By: Mary Boneno, The Catholic University of America
Full of grace. Have you ever contemplated what that exactly means? Think of a tall glass filled to the brim with water; there is no room for even a single drop more. It is completely full, lacking in absolutely nothing. That’s Mary, but filled with grace. She does not simply have a lot of grace, and she’s not even mostly filled with grace. Mary is utterly and absolutely full of grace.
Everything Mary does is by and through that fullness of grace. Her actions lack in nothing; they are perfectly holy and good. She desires nothing but the Lord, and she does not want for anything because she already has her perfect portion of what sustains her.
Mary was not simply a generally nice woman. She was not kind merely most of the time, or patient with others for the most part, save a few instances. Every day of her life on earth, by the gift of her Immaculate Conception, Mary never once failed in doing the will of God. She was and is perfect in holiness.
We often find it easy to think about Mary’s perfection in negative terms. We think about Mary as without sin, but we must not make the mistake of thinking Mary as lacking in anything when we use such phrasing. While she seemingly lacks sin, that lack does not imply a degradation on her part. Rather, we lack the goodness and fullness of grace that she maintains.
Our sin itself is a deprivation of all that is holy. We are the ones who desire joy and peace, who long for our great God. But Mary always knew where her joy and peace came from, and while she never ceased to long for the Lord, her heart always remained with Him. She did not only start to trust in God at the Annunciation. No, she had over a decade of life preceding her encounter with the angel Gabriel. She was holy in those years, too. She obeyed her parents and did all that she was instructed to do. According to tradition, Joachim and Anne presented Mary to the temple where she was brought up serving the priests in their ministry. She completed her tasks without complaining, grumbling, or becoming impatient with her peers. Nothing impeded her understanding of Scripture, and she was keenly aware of the presence of God when she prayed. Her entire life merited from the Passion of her Son, from the moment of her conception to her crowning glory in Heaven.
In efforts to find Mary more relatable, many people describe Mary at the Annunciation as timid or hesitant to offer her consent. But that is but a projection of our own failings. We put ourselves in Mary’s place and find that if the same thing had been asked of us, we would have held on to our response for fear of what lay ahead. This is not to say that Mary had perfect knowledge of the entirety of the divine plan, but she trusted in God perfectly. When the future seems unsure for ourselves, we often resort to distrusting in God and questioning what He wants. Mary, having been made for the honor of carrying the Word within her, did not question God’s goodness like Zechariah did. She inquired how it was all to take place, but her curiosity did not come from a place of pride or distrust; rather, she knew that the Lord’s plan would be the most beautiful one, and that hearing it from the angel would give her nothing but joy.
Mary was strong and courageous. She was gentle and patient. She was kind and compassionate. She was those things during her earthly life, and she still is, now in her heavenly glory. How blessed are we, then, that the Lord made her our mother from the Cross? What a most beautiful, absolutely perfect mother we have! As long as we remain at her side, we will never lose sight of her precious Child before us. Her full supply of grace is ever abundant, and exists so that we may draw from its depths and cling to her heart, so closely knit to God Himself.
Edited by Christopher Centrella