2nd Distinction : Her Immaculate Soul
Mary's soul, after Christ's human soul, was the holiest in the human race, adorned in highest measure with all the virtues and graces of the Holy Ghost.
The painting reflects the soul of Mary as a dove, symbol also of the Holy Ghost.
Gabriel told Mary at the Annunciation that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her.
The term "overshadow" echoes the scene in Exodus (40:34) wherein a cloud covers and fills the tent where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. A cloud is a symbol of the Holy Ghost. Clouds bring us life-giving rain, and the Holy Ghost gives us saving grace. Mary is the new and perfect Ark of the Covenant, filled to the highest degree possible with the Holy Ghost.
"Full of Grace"
One of the weaknesses of human language is its inability to perfectly express things. Even in the natural, words often fail to convey what we think, feel or experience. Imagine how limited created words can be in expressing divine truths!
The earliest words we have of Gabriel's greeting to Mary that Annunciation Day are in Greek. Gabriel called Mary "kecharitomene."
The root of that word is "charis," meaning "grace" or "favor." A grace is something freely bestowed on someone because of the kindness and benevolence of the giver. We get the words charisma, charism and charismatic from it.
Grammatically, kecharitomene means a grace or favor that has been given in the past in complete perfection, which continues into the present. Thus, we translate kecharitomene to mean "full of grace," so perfectly full that one cannot add to its fullness.
Gabriel is so caught up in our Lady's spiritual perfection that he does not even address her by her human name Mary. To him, she is "the one perfectly filled with grace, then and now," and that is how he addresses her.
Her soul is so perfectly full of grace, nothing else can fit! There is no room for Original Sin. By the merits of her own Son's passion and death, God has prevented that sin from touching her soul from the first moment of her human existence. In Mary, we see the first victory of Jesus! In past Old Testament passages, greetings such as the one Gabriel gave Mary are shouts of victory. Rejoice! Hail! In you Mary, Jesus has beaten the devil! In you we see a woman who has not been touched by Satan's work, not even for a single instant!
Our Lady is full of God's grace. Gabriel makes this clear in his next statement, "The Lord is with thee." The Lord is with Mary first by grace; she had that from the first moment of her immaculate existence. And as soon as she says "yes" to God's plan, the Lord will be with Mary secondly in physical fact. She will be carrying God in her womb. As she carried all of Jesus in her womb, she also has all the graces in her soul.
"My soul magnifies the Lord"
Mary's spiritual beauty is a gift God gave her. He did this to magnify His own glory. The glory of the artist is in his work; God's glory is in His work. In praising Mary, we hail her Creator without Whom she would not exist.
Our Lady is like a mirror. A mirror reflects what is placed before it. And when light shines on a mirror, the mirror magnifies the light. A mirror does not show forth its own light, but it has the property of magnifying light from somewhere else.
Like all of us creatures, Mary owes everything to God. But because God made her in the best possible way, she has a unique role in magnifying the greatness of God.
"And a sword shall pierce your soul"
Mary's soul was embellished with all the graces. But this did not mean she was exempted from pain and suffering. In fact, just as our Lord's passion reveals the depth and perfection of His virtues, Our Lady's sharing in her Son's suffering shows the depth and perfection of her virtues.
Our Lady did not die on the cross. But she died a million spiritual deaths for every slap her Son received; every insult; every kick; every nail.
Grace does not take away free will; grace assists it. In all her pains, Mary, aided by grace, chose to love, to believe, to suffer, to hope. Her virtues glowed more radiantly because the sword pierced her soul.
Teacher, and More
If Mary is our Mother, she is our teacher. We meditate on her life and we learn from it. We can imitate her, like a student learns from the teacher.
But she is more than teacher. She is also Mediatrix (channel) of all graces. All a human teacher can do is explain, encourage and create some conditions for learning. But a human teacher cannot give the student aptitudes and talents the student doesn't have already by nature. A teacher has to work with what he or she is given, and build on them.
Mary can do more. She can win for us graces from God which we do not have by nature.
She can be Mother of our souls.
We cannot imitate Mary in her immaculate conception, for we were all born under the curse of Original Sin.
But we can imitate Mary in her holy life. We do this not just by imitating her virtues, but by receiving grace from God to be holy. We can do nothing without grace, just as her soul was full of grace. She can obtain for us those graces, since she gave us the greatest grace of all, Jesus our Savior.