Hail Mary Full Of Grace Or Highly Favoured? The Semantic Implications Of Luke 1:28
There are varied English translations of the Bible and each is unique in its own way. However, it is an undeniable fact that some translations better explain the original language than others. These differences sometimes lead to diverse and quite distinct interpretations of a particular text. One clear example is Luke 1:28, which has varied translations and has generated a lot of theological arguments and controversies between Catholics and protestants. This article seeks to throw more light on the nuances in translating and interpreting this text and its implications in Catholic teaching about Mary.
The Value Of This Text In Roman Catholicism
Catholics generally assert that full of grace were the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary. However, you would hardly find any contemporary Bible with the translation full of grace. Is it to say that the translation is archaic and not meaningful again? For instance the Revised Standard Version says “Hail, thou that art highly favored”. Even contemporary Catholic Bibles like the New Jerusalem Bible do not use full of grace, instead it uses “Rejoice, you who enjoy God’s favor!” To the curious Catholic. This should stir our minds to ask why, since full of grace and the other translations are quite different in meaning theologically.
The Hail Mary prayer is based on the Vulgate’s translation of the Bible. This translation was made by St. Jerome in the early fifth century and it became the official translation of the Church. This translation has been very instrumental in the development of many Marian doctrines most especially the Immaculate Conception. Let us try to discover the appropriateness of the translation.
Some protestant Interpretations Of Luke 1:28
The Matthew Henry Commentary says that this text simply means that Mary is specially favored because she has been the recipient of what many Jewish women had long desired. He goes on to say that this is no justification to pray to her and consequently there is nothing in this text that says Mary is full of grace and sinless. The Pulpit Commentary renders the text as Hail, Thou that art highly favored.
Catholic Interpretation As “Hail Mary Full of Grace”
In scripture when one is greeted with (Hail), a name or titled would almost be expected to follow (cf. John 19:3, Acts 23:26). However, angel was in effect, giving Mary a new name (“full of grace”). However, It is worth nothing that for the Jews, names signified the character, nature, and qualities of a person and were much more than mere identifying labels (Dave Armstrong, 175-178). Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI corroborated this fact in his homily on the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception (2006), when he said, “Full of grace – Mary’s most beautiful name, the name God himself gave to her to indicate that she has always been and will always be the beloved, the elect, the one chosen to welcome the most precious gift, Jesus”.
Grace, Freedom And Sin
However, Grace is the indwelling of the Spirit in a person. Grace only helps us to choose the good but it never compels us to act. As rational creatures God has bestowed on us the gift of freedom to choose the highest good. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this beautifully when it says “By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world”. Grace thus helps us to use our freedom rightly but it in no way prevents us from exercising our freedom.
In conclusion, Mary being full of grace, exercised her freedom in pursuing the good and never did she falter since she was filled with the plenitude of grace. As such there was no room in her for evil. She thus beckons us to be aware of the fact that without grace we cannot exercise our freedom to the fullest. By cooperating with God’s grace we exercise our freedom in doing what God desires of us.