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‘Hail, Full of Grace’: The Holy Name of Mary
Today in the old Roman Catholic calendar is the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, the beloved mother of Jesus Christ. This follows the celebration of Mary’s birth on Sept. 8 (in the Byzantine calendar, today is the Leave-taking of the Nativity of Mary feast).
Names have power. That is why the Jews were not allowed to speak the name of God (YHWH, or I AM WHO AM) casually or even in most religious rituals. That is why certain Biblical figures received new names or titles (e.g. Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sara, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul, Mary to “Full of Grace”). So we call upon Mary by name, asking for her help in reaching Heaven (as we ask other Christians on earth for prayers).
The Angel Gabriel addressed Mary (Lk. 1:28) at the Annunciation by saying, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” The word translated here “full of grace” is κεκαριτωμενη (kekaritomene) in the Gospel’s original Greek. This is a form for which there is not an exact equivalent in English, but it essentially means “to have been perfected in the state of grace.”
Unlike for most angelic appearances in the Bible, Gabriel addresses Mary with the utmost respect instead of simply commanding. Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana at Mary’s behest (John 2). Mary herself said in the Magnificat prayer (Lk. 1:48), “Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”
Mary is our strongest ally in fighting the devil and becoming closer to Christ her Divine Son. Let us call upon the name of Mary, as we strive to be holy Christians in a dark and troubled world.
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