"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu-el." Isaiah 7:14
My adaptation for the Feast of the Annunciation. "For to us a child is conceived, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Recently, I was being challenged by an individual who began attacking the Catholic position on Luke 1:28, “And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” This Gentleman obviously had been misinformed about what the Angel Gabriel had said to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In part, he stated to me, “The dogma of the Immaculate Conception has to be the worst example of the Catholic Church engaging in “whole cloth” “interpretation” of Scripture.“ Interestingly, I couldn't help but recognize how he was really guilty of his own complaint?
How many denominations had been formed based on their own “whole cloth” interpretation of Scripture. I named off Sola Scriptura, a doctrine developed by Martin Luther as one of the main doctrines held against the Catholic position of Scripture as an example. There are many…
It was easy to make this case, but I wanted to show that the Catholic Church’s 2,000 year approach to Luke 1:28 is backed by the apostolic tradition. The individual wanted to offer his chief challenge asking me if St. Stephen had been born Immaculately Conceived? I had heard this argument before, what he was referring to was Acts 6:8 which states, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”
What I was being challenged with is clear, is the Virgin Mary’s scripture text, “full of grace” and that of St. Stephen be identical? This takes some consideration, especially when being challenged by someone who thinks they know the answer.
Obviously, the challenge centers on two things, one, that the Catholic Church either defies Scripture choosing to base itself on its tradition, and two, that the Immaculate Conception is a man made myth based on tradition.
To really understand this more fully, I had to take this out of the English vernacular and look at the Greek Text for “full of grace”.
The Greek Text was what the New Testament was originally written.
That would be the usual second language for many in the Holy Land at the time, much like English is today around the world.
Here is the Greek Text for Luke 1:28,“Kai eiselthon pros auten eipen, “Caire, kecharitomene!, ho Kurios meta sou.”
Here is the Greek Text for Acts 6:8, “Stephanos de plērēs charitos kai dynameōs epoiei terata kai sēmeia megala en tō laō.”
Can you see the difference and similarity here? Interestingly, both the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were written by St. Luke. Notice in Luke 1:28, the title Caire, kecharitomene is used, in Acts 6:8, the title plērēs charitos is used.
The English word “grace” comes from the Greek word, charis and we can determine that both text use the word charis or grace in it, but does the meaning amount to being the same? No, it does not.
Notice that the word used in Acts 6:8 referring to Stephen is a different word from the one referring to Mary. That is clear.
Acts 6:8 describes Stephen “pleres charitos” which literally means “filled up with grace”.
The Catholic view here is that St. Luke was meaning St. Stephen, at that moment, he was full of grace. From Catholic teaching, a true martyr would go straight to heaven. They bypass Purgatory and would be understood from this text, that at that moment, St. Stephen was full of grace at that moment in time.
In the same way, lets look again at Luke 1:28, the title given to Mary from the angel Gabriel is “Kecharitomene”, a perfect passive participle of “charitoo”.
Remember that Charis means grace, charitoo is a verb that comes from the Greek root of “charis” - which means “grace”. So, from this text, charitoó means to fill or endow with grace or in other words: “Hail, one who has always been full of grace“.
Where Stephen is being defined as full of grace at that moment, Mary is being defined as being full of grace from the beginning of her existence.
So, ”kecharitomene” by definition is the perfected passive participle meaning “to fill with grace”. That the Virgin Mary received this singular grace by God for the purpose of bringing Jesus into the world.
Mary is more than being full of grace for a period of time, but for all time. Her yes opened the door not only for St. Stephen, but for all “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” Revelation 12:17
Once I was able to get passed this debate, my friend would then be open to the rest of the story!
The Feast of the Annunciation is a most important event in all of human history. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of His people is brought into the world through the humble Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is here that Scripture records Our Lady giving her "YES" to the Angel of the Lord without hesitation and without any demands. Mary placed here complete trust in the Lord. It was with no strings attached, an open check!
It is here that we first learn of St. Joseph, the world's greatest Dad who took care of Mary when she was Pregnant. It did take a miracle from Heaven to show Joseph that Mary was truly having her baby through the Power of God.
It is here that we learn that Jesus will sit upon His Father David's throne and His Kingdom would last forever. This is important for the Catholic Faith as it is the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Scripture reads as follows:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
For evidence the Angel then informs Mary that another great sign is taking place with her cousin Elizabeth. In fulfillment of the word of the Lord given to Zechariah, the Father of St. John the Baptist, Mary would travel to the hill country of Judea and help her cousin for three months.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
As I continued speaking with the gentleman I continued:
You do not have to be a Greek scholar to be able to see this, but thankfully, the Catholic Faith has presented this Christmas story now for nearly 2,000 years and it’s application has endured the passage of time. St. Paul tells us to hang on to the traditions which were first taught to us by mouth or by letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15) and this includes the whole teaching of Christ (Matthew 28:20).
Usually, when someone comes knocking on your door making such arguments against the Virgin Mary, they have an agenda seeking to undermine the Catholic Faith. As Catholics, it is important that we trust the Lord with all our hearts and trust those whom He has sent from the beginning. Again, another Scriptural Text from St. Luke drives this point home, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:16
One more point I like to make here because we are talking about grace, consider Ephesians 1:5-6 which states, “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
St. Paul uses the Greek word, “echaritosen,” and notice again the word Charis or ”charitoo” giving an important meaning here.
Here, God “graced” us or He “bestowed grace” on us representing a certain time as a result of an action.
St. Paul would share that his becoming an apostle of Christ, was not of his own doing. It was not for his own ego, it was for our benefit.
Through the Sacraments, we receive grace through an encounter with the Living Christ through the Ministry of the Church. The grace that St. Stephen received by God was a great grace, we are called to live out this great grace as St. Stephen because of this great grace.
When you receive Holy Communion, you are receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.
This is a very important encounter with Jesus. When you go to Confession, you receive the same grace as given to the woman caught in adultery. This is God’s grace imparted on those who follow Him. The great news that has developed as a result of this conversation, the challenging Individual has been received into the Catholic Faith. God is so good!
St. Stephen's Feast day is December 26. With that, I learned of the conversion my friend made to the Holy Catholic Faith!