THE HAIL MARY
Ave Maria! That
blessed greeting of the Angel Gabriel, where we honor
and greet Our Lady every day, is also grounded in the Gospel, as you have heard before, but I will tell you
more, to guide your devotion
more in reciting that greeting. In understanding this greeting in the
manner as holy Church has ordained it to be said, it has five parts; in
which may be understood specially the five joys of Our Lady, and in
those five joys, five virtues that she had in them above all earthly
creatures: humility, chastity, faith, hope, and charity.
In the first part of this
greeting, which consists in these two words
Hail Mary, you may understand
the first joy that she had in Jesus'
gracious conception, of which humility was the ground, as perhaps you
have heard before. As these words Hail Mary are the first and beginning
of this greeting, so the feast of the Annunciation was the beginning of
and ground of all others; and as humility was the beginning of Mary's
joy and all mankind's, so is it the beginning and ground of all
virtues. Therefore, in these first words, Hail Mary, you may with
reason understand the first joy that she had in her annunciation of the
conceiving of her Blessed Son Jesus, and that specially through the
virtue of humility.
In the second part, that
consists in these words Full of
grace, may be
understood the second joy that Mary had in Jesus' birth and her joyful
childbearing, in which she had sovereignly, the virtue of chastity
and purity; and therefore she was specially full of grace, in that she,
clean maiden and mother, bore child without sorrow, which no woman ever
did but only she.
In the third part, in these
words the Lord is with thee, may
understood the third joy that she had in the glorious resurrection of
her Son Jesus, specially by the virtue of steadfast faith and true
belief. For from His death until that time, He dwelled only with her,
by the steadfast belief that she had in Him as God, when all His
Apostles and disciples were separated from Him by misbelief, and by
despair that He was God. And therefore the faith of Holy Church stayed
in her alone for those three days; so that in that time it might
specially be said to her, Our Lord is with thee, that is to say by true
faith and belief. And afterwards, at His resurrection, Our Lord is with
thee was fulfilled more specially by His bodily presence, which first
appeared to her.
In the fourth part, that is
in these words, Blessed art thou
women, or else, above all women, may be understood the fourth
she had, in the sight of her Son Jesus mightily ascending to Heaven; in
which sight the hope that she had in His Godhead was fully strengthened
and confirmed, seeing that which no other woman ever did, when that
part which He took of her in flesh and blood was bodily born up to
Heaven through power of the Godhead; and so hoping without doubt that
she should follow after. Well then might it be said to her, then and
now, "Blessed art thou sovereignly among women," seeing thy Son Jesus
mightily to Heaven ascending.
In the fifth part, Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus,
understood the last joy that she had in her blessed Son Jesus, when
He took her up with Him to bliss, and there honorably crowned her Queen
of Heaven everlasting. Then was her desire of love fulfilled, when,
through fullness of charity, she was forever joined to her blessed Son
Jesus, and He to her, and was so fed with that blessed fruit that she
hungered no more; for thereby she was filled with all goodness, bliss,
and joy without end. And thus briefly in the fifth part of this
salutation Ave Maria, may be understood the five joys of blessed Mary,
with five virtues that she had sovereignly in them, as I have now said.
The greeting, according to
the common understanding, may be said in
English tongue: "Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou sovereignly among women, and ever blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus!" And as the list in this greeting specifies the
five joys with the five virtues aforesaid, you may say it in short:
"Hail Mary, maiden meekest, greeted by the Angel Gabriel in Jesus'
gracious conception; full of grace, as mother chaste, bearing thy Son
Jesus without sorrow or pain! Our Lord is with thee by true faith and
belief at Jesus' joyful resurrection. Blessed art thou sovereignly
among women by firm hope, seeing thy Son Jesus with power to Heaven
ascending. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, in everlasting
bliss, through perfect charity gloriously crowning thee Queen of
Heaven. Obtain for us these virtues, that for our gain we may be
pleasing to thy Son Jesus and to thee. Be thou our help in all our
need, and our succor at our last ending. Amen."