Kecharitōmenē (pronounced key-car-it-oh-may-nay): an ancient Greek participle meaning “filled with grace”, the salutation of singular and unique importance given to Mary, Mother of God by the Angel Gabriel. It “denotes one who has been and still is the object of divine benevolence, one who has been favored and continues to be favored by God, one who has been granted supernatural grace and remains in this state.” (Kecharitomene.com, cit. L. Cerfaux, Gratia plena, in Mémories et Raports du Congrès Marial tenu à Bruxelles , Vol. I)
There are things so perfect that accurate definitions are mind boggling, explanations are lengthy, and descriptions contain words the average person doesn’t understand properly. It is just as well that we speak of the sun “rising” and “setting” to little children initially, to convey a relationship of motion between the earth and sun. Eventually, however, the sense of the words “setting” and “rising” must be clarified to show that it is the Earth actually moving in relation to the sun, and not the other way around. Eventually, the natural desire to know and love God — to learn and know about Him through His creation and marvelous deeds — requires more than a cursory understanding of things.
Here follows my simple explanation of the Virgin Mary’s gift of “fullness of grace” from God. This topic is much more accurately detailed by many scholars, saints, and Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who use terms such as predestination, providence, material causality, hypostatic order, and hyperdulia to name a few. All are examples of things that must be understood to fully appreciate the awesome blessedness of Mary, the Mother of God. This article is written for those who wish to gain a slightly deeper-than-elementary understanding of this amazing feat wrought by God upon a mere man for the benefit of all mankind.
A thoroughly good woman, one who has attained a life of virtue, is a beautiful creature. To have surmounted temptations and trials emerging victorious as a faithful daughter of God is an honorable and noble accomplishment for a woman, one marked by strength and forbearance, obedience to the will of God, wisdom, gentleness, and all virtues.
Among women, there was one so thoroughly beautiful inside and out — the Virgin Mary — that the Angel Gabriel greeted her, “Chaire, kecharitōmenē!” Better known in English as, “Hail, full of grace!” From the words of Gabriel’s greeting the theologically rich devotional prayer “Hail Mary” was pieced together. Its use can be traced back nearly a thousand years. (Cf. “Hail Mary” in The Catholic Encyclopedia)
What might be overlooked or misunderstood (as with the rising and setting of the sun in relation to the earth) is the sense of “full of grace.” This sense is past perfect, having already occurred beforehand. In the case of Mary, her fullness of grace occurred long before the moment of Gabriel’s greeting. This past perfect sense of “Chaire, kecharitōmenē!” indicates the special graces Mary received from God in her earliest beginning — conceived free of original sin. Rather than spending a lifetime mastering concupiscence and attaining a state of grace as we all must do, Mary never suffered the effects of concupiscence and has always been in a state of grace by this miracle.
The significance of being so highly favored as to be declared “full of grace” is that it demonstrates to us that Mary was chosen by God before her conception, received special favor at the moment of her conception, and by the prevention of original sin from being placed upon her soul, was free from concupiscence, Mary was able to live her entire life without sinning at all.
These demonstrations are relevant to us not only in the divine plan of salvation, but also on a beautiful natural level of love. They prove that not only does God knit us together in our mother’s wombs, but that He is the Author of life; that original sin is transferred by generation; that original sin carries to the soul concupiscence which makes temptations more numerous, as it ought be — but that Mary was spared concupiscence, and so, was truly fitting as a completely pure, stainless being, to become the vessel of the Word, Jesus Christ, the Son of God made flesh, the second person of the Holy Trinity. For nothing pure can be contained by an impure vessel and retain its purity.
Therefore, Mary had to be stainless to be the mother of God. She also had to be completely full of grace in a way no other woman ever could be, by virtue of the favors received to guarantee her stainlessness. “But the Blessed Virgin Mary was nearest to Christ in His humanity: because He received His human nature from her. Therefore it was due to her to receive a greater fullness of grace than others.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, q. 27, a. 5 co. et ad 2)
Even the resurrection of the dead does not surpass the supernatural action of grace within a soul. “The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe.” (Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 113, a. 9, ad 2) It’s important to contemplate the greatness of the mystery and miracle of Mary’s fullness of grace in order to evoke a deep sense of awe, appreciation, and devotion. This too will foster humility within our hearts as we sense our place in the grand plan of salvation, and ultimately, aid our journey to heaven.