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Notre Dame du Laus

Origin of the Hail Mary, also called Angelical Salutation

The Archangel Gabriel, sent by God the Father to the Virgin Mary to announce that She was chosen to be the Mother of God Incarnate, spoke these words to Her:

Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women.”

Mary, at these words, was troubled; She wondered, within Herself, what such a greeting could be.

“Fear not, Mary, said the Angel, for You have found favor with God. Behold, You will conceive in Your womb and bear a Son, and You will call His name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give Him the throne of David His father; and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever. And His kingdom shall be without end.”

Going back through the centuries, we find among the early Christians the pious practice of greeting Mary with the Angel saying, Hail Mary. In an ancient Liturgy attributed to St. James, we already read this invocation: “Let us celebrate the memory of the holy, Immaculate and glorious Virgin Mary, that we may obtain all mercy through Her intercession.” Then come these words of the Angelical Salutation: “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is Jesus, the fruit of Thy womb, because Thou hast brought forth the Savior of our soul.” (Liturgy of S. James the Apostle)

St. John Chrysostom inserts this prayer into the Liturgy of his diocese. St. Athanasius also prayed the Angelical Salutation when he said: “We greet Thee, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee; the hierarchies of the Angels unite with the inhabitants of the earth to bless Thee. Blessed art Thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Pray for us, our Sovereign, and the Mother and Spouse of the Lord.” (S. Athan. In Evang. De Deipar.)

As for the second part of the Angelical Salutation: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us poor sinners, many critics believe that it was composed by the Fathers of the Council of Ephesus in 431, on the occasion of the definition of the dogma of the divine Maternity of Mary. Other scholars, no less reliable, assure that these words were added to the Angelical Salutation only in 1508.

(Father Huguet)

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