Saint Bonaventure

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 be 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 among women, or else, above all women, may be understood the fourth joy that 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, may be 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."