Ever since the acceptance by English-speaking Catholics of the so-called Jerusalem Bible, over thirty years ago, an extremely large number of them have espoused the error of the Protestants regarding Our Lady.
The error in question goes back over 400 years when, about 1526, William Tyndale, a Franciscan priest, brought out his own English version of the New Testament. It was so full of errors, that St. Thomas More wrote that looking for falsehoods in Tyndale’s bible was like looking for water in the sea. But this particular error of his became so firmly entrenched that it has gone on into the 20th and 21st centuries in Protestant bibles. It has now so tickled the intellects of many Catholic scholars and churchmen, that they too have inserted it into so-called Catholic bibles. It is that crass doctrinal error and great dishonour to Our Lady, by which She, from being accorded her singularly special relation to God, as being full of grace, is reduced to being one of many, as being only highly favoured.
This has come about by adopting the Jerusalem Bible as the Catholic Bible, in which, as in several Protestant bibles (The King James Authorised Version RSV; the Ecumenical Edition – Collins, 1975; and The New English Bible – Oxford University Press, 1970) it is recorded that the Angel Gabriel’s greeting words, the words of God to Mary, were: “Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” [Lk 1:28]
How this is a dishonour to God and a detraction from His Most Holy Mother is, in part, very simply explained by the words of St. Thomas More. As recorded in The Lives of the English Martyrs (Dom Bede Camm O.S.B., Burns & Oates, 1910, Vol. 1, p.162), the Saint wrote of Tyndale’s heretical bible: “He changeth grace into favour whereas every favour is not grace in English, for in some favours there is little grace …”
Although the above simple answer may more than please and satisfy the truly pious, it is most unlikely, however, that it will satisfy the Greek scholars. These are the people who whenever they are confronted by some Protestant biblical innovation, immediately rush off to consult their Greek versions of the Scriptures. For them, as indeed for all, therefore, there is a more systematic explanation of Our Lady being called full of grace, based on the Greek Bible. This explanation comes from a well known scholar:
“The Angel Gabriel, addressing the Virgin of Nazareth after the greeting, chaire ‘rejoice’, calls her kecharitomene, ‘full of grace’. The words of the Greek text, chaire and kecharitomene are deeply interconnected: Mary is invited to rejoice primarily because God loves her and has filled her with grace in view of her divine motherhood! … The expression ‘full of grace’ is the translation of the Greek word kecharitomene, which is a passive participle. Therefore to render more exactly the nuance of the Greek word one should not say merely ‘full of grace’ but ‘made full of grace’, or even ‘filled with grace’, which would clearly indicate that this was a gift by God to the Blessed Virgin.” (Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 8 May 1996, L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition).
Could anything be clearer? Could anyone who call themselves Catholic and claims the love of Our Lady, continue to disparage Her as only highly favoured whom God has honoured with the unique title full of grace (our Blessed Lord excepted)? The Pope’s explanation shows clearly what the truth is.
We ought to remember that Our Lady, though only a human being and less than an atom compared to God, is nevertheless not just like another ordinary woman. The true words of god, Hail Mary, full of grace, announced Her uniquely special relation to Him. She would be the only human person who would rightly refer to God, the eternal, the infinite and uncontainable, as My Son.
The true words, full of grace, placed Her in a class of Her own as regards sanctity, a fact recognized by the Church for many centuries by according to Her the worship of hyperdulia. Her sanctity is greater than that of all the angels and saints in heaven, now and to come, taken together.
Full of grace means, in other words, that She had, from the moment of Her Immaculate Conception, a participation in God’s Own Divine Nature, sufficiently full to be the Mother of God. This, though not infinite, was greater than the rest of creation put together! The false Protestant claim that God called her only highly favoured, would reduce this exalted dignity of the Mother of God to that of other ordinary women: highly favoured, but not full of grace.
This horrendous detraction is now found in the Liturgy of the one and only true Church of God, of which She is the Mother.
Thus, we read in the new Lectionaries of the Catholic Roman Church, for the new Mass (but not in the Traditional Latin Mass) for the great Feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady, that God through the Angel Gabriel, called Her, so highly favoured. The same occurs in many Masses of Our Lady on Saturday and also in the Mass of the fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B).
We should be convinced that in the realm of doctrines this detraction is as great a crime as it would be to say that our Blessed Lord only spoke figuratively when He said: Except you eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. (St. John 6:54).
This is because every word of Holy Scripture is the word that God, not man, has revealed, even though a man was the instrument to write down the Divine revelation. God, again by means of another of his instruments, a Dogmatic Council of His Church, has, Himself, declared this fact. Thus the Solemn Definition of the Council of Trent (1545-63) confirmed infallibly that the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible is perfectly free from all error in matters of faith or morals, a genuine source of revelation and a faithful expression of the written word of God. As far as we Catholics are concerned, the effect of that Council’s definition of the composition and the contents of the Bible, is well expressed by the Catholic Encyclopaedia: “The great constructive Synod of Trent had put the whole sacredness and canonicity of the whole Traditional Bible forever beyond the permissibility of doubt on the part of Catholics.”
Consequently, bearing in mind the scholarly translations of the original texts of the Scriptures, it follows that the greeting of Her true children to Our Lady has always been and will always be, “Hail, full of grace”.