FULL OF GRACE
Mystery of Rejoice:
On the Annunciation the angel Gabriel greeted St. Mary with the words:
full of grace,
the Lord is within you,
blessed are you among women”.
It was not an ordinary greeting, i.e., “Good Day”, nor did it mean “peace” or “shalom”, but had the full meaning of “rejoice”. For the Greek word for Hail is “Xaipe”, and the verb form of it “Xaipw” is found eighty times in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. About half are translated “rejoice”, and the other half are used to refer to the joy of God’s people at some striking act done by God for their salvation .
In the Old Testament, some prophets addressed the same greeting to the “Daughter of Zion”, asking her to rejoice greatly and shout aloud, proclaiming the Messianic deliverance.
“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion!
Rejoice (charie), exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord your God is in your midst.
Rejoice (charie) heart and soul,
daughter of Zion!..
for you, I come and I will dwell (shakan) in the midst of you
Now, the angel invites the true daughter of Zion, St. Mary, to inner., heartfelt joy, because of the dwelling (shakan) of the Messiah, her Savior and God, within her, and because of her motherhood of God’s Son.
This mystery of rejoicing which St. Mary received at the moment of the divine Incarnation, is declared clearly throughout the whole Coptic liturgies, hymns and arts; a matter which we will discuss in the last chapter.
St. Mary’s holiness:
The idea of St. Mary’s holiness is related to our conception of her motherhood to God, her perpetual virginity, her personal friendship to believers, and her status as a symbol of the Holy Church.
1. We already see St. Mary’s motherhood to God as the fruit of marriage between God’s free grace and man’s faithful submission and obedience to God. God, miraculously intervenes to realize the divine Incarnation as a free gift offered from Him to men. (: 28-35).
By free divine grace, St. Mary gains preparatory perfection in spirit and body to enable her to receive Him. The divine grace sanctified St. Mary, so that she could become the True holy of holies in whom God dwells and the second heaven, the Mother of “Life, Light and the Holy One”.
The Virgin, on man’s behalf, submitted to God’s message and His act. ().
At the moment of Incarnation St. Mary received a unique perfection, by the actual Presence of God’s Son, the Author of Grace.
- Truly, she alone is said to be full of grace, who alone obtained the grace which no one else had gained; that of being filled with Author of grace.
- Hail, full of grace!
For grace is bestowed on individuals by portions,
but on Mary it was bestowed in all its plenitude!
Fr. Peter Chrysologus
Mary carried Fire in her hands,
and embraced Flame with her arms.
To the Flame she gave her breasts to suck,
to the Nourisher of all she gave of her milk.
Who can possibly tell of her?!
St. Ephram the Syrian
- Clothed with divine grace as with a garment, her soul filled with a divine wisdom, in heart she was wedded to God; she received God in her womb.
This idea – the correlation between St. Mary’s holiness and her maternity to God – is clarified in the Coptic hymns, which give her many names, to express the Theotokos’ holiness:
“Hail to the new heaven,
from which the Sun of Righteousness shines,
the Lord of all mankind!”
On the Christmas Liturgy
“Hail to Mary,
the beautiful dove,
who brought forth God, the Word!
On the Holy week
- You became more higher than heaven,
and more honourable than earth and all the creatures thereon,
for you became the mother of the Creator!”
- No other being became the Mother of God;
and Although you are an inhabitant of the Earth,
you became the mother of the Creator!
(Baralax) of the hymn of Blessing
2. Her perpetual virginity also is correlated with her holiness, as it appears in the Alexandrian treatises on Virginity.
“She was a virgin”, says St. Ambrose, “not only in body but also in spirit, whose pure mind was never spoiled by any deceit”.
3. The orthodox believer feels the holiness of St. Mary not only as a doctrine which he has learned from the books, but as a fruit of personal friendship with St. Mary in his daily life. The Coptic believer feels that she is his own mother, the holy Queen in heaven, who asks for his salvation. She is the holy mother who longs for the holiness of her sons.
4. Lastly, St. Mary is holy as far as she, as the “Daughter of Zion”, full of grace, symbolizes the Holy Church. She also symbolizes the Bride of Christ, His mystical body and the spiritual institution founded by the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit .
St. Mary & Actual Sins:
Some Fathers do not believe her to be without faults, such as St. Irenaeus, Origen, St. John Chrysostom.. but these opinions do not represent the widespread mariological tradition in the Early Church.
She passed all her life in holiness, as the True Ark of the Covenant, which was made of incorruptible wood laid in by gold inside and outside.
The following are some quotations from the writings of the Fathers to this effect.
- I do not propose to have a single question raised on the subject of sin in regard to the Holy Virgin Mary, out of respect for the Lord.
- How could I paint the picture of this marvellous, beautiful one, with ordinary colour ……
too exalted and too glorious is the image of her beauty
She was wise and filled with the love of God ….
She was never defiled by bad desires, had remained from childhood steadfastly just and has always walked along the right way without fault or stumbling.
St. Jacob of Sarug (451-521)
- The Word of the Father came forth from His Bosom,
and in another He put on a body.
From one Bosom He came forth to another.
These pure bosoms were filled with Him.
Blessed is He who dwells in us.
St. Ephram the Syrian
St. Mary & The Original Sin:
The Orthodox Church, whose love towards St. Mary is deeprooted, considers her more holy than all the heavenly creatures, whilst a natural member of the human race. We do not however, set her apart from the human race by assuming that she was born without original sin, as if she was born not of human seed.
This reality is declared in the following Theotokia:
“How deep is God’s abundance and wisdom,
that the womb under judgement brought
forth children by incurring pain;
she became a fountain of immortality,
bringing forth Emmanuel without human seed,
so that He might destroy corruption of our nature”.
In another Theotokia we say:
“The Holy Spirit filled you completely,
filled every part in your soul and body,
O Mary, the mother of God”.
St. Mary, herself declared her joy to God, her Saviour. for indeed she was in need of salvation.
To this effect St. Ambrose says:
“When the Lord wanted to redeem the world,
He began His work with Mary, that she,
through whom salvation was prepared for all,
should be the first to draw the fruit of salvation from the Son”.
St. Augustine also says:
“Mary sprang from Adam, and died in consequence of sin; Adam died in consequence of sin; and the flesh of the Lord, sprang from Mary, and died to destroy sin”.
Lastly this Orthodox Concept preserved our Church from any exaggeration or confusion between Christ and His Mother. No Orthodox theologian calls St. Mary “Coredemptrix”, and no worship is offered to her, but only veneration and praise..
Fr. TADROUS Y. MALATY
 McHaugh, p. 39
 Expositio avengelii secundum Lucan, lib. 3:9. PL 15:1556
 Hymns on Blessed Mary 18:27. Palmer, p. 17
 Spasmos (kiss), Is sung after the prayer of Reconciliation
 The conclusion of the Prayers at night.
 De Virg. 2:7
 Max Thurian: Mary, Mother of all Christians, 1964.
 Theotokia of Sunday
 Palmer, p. 33; Carol: Mariology, vol. 1, p. 17
 Ode on the Blessed Virgin Mary, lines 60, 138, 143
 Lamy 2:743; Livius 435
 For Thursday
 Exp. in Luc 2:17
 W. J. Burghardt: The Testimony of the Patristic Age concerning Mary’s death. Maryland 1957, p.11