From a talk by the Prior to the monks of New Clairvaux on the glorious Hail Mary:
Good evening brothers. Tonight I want to talk about a prayer we are all very familiar with. In fact, we pray it 9 times a day as a community, at morning, noon, and night, albeit silently; and judging from the number of rosaries I would find left in brothers’ pockets when I was community launderer, far more often than that as well. I’m speaking of course of the Hail Mary.
We all know the special place the Hail Mary prayer has in the Christian tradition, second only to the Our Father in prominence. In fact, the Hail Mary is very often paired with the Our Father, or linked with it and the Glory Be. I have asked myself why this is, why this prayer enjoys such a special, exalted place. And this all the more so, because it is addressed to a created person rather than to a Divine Person.
My suggestion is: because it gives the greatest possible Glory to God. The Hail Mary can be seen as a continuation, or even as the completion, of the Our Father.
The Our Father is all petition; it is composed completely of petitions- seven of them. In it, we ask Our Father that his name be hallowed, that His Kingdom come and His Will be Done, that He give us our Daily Bread, Forgive us our sins, preserve us from temptation and protect us from evil. The Hail Mary prayer however is not a prayer of petition (well, except for the last part); it is a prayer of acclamation. It proclaims what God had done. It proclaims that God has fully answered the Our Father’s 7 petitions.
How so? Because the Hail Mary is really about Christ. It is Christocentric. In it, we acknowledge and proclaim God’s great victory and triumph in Christ, accomplished as it is through Mary. Through the Incarnation and its ultimate fulfillment in the Paschal Mystery, God has achieved His Great purpose of capitulation, to bring ALL things together in Christ. In Him, the petitions of the Our Father find their complete fulfillment: Christ has supremely hallowed God’s Name, ushered in the Reign of His Kingdom and Holy Will, become our true everlasting nourishment, won the forgiveness of all sins, preserves us from temptation and delivers us from evil one.
How do we see this greatest glory given to God’s victory in Christ through the Hail Mary? Let’s look at the prayer. It can be divided into three parts:
Part I- Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the LORD is with you.
We start the prayer by acknowledging that Mary is ‘Full of Grace’; by acknowledging that this great Victory is completely a work of Grace. The great things are being accomplished in Mary because ‘the LORD is with Her’. As she Herself proclaims in Her Magnificat, “The Lord has done great things for me”. Mary always gives the credit and glory to God, always points us to Christ as the summit of God’s works.
Part II- Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, JESUS.
The Holy Name of Jesus is the heart of the prayer, its crescendo. Mary is proclaimed blessed above all women, and why? Because Christ is the fruit of her womb, the Most Blessed One of All; because she cooperated in bringing about Jesus, the New Reality. All of Creation from the beginning has been about bringing forth the Son of God, in whom we are all caught up. Now God and Man are One, now ALL is One! This is why Jesus came.
Part III- Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
What is the proof that we are in a New Reality? That Mary, a human, created person, wields Christ’s mediating power, she is so united to Him. Therefore, she can intercede with saving power for us sinners, both now and even at the hour of our death. It is Christ’s mediation and saving power that she wields, in total union with Him, the icon of humanity’s new relationship with God, in Christ.
So we can see then why the Hail Mary prayer is linked or ‘twinned’ with the Our Father: because it forms a whole. Divinity and humanity are now inseparably united in Christ, the Triumph of God’s Plan. So it is appropriate this these prayers, one addressed to God the Father and the other addressed to Mary, a created person, are paired. For the Glory of God who has done great things.
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