August 13, 2014
The Hail Mary
Servant of God Isaac Thomas Hecker wrote:
Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you.
With God’s fiat the world was created; but with Mary’s fiat God himself became man, and the lost world was saved.
Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
An archangel visited her, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, the Almighty God descended into her womb. When it was told to her to visit her cousin, she could have used all of this as an excuse. But no, she thought only of her nothingness. She therefore hastened to visit her cousin. Indeed, she was the handmaid of the Lord.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
The Mother of God becomes the refuge of sinners, the servant of all. What heart is not overcome with joy. If we are to have the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we must become like her Son, for to gain the affection of a person, we must become like the object of their love.
St. Vincent de Paul says of the Hail Mary than an angel began it when he saluted the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Elizabeth continued it when she visited her cousin; and that we the church complete it, so that every Hail Mary is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
A Response from Father Paul Robichaud CSP
As we celebrate the feast of the Assumption, it seems appropriate to publish Father Hecker’s short reflection on the Hail Mary. The prayer is in three sections. The first two sections are taken from the Gospel of Luke, and first appeared in the Roman liturgy in the seventh century. It served as an offertory prayer celebrating the Annunciation, celebrated both on the feast day proper, March 25, as well as the Fourth Sunday of Advent. It became a popular devotional prayer in the medieval church beginning in the 11th century and it appeared in the early and various forms of the rosary in the 12th century.
Luke’s words of greeting from Gabriel seem incomplete when used as a prayer as most prayers contain a petition in their closing. In a sermon preached on the Annunciation in 1427, St. Bernadine of Siena added the words, “pray for us.” This was expanded into its present form and approved by Pius V in 1568.
Father Hecker reflects on the three parts of the prayer. The greeting of the angel Gabriel reminds us of the importance of Mary’s fiat or “yes” in salvation history. Father Hecker parallels the fiat or “let it be done” to similar words spoken by God the Father in the creation. Here he links the creation of the world to the new creation of the Incarnation of Jesus. To demonstrate that the Hail Mary is a living prayer of the Church, the prayer, as Hecker notes quoting St. Vincent de Paul, continues in the greeting of Elizabeth and the petitionary prayer of the church both present and future. Father Hecker then adds that when we pray to the Blessed Mother for protection, we should accompany our petition with an effort to be more like her Son. The prayer while focused on the Blessed Mother also becomes a Christ centered prayer, for it encourages us to be more like Christ.
About this series
Father Paul Robichaud, CSP, is the historian of the Paulist Fathers and postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington, D.C.
If you have asked Father Hecker to pray for you or another person who is ill and you believe something miraculous has happened, please phone Father Paul at 202-269-2519 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him your story.