" (Sg 3:6). And at once the King set out from His holy place, rejoiced as a giant to run his course (Ps 18:6), and although He came from the highest height of heaven, He wished with the most ardent desire that He should arrive before His messenger to the Virgin, whom He loved, whom He had chosen for Himself, whose beauty He desired. To Him does the Church, full of rejoicing, say upon seeing Him come from the distance: "Behold how He comes leaping over the mountains, passing over the hills" (Sg 2:8).
With good reason does the King desire the beauty of the Virgin, who was doing what David, her father, said to her from long before: "Listen, daughter, and see: incline your ear and forget your people and your father's house." And if you do this, "The King shall desire your beauty" (Ps 44:11). She heard, then, and saw, not as those who hear but do not listen nor those who see but do not understand, but as one who hears and believes, as one who sees and understands. She inclined her ear to obedience and her heart to teaching, and forgot her people and her father's house. For she did not think of increasing her people through succession, nor did she intend to give the house of her father to an heir, but all the honor which she might have had from her fathers, she abandoned as if it were worthless, so that she might gain Christ (Phil. 3:8). And she did not think falsely, for she attained, without violence to the integrity of her virginity, to bear Christ for her Son. Thus with great reason may we call her "full of grace," for she both maintained the grace of virginity and, more than that, achieved the glory of motherhood.


1. In a well-documented study on the meaning of the expression "full of grace," an excellent contemporary exegete has come to the following conclusion: "The fullness of grace is a thing of "fuller sense" [sensus plenior] pertaining to a second group, and within which are certainly contained all the graces that God has arranged to give to the Virgin Mary in preparation for her divine maternity; and within which probably are also included the same graces which God arranged to give to His Mother in electing her to the divine maternity (cf. Manuel de Tuya, O.P., Exegetical-theological Evaluation of "Hail, full of grace": Ciencia Tomista, Jan-Mar 1965 [translator's note: this year is a typo; the actual year of publication is 1956; volume number is 83], p. 27).


Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marín, La Virgen María, trans. by R. Grablin (Madrid, Spain: BAC, 1996), 447-449.

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