The Hail Mary prayer (also known as the “Ave Maria” prayer, from its first words in Latin) is a well-loved, beautiful prayer. In this traditional, time-honored prayer, we humbly ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, to pray for us.
The first half of the Hail Mary comes from Luke 1:26-56, when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she had been called to be the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God:
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
The moment when Mary said “yes” and Jesus was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit is called the Incarnation. In the “In Brief” section explaining the Incarnation, we read: “At the time appointed by God, the only Son of the Father, the eternal Word; that is, the Word and substantial Image of the Father, became incarnate; without losing his divine nature he has assumed human nature.
“Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men.
“Jesus Christ possesses two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God’s Son.
“Christ, being true God and true man, has a human intellect and will, perfectly attuned and subject to his divine intellect and divine will, which he has in common with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
“The Incarnation is therefore the mystery of the wonderful union of the divine and human natures in the one person of the Word” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 479-483).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us further about the Incarnation: “Why did the Word become flesh? With the Nicene Creed, we answer by confessing: ‘For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.’
“The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God, who ‘loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins’: ‘the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world,’ and ‘he was revealed to take away sins’ (1 Jn. 4:10; 4:14; 3:5)
“The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God’s love: ‘In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him’ (1 John 4:9). ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
“The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness….
“The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4)…
“Taking up St. John’s expression, “The Word became flesh,” the Church calls ‘Incarnation’ the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation:
“‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:5-8)” (paragraphs 456-461).
Our Blessed Mother, who generously responded “yes” to the Lord’s will for her life (“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”) is a beautiful role model for us. She received the Lord, carried Him, gave birth to Him, and adored Him. So should we strive to be open to the Lord’s will, carry His love to others, and adore Him in the Eucharist!
Mary was faithful to God and accepted the challenge to answer His call. She is an example of being faithful in doing God’s will and serving others and teaches us to respond with joy and courage in difficult moments, without counting the cost. O Mary, who always said yes to God, pray for us!
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.