I recently had a discussion with an evangelical friend (a devoted follower of Jesus) about the biblical validity of the Hail Mary prayer. It came up because my friend has a relative (a Catholic) who is not in good health, and he wanted to know what types of prayers might comfort her. I suggested that he pray the Our Father with her and also suggested that she might like to pray the Hail Mary. That led to a discussion between us about the biblical support for the prayer. One particular issue that was raised is the use of the term “Mother of God.” This, of course, has been the subject of much conflict between Catholics and Protestants over the centuries. I thought that we all might benefit from a brief explanation of why we all can feel perfectly comfortable in praying this prayer of intercession to the Blessed Mother.
The full prayer:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
The biblical support:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Luke 1:28 – And coming to her, he (the angel Gabriel) said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” It is interesting and important to note that in the Greek in which Luke was originally written, the greeting is kaire, kekaritomene, or “Hail, full of grace.” More particularly, Luke uses the perfect passive participle, kekaritomene, as his “name” for Mary. This word literally means “she who has been graced.” How she was graced before assenting to the incarnation is a topic for a future post!
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Luke 1:41-42 – When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” This passage, by the way, is also why Mary is referred to as the “Blessed Mother.”
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Luke 1:43 – “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth knew precisely the identity of the child in Mary’s womb. The “Lord” she refers to is Jesus, the divine Christ. How did she know this? Her husband, Zechariah, was also visited by the angel Gabriel, who revealed to him that his son, John, would be the one to “be called prophet of the Most High” and that he would “go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” Luke 1:76
pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Revelation 8:3-4 – “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel.”
Revelation 5:8 – “When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones.” In Heaven, the saints (the holy ones) offer prayers to God. Who are they for? Certainly not for themselves, since they are before the throne of God. The prayers are intercessions for those of us still here on earth. Given that Mary is first among the saints, why would we not pray that she offer her prayers of intercession for us?
Blessings to all of you!