The Hail Mary prayer is one the MOST SAID prayers in the Catholic church. This prayer holds a massive amount of significance in the life of every Catholic. Also, this prayer is rebuked and is a matter of utter disagreement among the Non-Catholic believers. The point of concern when we say this prayer is we give a lot of importance to Mary, who is the mother of Jesus. And why not? Don’t we give reverence to our own mothers? When Jesus was on the cross, why did he say to John the Apostle, in John 19:27 , ” Behold your Mother” ? It was because he wanted his disciples to take care of his mother and love her and respect her. In the same we as his disciples and followers should love, respect and honor her. And this prayer that we say is a way of respecting, loving and honoring- but in no way is it a means of worshipping her. Worship and Adoration is only for God and God alone.
Lets understand, phrase by phrase the meaning of Hail Mary.
In Luke 1:28, we see Angel Gabriel- the messenger of God, coming down from heaven and greeting Mary saying “Hail”. The word Hail is a form of greeting used in those days. But, our focus should be somewhere else. We should try to understand, why did Angel Gabriel, who happens to be an Archangel of God, greet Mary, who is nothing but a mere human being with such amount of respect? It is because Gabriel knew what message he was bringing from heaven. Imagine the profound joy in his heart! The Lord of Lords, who has unimaginable power and whose splendor is beyond human imagination, has appointed a mere human for giving birth to His son, from whom the salvation of human race is due. Therefore there could not be anymore word but with great respect saying ” Hail ” to Mary.
Full of Grace
Again in Luke 1:28, Angel Gabriel continues to say ” Full of Grace”. Now why did he use these specific words. He could have said something else, used some other words, may be something like ‘ you have never sinned’ or ‘ full of purity’ , etc., etc. But these words by angel Gabriel were chosen specifically for Mary. Grace is state of a human. Grace is attained after a person is without sin, full of purity, full of the Holy Spirit and every positive virtue collectively. That is why we say, we feel the presence of God only when we are in the “state of grace”. And Mary was full of grace. Which means there was no dearth of Godly virtues within her. Hence it was right and just to call her ” Full of Grace”.
The Lord is with thee
Now because Mary was full of graces, The Lord of Lords was always with her and watching over her. In other words Mary, owing to her graceful nature, was always in the presence of God and God was always with Mary. This was something which was very rare and applicable only and only for Mary who was going to be the mother of Jesus. Why is this rare? It is because, had Mary ever sinned, or if she had even for a moment shifted out of the area of grace or state of grace, the angel could not have entitled her with the words ” Full of grace, the Lord is with thee”. That would be a lie. Mary through her sinless state, right from the moment she was conceived in the womb of her mother St. Anne, she was sinless. Thus, because she never sinned and was always and always in the state of grace, there was not even for a moment that the Lord was not with her and highly favored her.
Blessed art thou amongst women
Now, in Luke 1:42, Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, exclaimed when she saw her, saying , “Blessed are you amongst women”. Truly she is blessed among all the women since eternity. Why since eternity? Because Mary said ” YES ” to God’s plan. There is a reason why Mary is known as the ‘Second Eve’. Just like Eve disobeyed God, Mary on the other hand obeyed God, not just once but many times all throughout her life. Thus, her obedience makes her truly blessed. Blessed, because only the chosen one can dedicate her life completely to God’s will without any fault or stain of sin. All of this is not possible by sheer human will. God needs to have a role to play in all of this. And it was so! “The Lord is with thee” which made her to be ” Blessed art thou amongst women”.
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
Sometimes I feel people misunderstand the whole Hail Mary prayer, solely because they do not say it the way it should be said. This whole prayer is centered around this very part when we say the name of Jesus. At the end of the day, its all because of Jesus. All things are made possible because of Jesus. Jesus is the center of it all. Therefore, when we say this prayer, it is necessary that we emphasize into saying this phrase in a proper manner , ” Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, JESUS”. Catholics are misunderstood to give the place of Jesus to Mary and other saints. But this isn’t true. Every prayer is centered around the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Yes, that is true. Mary is holy. I mean this is pretty obvious! But we say it. We need to say it. Because every time we say it, we not only give her the due respect that she deserves, but also remind ourselves of how marvelous our loving father has been that he has used a human- weak and humble- and made her worthy of all reverence. Mary was holy indeed, but by saying her name as holy, in a way we proclaim the greatness of God our Father for making her Holy and keeping her Holy through out her life.
Mother of God
Did you just realize something? Just as we are proceeding, the wonders of our God is increasing to its peak. God who was there since eternity, who has no beginning and who has no end, who created Mary and all other beings, living and non-living, that same God became his own creation to another creation, in a way that she will be called ” Mother” by God himself. God took the form of a human, not by falling from the sky, but by being born in the most human way possible. Mary is the biological mother of Jesus. Jesus is God – the second person of the Holy Trinity. How great is our God! How great is his majesty!
Pray for us sinners
Here is where we draw a line. All this while we gave Mary all the praise and reverence that she truly deserved. We called her the Mother of God – a title that God himself entitled her with. But now, we see that we don’t ask Mary to forgive sins or to grant us anything all by herself. Rather whatever we ask of her, she obtains from her Son who is God. And I am not sure how much we honor our own mother, but I am pretty sure that Jesus definitely honors her mother. Jesus never says a ‘No’ to his mother. Thus we ask the mother of God, to pray to God and fetch us anything that we need and ask for. Another thing to note here is we acknowledge that we are not saints. We are sinners. We are filthy and unworthy sinners. Thus, by saying this, we say by default that ‘we seek mercy from the Lord’. Mary knows our heart, and thus she will obtain for us all the mercy we need every time we say ‘pray for us sinners’.
Now and at the hour of our death
The two most important time of our lives! Fr Gabriel Amorth, a famous exorcist once said that we never know how and when are we going to die. Rest assured we do now know how we are going to die. For the devil, the hour of a person’s death is very crucial as at that moment we lose our ability to pray for ourselves. Most of us take death for granted – thinking that they will be having a nice sweet and peaceful death on the bed. But you never know. But Mary knows. She knows when we are going to die and thus when we say pray for us now and at the hour of our death, she unceasingly prays for us now- for whatever we need at this very moment, and then devotes her time and energy to pray for our soul at the hour of our death, so that our soul does not get handed over to the devil and is dragged into hell. Such important is the role of Mary in our lives.
Who can stay without her? No saint in the history of the Catholic Church has ever been able to live their lives faithfully to the Lord our God without taking Mary as their mother. We all need a Mother. And we shouldn’t be surprised to take Mary as our Mother. It is not we who has made her our mother. It is Jesus who has given her to us when he was on the cross. ‘ Son, Behold your Mother’.