Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 14, 2002
Introducing the Hail Mary
By FR. JOHN SPICER
Devotion to Mary is deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture and in Christian tradition. In early Christian days, it was necessary to firm up faith in Jesus. Only then could other aspects of our Christian faith be emphasized.
Such was the case with devotion to Mary.
Although devotion to Mary existed in the early centuries, it was only from the sixth century onwards that it took hold more widely, finally blossoming in the 19th and 20th centuries with two Marian dogmas - her Immaculate Conception and her Assumption into heaven.
With this being said we can now go on to ponder on the prayer we familiarly call the Hail Mary.
Right off it should be noted that the first part of the Hail Mary is from Scripture. The Gospel of Luke states that the angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the words, "Hail Mary full of grace! The Lord is with you."
And when Mary visited her relative Elizabeth, she was greeted with the words, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."
The final part of the Hail Mary was added later.
One more point before we look at each part of the Hail Mary. We can trace the prayer as it is now back to the 11th century in the Christian West and to about the sixth century in the Christian East. We can now go on to ponder the prayer itself.
"Hail Mary." Hail is the English translation of the Latin word, "Ave." And "Ave" in the Roman Empire was the ordinary way of greeting people. Today our English equivalent is "Hello." (Perhaps on occasion, you could greet Mary the English way.)
"Full of grace." Most importantly, it must be said grace is not a commodity. It is not some thing. It is God's loving outreach into the depths of our being.
Grace is thus a most intimate relationship with our Creator, a divine indwelling rich above all imaging. By grace, we are daughters and sons of God. Grace is the seed of eternal life.
It must be remembered that grace comes to us as pure gift. We do not merit it. Jesus merited it for us through his life, death and resurrection.
Mary, then, was graced above all of us, her own Son excepted. From the beginning of her life, she enjoyed a special relationship with God, an intimacy we cannot grasp.
God's grace is also within each one of us, enabling us to love with God's love. And Mary, our mother, helps us grow in grace, that is, in our relationship with God, with other humans, and with the entire unfolding universe.
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