The Hail Mary
Anthony M. Buono*
In a way the
Hail Mary summarizes the whole of the Church's public prayers to
Mary. For this Marian prayer was in its initial form among the first
to be used in the Church and in its completed form among the last to be
used of those treated -- being finally put together in the fifteenth
century and finalized in the sixteenth.
The prayer may
be divided into two major parts: (1) the Evangelical Salutation (cf. Luke
1:28 and 42), and (2) the Supplication of the Church. The first part
was used very early in the Church. A formula of the two scriptural
salutations that make up the first part is found in the Eastern Liturgies
of St. James of Antioch and St. Mark of Alexandria, which may date from
the fifth or even fourth century. It is also part of the Liturgy of
the Abyssinian Jacobites and the ritual of St. Severus (538).
this first part also appears on an Egyptian potsherd of the sixth century
with the additional words "Because you have conceived Christ, the Son
of God, Redeemer of our souls." The word Mary is added in some
copies of the Liturgy of St. James, and the words "Mary, Virgin
Mother of God" in some Greek churches.
The firstappearance of the Salutation in the Western Church occurs as an Offertory
Antiphon for the feast of the Annunciation, Ember Wednesday in December, and the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Excerpts from The Greatest Marian Prayers: Their History, Meaning and Usage,
Anthony M. Buono.