Solemnity of the
Annunciation of the Lord
Today, March 25, marks the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. The Annunciation marks an unbelievable mystery in salvation history: the Incarnation of Our Lord – that our God would become incarnate (that is – “take on flesh”). It also is the moment when the Blessed Virgin demonstrates her divinely-graced humility, her “Yes” to cooperate with God in our salvation.
There are a few things that I’d like to accomplish with this post, but the primary one is to discuss a particular Greek word – one used by the Archangel Gabriel to describe Mary during the Annunciation.
This particular word is chock-full of theological implications, and is a key in understanding the importance in another Marian solemnity – The Immaculate Conception. The word is Kekaritomene.
However, let’s address some of the other topics that present themselves first:
What’s the difference between a Feast and a Solemnity? It’s kinda like with squares and rectangles: All solemnities are feasts; but not all feasts are solemnities. Feasts are special Holy Days that commemorate events “in the history of our redemption, in memory of the Virgin Mother of Christ, or of His apostles, martyrs, and saints, by special services and rest from work.” (from the Catholic Encyclopedia). Solemnities are those feasts that deserve extra pomp and ceremony because of their holiness and importance.
But, at my church we’re not celebrating anything today? That’s true. Today is the first Tuesday of Easter, and we are in the Easter octave; as such, it takes precedence over the solemnity of the Annunciation. Therefore, the bishops have decided that we will celebrate the Annunciation on Monday, March 31. Mark Stadnyck of the Diocese of Trenton has a great article about it.
What do we mean by “mystery”? Is it something Sherlock Holmes could figure out? “Mystery” comes to us from the Greek, and it means “to shut” or “to close”. The Church uses the word to signify those divinely-revealed Truths that we could never have properly understood though our natural reason. They are those Truths that we need God to reveal to us, and that we still can’t quite understand.
How serious is it that I accept such things as “mysteries”? Pretty serious. The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) declared, “If any one say that in Divine Revelation there are contained no mysteries properly so called (vera et proprie dicta mysteria), but that through reason rightly developed (per rationem rite excultam) all the dogmas of faith can be understood and demonstrated from natural principles: let him be anathema” (Sess. III, Canons, 4. De fide et Ratione, 1). Basically, that means that the existence of mysteries is infallibly settled.
But, I’ve allowed myself to get sidetracked. Now, on to Kekaritomene.
In the Gospel of Luke (1:28-30), the Archangel Gabriel addresses the Blessed Virgin Mary with this phrase: “Hail, Full of Grace”. Gabriel actually gave a new name to the Blessed Virgin. This new name “Full of Grace” comes to us from the Greek word Kekaritomene.
Now, we need to understand what Kekaritomene means. It actually should be translated as “One who has been graced, who continues to be graced, and who will continue to be graced.” In other words, it points to the basis for the Catholic dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Mary was saved from sin at her conception by a singular instance of divine grace in anticipation of Jesus’ redemptive act; and she was preserved in her sinlessness. She was “full of grace.”
Please read Tim Staple’s article from This Rock magazine for a great discussion of this topic, “Hail Mary, Conceived Without Sin.”
Of course, Mary herself confirmed this dogma with her appearance at Lourdes.