The Annunciation and Three Stories from Genesis c.1480-85 by Lorenzo di Credi

The Fullness Of Grace

When the angel Gabriel came to Mary,  he addressed her in a way that is pivotally significant to who she is (to God, Jesus, and us). Gabriel actually called her name kaire, kekaritomene -or “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:28-30). This means that God’s heavenly messenger was praising (hailing) her. For this reason, Mary “was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29).

kaire, kekaritomene – this title was used to address a person of honor (used mockingly in Jn 19:3 “Hail, King of the Jews”).  At Gabriel’s word, through the authority of God, Mary’s name was changed to ‘Full of Grace’, just as Saray’s name was changed to Sarah (Gen 17:15).  We know throughout Biblical history, that whenever God changes a name there is great significance

It is grace that perfects nature – only the grace of God. Mary; being “full of grace,” means precisely that her nature was made perfect by God. This is very important and often overlooked, as it is a stumbling block for many. It means that Mary’s grace was a gift from God – a gift which he chose to give her in fullness.

Mary was called ‘Full of Grace” because the work of grace was completed in her – the work that is not completed in us until heaven (Phi 3:12-16). If any of us were FULL of grace, we would never sin.

 

Given a Choice

God did not need Mary any more than he needs the angels, prophets, disciples – or any of us, for that matter. He chose Mary to be the mother of his only son Jesus; the mother of God… and Mary had a choice.

It is often said that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman – that he doesn’t force himself upon us. God endowed humanity with free will, by our very nature, and he respects our free will always! By this same design, Mary could have said yes or no to God’s messenger Gabriel.

The virginal Mary asked Gabriel how she was to conceive the Son of God, and he graciously explained to her how the Holy Spirit would overshadow her. Gabriel then went on to proclaim to Mary the miracle of her cousin Elizabeth’s conception with a son, saying: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk 1:37).

At this, Mary made her profession to God, before Gabriel. Mary gives her “yes,” her “fiat” (Latin for ‘let it be done’). It is not until Mary says: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) that the angel departs from her to report back to the Father.

 

All Of Creation Is Waiting

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Abbot and Doctor of the Church, gave a beautiful homily on how all of creation – past, present, and to come – awaited Mary’s fiat in that moment that Gabriel waited.

Adam waits in his exile from paradise, Abraham waits, David waits, all the holy patriarchs and ancestors wait and ask it of Mary with Gabriel. All of us await Mary’s answer – so weighty, that our ransom depends on her answer.

Here is an excerpt of St. Bernard’s homily:

 

The Whole World Awaits Mary’s Reply


On the Annunciation and Mary’s “fiat”
(This homily excerpt of St. Bernard is in the Office of Readings for December 20, the fourth week of Advent.) 

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Hom. 4, 8-9: Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 4 [1966], 53-54

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