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Catholic Dictionary




A term applied in the New Testament (Vulgate) to Christ, the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles, and St. Stephen. But traditionally it refers especially to Mary, as occurs in the invocation "Hail Mary, full of grace." This is the Church's official interpretation of the Greek word Kecharit_men_ in the angelic salutation, which all Latin translations since the earliest times render gratia plena (Luke 1:28). Applied to mary, the Mother of God, it is a fullness below that of Christ but above that of all the angels and saints. Assuming that the fullness of grace in Christ was a necessary complement of the hypostatic union, and Mary's was totally gratuitous, some theologians (e.g., Francis Suarez) hold that her sanctifying grace exceeds by far the combined sanctity of all other creatures.