After the sign of the cross and the Apostles’ Creed, we come to the “Our Father” bead on our rosary. I have recently done a series of posts on the Lord’s Prayer that you can read here, here, here, and here; so I’ll move to the first series of the “Hail Mary” prayer. These are repeated three times along with the request of an increase in the virtues of faith, hope, and love, then again on the ten beads of each decade.
Hail Mary…Ave Maria
I love the greeting, don’t you? The salutation in this little prayer is the same that the angel Gabriel addressed Mary with when he appeared to her (Luke 1:28) at the Annunciation. Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. As near as I can tell, the word “Hail” is a word of greeting, like hello, but with a more respectful tone. It says in this passage that she is troubled by these words, and wondered about this salutation to her. I can only guess that it is her humility that wonders “why is He addressing me…a simple girl…with such a respectful greeting?”
The only other places I could find where it’s used in the Bible is when Judas addresses Christ before betraying Him with a kiss (Matt 26:49, Mark 14:45); when the crowds mocked him in the accounts of His being mocked by the crowds (Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:18, John 19:3); and in his own greeting to the women at His tomb after the resurrection (Matthew 28:9).
Full of grace
I love that the angel Gabriel addresses her this way. Before she has conceived the Son of God in her own body, she is told that she is “full of grace”. Some translations say “highly favored one”…but I think “full of grace” is so much richer and deeper than just being highly favored. As a new Catholic, this phrase holds the key to understanding Mary and her role on this earth. She was “highly favored”, or “full of grace”, even before she said yes to God. Isn’t that amazing? I think that insight has helped me more than anything to fully grasp the Church’s teaching of her Marian doctrines. She was endowed with a special grace that has not been seen elsewhere in Christ’s followers. The early Church Fathers very matter-of-factually taught that Mary was the “new Eve”, preserved from original sin, and kept pure for the sake of her destiny. You can read more, including quotes from the early Church Fathers here.
The Lord is with thee—blessed art thou among women
Again…all this affirmation of grace…God with her…blessings, before she even says yes. I can’t get over it, for me it’s such an epiphany of proof of her being set apart for this specific purpose. Where the first Eve tied the knots of sin and bondage, Mary, our new Eve, unties them because of the graces given to her to say “yes” to God and His wonderful plan of salvation. She recognizes it herself when she affirms that all generations will call me blessed. Reminds me very much of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31. “Her children arise and call her blessed”. Mary, the ultimate Proverbs 31 woman!
…blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
This line is taken from Elizabeth’s reaction to Mary’s presence, and the wonderful miracle that she was given insight into. When Mary visited her cousin, the Bible tells us that Elizabeth’s own baby (John the Baptist…Christ’s forerunner) inside her womb “leaped for joy”. This is the only instance I can find of one being filled with the Spirit in-utero. Elizabeth recognizes the beautiful, miraculous thing that is happening inside her own belly is in direct response to the wonderful thing that God is doing in her cousin.
Holy Mary, mother of God
Since we know that Jesus is God in the flesh, then Mary, being the mother of Jesus, is the mother of God.
…pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
When Jesus was on the cross, he said to Mary, “…behold, your son”, and to John, “…behold your mother”. In effect he was giving them to one another, to love, cherish, and provide for. I have no doubt in my mind that Mary loved her Son’s followers, after her loss, as her own children. And as followers of Christ, she is given to us as our own mother as well. My mother here on earth loved her children deeply, and she took in our friends as her own, loving, nurturing, and praying for them as if they were her own. I love the thought of my mother, Mary, knowing my needy sinful state, taking me as her own, loving me, and praying for me, now, and through my life, and at the hour of my death.