Listen to this article as an audio
CatholicShare.com brings you a breakdown of the most popular Catholic prayer, the Ave Maria or Hail Mary so you can understand it more better and be able to explain it to your non-Catholic friends and family.
1) Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.
This is derived from the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary.
And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favoured one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28 RSV)
And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Luke 1:28 DRB)
The biblical Greek word used by the angel kecharito¯mene¯ is rightly translated as “full of grace,” it is the perfect passive participle of the Greek word charitoo¯ which means, “to grace.” Mary was “full of grace” because the Lord is united with her, “the Lord is with thee” as the angel added.
We should note that angels are messengers of their masters, in this case an angel of God. So, we can conclude for certain that God Almighty Himself was saying to Mary that she is “full of grace” and that He was with her. How sweet it is to imitate God by saying the “Hail Mary?” [Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (Ephesians 5:1 RSV)]
In other passages of the New Testament, certain men are said to be “full of the Spirit” and also “full of grace and power” according to Acts 6:3 and Acts 6:8 respectively. How much more grace do you expect to be contained in The Woman who is to bring forth the Son of the Living God?
The moon does not take away from the brightness of the sun, but reflects it. Likewise, Mary does not take away from the glory of her Son, Jesus, but reflects Him. Without the sun the moon is useless, so also, without Christ, Mary is nothing. She is “full of grace” because of Christ, the Source of grace.
2) Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
This is derived from the exclamation of Elizabeth (filled with the Holy Spirit) to Mary.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:41-42 RSV)
It is very interesting to note how the greeting of Mary “full of grace” had on Elizabeth. It moved her to become “filled with the Holy Spirit” and to exclaim with a loud cry, “Blessed are you [Mary] among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb [Jesus]!” It is also worth noting that it wasn’t Elizabeth who was saying these things but God the Holy Spirit.
3) Holy Mary
This is derived from the fact that Mary “full of grace” is holy.
Consider this: John the Baptist was said to be “a righteous and holy man.” (Mark 6:20 RSV) Scripture also says God spoke by “the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” (Luke 1:70 and Acts 3:21 RSV)
The epistle to the Hebrews was directed to the “holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call.” (Hebrews 3:1 RSV) The children of believers are called “holy.” (1 Corinthians 7:14 RSV)
The mystery of Christ is said to be “revealed to his holy apostles and prophets.” (Ephesians 3:5 RSV)
It is very clear from Scriptures that the closer one is to God, the holier one must be. For example:
Then he [God] said, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5 RSV)
Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to save you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, that he may not see anything indecent among you, and turn away from you. (Deuteronomy 23:14 RSV)
Further, the presence of God imparts holiness:
If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:17 RSV)
The Ark of the Covenant was so holy only a few could touch it:
And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry. (Numbers 4:15 RSV)
And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there because he put forth his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:6-7 RSV)
If mere inanimate objects can be so “holy” due to closeness with God; how much more Our Lady who bore God the Son?
4) Mother of God
This is derived in part from the further remarks of Elizabeth (filled with the Holy Spirit) to Mary and other parts of Scriptures.
And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43 RSV)
The biblical Greek phrase used he¯ me¯te¯r tou Kuriou mou means “the mother of my Lord” indicating Elizabeth’s knowledge about Mary being the mother of her Kuriou (Lord) as a proof of the Lord of lords (Christ Jesus) whom Mary was carrying in her womb. It is good to also note that as a Jewish woman, Elizabeth cannot pronounce the name of God (Yahweh) because it is forbidden, hence, she has to say Lord (Adonai).
Further proofs that Christ was truly God (the Son) and the Blessed Virgin Mary truly the mother of God include:
And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35 RSV)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman’u-el. (Isaiah 7:14 RSV)
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18 RSV)
But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5 RSV)
5) Pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.
Perhaps this is the most problematic part of the “Hail Mary” prayer which is derived from the fact that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and there exists a living relationship with each member.
The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 RSV)
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27 RSV)
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 RSV)
This fact, that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, was made clearer when Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) was persecuting the Church and Christ Jesus revealed to him on his journey to Damascus that he was persecuting Him.
Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-5 RSV)
Scripture says God is not the God of the dead indicating that the Saints are not dead but much alive.
‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:32 RSV see also Mark 12:27 and Luke 20:38)
The transfiguration account of Jesus Christ makes the case certain that the Saints are really and truly living with God, since Moses (who died according to Joshua 1:1) appeared together with Elijah (who never died but “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” according to 2 Kings 2:11). This fact is irrefutable!
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli’jah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:2-3 RSV see also Mark 9:2-4)
By Godwin Delali Adadzie