December 12, 2018, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Second Week of Advent
“Full of grace” is the word that stands out in today’s Gospel on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and says, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
This phrase “full of grace” is actually one word (kecharitōmenē) that can also be translated as highly favored one. It’s a unique word that doesn’t appear again in Scripture, a word that reflects the uniqueness of Mary herself. The word is an indication of how special she is among all women in salvation history. Pope Pius IX connects this uniqueness to Mary’s Immaculate Conception when he explains that this greeting “showed that the Mother of God is the seat of all divine graces and is adorned with all gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854). In other words, even before the Holy Spirit came upon her and the power of the Most High overshadowed her, she already had “a special grace and privilege of God” from the “first instant of the soul's infusion into the body” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854). This word “full of grace” (kecharitōmenē) means that “the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant” (Ineffabilis Deus, 1854).
An anonymous painter of the 18th century captured this perfectly, depicting God the Father eternally painting the image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe for his Son, who with the Holy Spirit is lovingly looking on. That’s how Mary is truly “full of grace.”