Full of Grace and Ark of the New Covenant
In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke we read of the archangel Gabriel coming to Mary who is in Nazareth (a city in Galilee) and declares to Mary that she will bear the son of God and call him "Jesus". The archangel greets Mary by saying, "Hail, full of grace" (Luke 1:28; "Hail, O favoured one" in other translations). The term "full of grace" ("gratia plena" in Latin) for Mary comes from the original Greek manuscript of the Gospel of Luke (who was a Greek himself). The word used by the archangel Gabriel (i.e. the word St. Luke uses for it) for the Blessed Virgin Mary was "kecharitomene" which translates to "having been graced" or "having been favoured". The archangel Gabriel is speaking in what's known as the "perfect passive participle", meaning Gabriel is talking about a quality that is and was always present, namely freedom from original sin.
How can this be explained in layman's terms? Mary's preservation from original sin is like this: if you fall into a pit and I pull you out from it, I've saved you. In the same way, if you're walking along and I prevent you from falling in the pit (either by warning you about it or physically stopping you before you get there) I have also saved you this way. In the latter instance, I have "preserved" you from the fall, ergo Mary has been "preserved" from original sin.
Mary's Immaculate Conception is not of her own doing (Catholics do not deify Mary) nor is it the doing of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. Preservation from original sin is the gift given to Mary by God. Was it necessary that Mary be free from original sin in order to be the mother of the human person of God (Jesus Christ)? No, but it was fitting that she be preserved from it. Just as the Ark of the Covenant from the Old Testament (Exodus 25:10-22) was crafted according to detailed and specific instructions given by God, so too was Mary created with a purpose: with Christ, giver of the New Covenant, in mind. This is why we call Mary the "Ark of the New Covenant". To emphasise what this means, have a look at the following table and I will finish things with this to allow you to ponder these things within your own heart:
The Wedding at Cana and Mary'sIntercession
The following is a statement from an anti-Catholic I received regarding Mary's intercession at the wedding at Cana:
"In John 2:1-11 Christ performed the miracle under no one's direction. Mary simply stated 'they have no wine'. It could have merely been an appeal to fix an embarrassing situation, or an appeal that He reveals Himself in glory. It was not a direction or an order. His reply was hardly intimate, as He made it clear He will act according to Gods timetable in God's way."
And here's how I responded: If I could also make a comment about the Wedding at Cana miracle, I think what's being ignored here is that there would not have been a miracle had Mary not pointed out the problem to Jesus. Also consider the fact that Mary knew her Son could do something about it, so did she really need to explicitly make such a request? My older brother is an I.T. specialist and whenever I have a computer related problem, all that is required is a quick text message (e.g. "My router isn't working") and he's on his way to assist. My brother knows by pointing out the problem to him that I want him to fix it for me because he is qualified to rectify the issue.
Jesus did respond to his mother by saying, "Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come" (John 2:4) but what's important to note is what Mary said to the servants in the next very verse: "Do whatever he tells you to do". There is no indication to us in scripture that Mary made an explicit request of her Son, but that's not to say that such a request may not have ever happened at all. Don't forget that John points out that not all of what even Jesus said or did is contained in scripture (John 21:25) and so needless to say there's a lot we're missing out on there.
There very well could have been an explicit request made to Jesus by his mother, Mary. There is the implicit request made in the pointing out of a problem as I pointed out earlier, but make note of Jesus' change of heart: whether there was an explicit request made or not, Jesus acknowledged the problem pointed out to him by his mother and she knew he could do something about it. Implicit or explicit, Jesus honoured the "request" and by doing so honoured his mother (“honour thy father and thy mother”; he was a commandment-keeping Jew after all.
The precedent set for this we read about in the Old Testament: We also see intercession to King Solomon from his mother, Queen Bathsheba:
"Then she said, 'I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.' And the king said to her, 'Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.'" - 1 Kings 2:20
The intercession shows the queen possesses power in the royalty of her son's kingship. And why would someone ask the Queen Mother to intercede and not someone else? What God-fearing son would ignore his mother’s request? Secondary to that, King Solomon had many wives and concubines so asking one of them to intercede didn’t make sense because they were not “queens” and therefore subordinate to King Solomon. But King Solomon’s mother, like Mary the mother of Christ the King, could not be ignored.
Like King Solomon, Christ the King was a commandment-keeping Jew and by listening to his mother keeps the commandment:
"Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you." - Deuteronomy 5:16
By keeping this commandment In John 2, Christ demonstrates for us the influence and very important role mothers have in our very own lives.