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Santa Maria delle Grazie--Skeel

As she described Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Milan church that houses da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” our tour guide said she so much preferred the name in Italian to its English translation—Saint Mary of Thanks—that she would stick with the Italian henceforth. “Grazie” does seem a prettier word than “thanks,” but I also wondered later if the connection in Italian between thanks (grazie) and grace (grazia; and graces is grazie) also figured in the preference. Grace and thanks are not the same thing, of course, but they are inextricably connected: our thanks are a response to God’s grace. Although I would locate the grace in the work of Christ, rather than Mary, I love the idea that a church “delle Grazie” might refer (if I’m not confused about the Italian) both to God’s manifold grace (or graces) in Christ, and to the thanks of his people, the body of Christ—as expressed generation after generation in the joyous worship in the church.


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Comments ( 3 )

I stumbled upon this blog after a friend showed me your (Prof. Skeel) homepage. As a Christian eagerly anticipating to hear back from law schools I am glad I found a page for your everyday thoughts. I was even more pleasantly surprised to find that this a tag-team with William Stuntz another Christian legal scholar. You two along with Carter and McConnell are the legal scholars I truly admire, as admittedly there are not many Christians in legal academia (or any academia for that matter) I will be sure to pore through these archives for more edification but also will pray for both Prof. Stuntz and his family during this step of his life.

God bless.

Of course, Mary was completely filled with grace: "Hail, full of grace." And I love the idea of thanks being connected with the gift of grace, and of course that Mary was also supremely thankful for her salvation and that gift of being "full" of grace.

I appreciate the connection you made of grace and the thanks that should go with that gift!

You sound so confused about word etymology. Where do you think the word "grace" comes from? From the Latin. What is it a translation for? Gratitude, thankfulness.

How did it get into modern Protestant theology/doctrine as "grace"? Where in the Bible is the word "grace" mentioned and which version of the Bible is it?

How did the word "grace" accrue its other meanings (in Protestant theology)?

Grace, in English, has acquired meanings related to ancient Greek terms (translations involving the Three Graces). It is more closely associated with words like gracefulness - but that's NOT what the Church in Italy is named after.

A central part of Renaissance Catholic (and also Medieval Catholic) tradition is that Mary, despite the terrible suffering she underwent, still felt thankfulness to God for being part of his overall plan. I find that extraordinary (as a mother, I'd find it difficult to get back into that attitude of gratitude after God first gave then took away my child in such a horrific manner). An enormous act of faith.

We humas are supposed to be unquestioning, in the same way - to be thankful, as Mary was, no matter what God sends our way.

Does it require gracefulness (in the English sense) to do this? Yes.

But the entire theological concept of "Grace" as it appears in protestant tradition is new and modern. The word that is translated in the English bibles (King James, NIV, etc.) is NOT the same word as in Latin. It is a Greek word (remember, hardly any of the Bible was written down in Hebrew until well after it was written down in Greek - and the King James people were using a Latin translation, primarily, to make their Bible - so from Greek - Latin - English) is the Greek word for "gracefulness." That's the origin of the Protestant concept, I suppose.

The meaning, originally " elegance or fineness of form" is clearly what is meant in most Old Testament uses of the word. But - that was a different Greek word than the word translated in the NT as "grace," where grace now means "mercy." The actual Latin term (remember, translated from the Greek) is closer to "clemency" or "doing a favor," a very Latinate concept.

Indeed, several popes have been named after THAT word (Clement).

Modern protestants often treat "clemency" as if it is a state of mind, rather than primarily an act, which is interesting. I suppose it can be both - but rarely do I hear people saying they are clement.