Hail Mary1. After the Lord’s Prayer there is no more beautiful prayer than the Hail Mary, which we should recite with particular devotion in the decades of the Holy Rosary. At the beginning of the Rosary we can imagine that we are witnesses of the Annunciation to Mary in her home at Nazareth. An Angel descends from Heaven and bows before the Blessed Virgin as she kneels absorbed in prayer. “Hail, full of grace,” he says, “the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1:26-28) We should join with the Angel of God in repeating these words fervently and devoutly.
The constant repetition of this prayer is very pleasing to Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother. When we greet her with the words of the Angel, we remind her of the great mystery of the Incarnation, which was the beginning of her lofty mission as co-redemptrix and the dawn of Christian civilisation.
Even when we say these words over and over again, they can never become monotonous. When a son is speaking to his mother, every word possesses an unlimited warmth and meaning because it is the expression of a boundless love. When we recite the decades of the Rosary, we should think of the heavenly Mother who is watching over us and listening to us, eager to console and assist us. She loves us with a maternal love, but she requires us to love her also and to prove that we are her children by imitating her virtues.
2. The Angel’s greeting was later completed by the salvation of St. Elizabeth. As soon as Elizabeth saw the Blessed Virgin coming to visit her, she cried out in humble veneration: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” (Luke 1:42)
In the first part of the Hail Mary, then, we pay her in the words of the Gospel the highest tributes ever accorded to any human creature, proclaiming her to be full of grace, blessed among women, and Mother of the Redeemer. The second part, which was later added by the Church, is a heartfelt supplication addressed to Mary as the Mother of God and our Mother. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” It would be hard to find a more touching plea. We ask our heavenly Mother to intercede for us now because we have such great need of her assistance in this vale of tears and temptations. May she be always by our side to shelter us beneath her mantle.
3. We seek her intercession, moreover, at the hour of death. Death must come, but if we have prayed often to our heavenly Mother she will certainly be with us in those final and decisive moments of our lives. If Mary is there to help us, we may be sure that death will come as a consolation, for it will be a peaceful journey towards everlasting happiness.