Full of Grace
The fact that St. Luke uses the perfect passive participle, kekaritomene, as his “name” for Mary, we get a deeper insight into the meaning of Mary’s new name. This word literally means “she who has been graced” in a completed sense. This verbal adjective, “graced,” is not just describing a simple past action, it is used to indicate that an action has been completed in the past resulting in a present state of her being. The average Christian is not completed in grace and in a permanent sense (see Phil. 3:8-12), but according to the angel, Mary is. You and I sin, not because of grace, but because of a lack of grace, or a lack of our cooperation with grace, in our lives. The angel’s greeting is one clue into the unique character and calling of the Mother of God, sinless from the moment of her conception.
Born Without Sin
Genesis 3:15 is a “gospel” before “the gospel.” This text contains God’s plan of salvation which would be both revealed and realized in the person of Jesus Christ. This text tells of a prophetic woman who has a prominence and importance in God’s providential plan. The Douay Rheims version of The Holy Bible reads:
I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
The Virgin Birth is implied here and notice “the woman” is not included as “the seed” of the devil. It seems that both the woman and her seed are in opposition to and therefore not under the dominion of the devil and “his seed.” Here, we have the fact that the woman, Mary, would be without sin, especially original sin, just as her Son, Jesus, would be.
The New Ark of the Covenant
The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant was a true icon of the sacred. It was pure and holy in God’s fittingly demands of those objects and persons most closely associated with him and the plan of salvation. It contained the very presence of God symbolized by the manna, the Ten Commandments, and Aaron’s staff. It had to be most pure and untouched by sinful man.
In the New Testament the new Ark would not be an inanimate object but the Blessed Mother. How much more pure would the new Ark be? Mary would be free from all sin in order for her to be a worthy vessel to bear God in her womb. Most importantly, just as the Old Covenant ark was pristine from the moment it was constructed with explicit divine instructions in Exodus 25, so would Mary be most pure from the moment of her conception.
Archaeology reveals two tombs of Mary that still exist today, one in Jerusalem and one in Ephesus. The tombs are explained by the fact that Mary had lived in both places. But there is no body in either tomb and there are no relics. Anyone who would study early Church history knows that Christian belief in the communion of saints and the sanctity of the body led early Christians to seek out with the greatest fervor relics from the bodies of great saints. Cities, and later religious orders, would fight over the bones of great saints. This is one reason why we have relics of the apostles and so many of the greatest saints and martyrs in history. Yet never was there a single relic of Mary’s body found. As Catholics we believe this is because her body was assumed into Heaven.
The Church on the Assumption
Since the time of the declaration of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary there have been many new discoveries. We now have written evidence of the Assumption of Mary as far back as the third century. It is not necessary for there to be written evidence all the way back to the second century for us as Catholics because we have Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture as interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church, first and foremost, that has already given us the truth of the Matter.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church 974 says, “The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son’s Resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his Body.”