The Hail Mary

The Hail Mary is a popular Catholic prayer from long ago that comes from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition of the Church.

The prayer begins with the joyful greeting of the Angel Gabriel, who was sent by God to announce that Mary is Full of Grace and had been chosen to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.

The angel’s greeting is followed by the words of Mary’s relative Elizabeth who, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed Mary’s blessedness and honor after John the Baptist lept in her womb at the sound of the virgin’s voice.

The prayer ends by recognizing Mary’s holiness and her faithful obedience to God’s will which allowed her to be the mother of Jesus, who is God.

As the first and most perfect disciple, Mary is also the mother of all Christians, so acknowledging our sinfulness, we plead for her to intercede for us by joining our prayer with hers.

The Hail Mary prayer is also known by its Latin name, Ave Maria.

Calling our mother:

The angelic salutation:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1: 26-28

Salvation began with the Hail Mary:

Not worshipping Mary but asking for her intercession:

By repeating the first words the angel addressed to Mary, it leads the faithful to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation. The Latin word “Ave” translates the Greek word “Chaire”: It is an invitation to joy and could be translated “Rejoice”. The Eastern hymn “Akathistos” repeatedly stresses this “rejoice”. In the “Hail Mary” the Blessed Virgin is called “Full of Grace” and is thus recognized for the perfection and beauty of her soul. The phrase “The Lord is with thee” reveals God’s special personal relationship with Mary, which fits into the great plan for his covenant with all humanity. Next, the statement “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus” expresses the fulfilment of the divine plan in the Daughter of Zion’s virginal body. Calling upon “Holy Mary, Mother of God”, Christians ask the one who was the immaculate Mother of the Lord by a unique privilege: “Pray for us sinners”, and entrust themselves to her at the present moment and at the ultimate moment of death.

Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 5 Novmeber 1997

The story behind the prayer:

A biblical prayer:

Illuminating the Old and New Testaments:

This twofold movement of prayer to Mary has found a privileged expression in the Ave Maria: Hail Mary [or Rejoice, Mary]: The greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God Himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult in the joy He finds in her. Full of grace, the Lord is with thee: These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is Full of Grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of Him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice . . . O Daughter of Jerusalem . . . the Lord your God is in your midst.” Mary, in whom the Lord Himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the Ark of the Covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God . . . with men.” Full of Grace, Mary is wholly given over to Him who has come to dwell in her and Whom she is about to give to the world. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations who have called Mary “blessed.” “Blessed is she who believed….” Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’s word. Abraham. because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the Earth receive Him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2676

A twofold structure of praying the Scriptures:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Fun with Catholic stereotypes and customs:

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