Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What's in a name?

Today is the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. It's a feast that wasn't on the calendar anymore since Vatican II, but was added again a few years ago. Until the new translation of the sacramentary is approved, however, we don't have the official prayers for it.

In any case, it gives us an opportunity to think about what names mean. In the Bible, names are very special. They indicate who the person is. When God revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush -- I Am Who Am -- it was a very special revelation. By revealing his name, God was bringing Moses into a deep relationship with him.

Mary's name is Mary, of course, but she has another name. It's her special name of grace, the one that the Angel Gabriel gave her. Gabriel said to her, "Kaire, kecharitomene" (the Greek from the Gospel). "Kaire" means "rejoice!" "Kecharitomene" was her name of grace. It's a hard word to translate. "Full of grace" says something but doesn't really capture the full meaning.

Fr Ignace de la Potterie explains that the Greek grammatical form means two things:

1) Mary receives the gift of grace from God (the root verb ends in a double O, which is causative; it indicates that a change that takes place)

2) this grace has already transformed her (it's a past perfect participial form that means the change has already happened).

The root verb (charitoo) is used only one other time in the New Testament, in 1:6, which speaks about how we are graced in Christ.

So Mary's name means that God has already graced her. Sophronius of Jerusalem sings to Mary, "No one has been fully sanctified as you... no one has been purified in advance as you."

Rejoice Mary, you who have been graced by God!

1 comment:

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I am absolutely fascinated by names. I think they are so important. Did you change your name when you became a sister?