III. CONCENTRATE ON THE “OUR FATHER” AND “HAIL MARY.”
Before the coming of Our Lord, young and old recited the one hundred and fifty psalms of David as a prayer. Many of the psalms were committed to memory and said frequently throughout the day. The more the people meditated upon the psalms the better they prayed and the richer were the spiritual rains.
The one hundred and fifty psalms divided into fifties, continued a favourite form of devotion among the Christians of the early Church. Gradually the humble folk, the people whose days were occupied in physical labour, found little time to study the psalms and began to substitute for them the repetition of fifty, a hundred or a hundred and fifty salutations to Our Lady, leaving the psalms to clerics, religious, and learned groups. The 150 salutations to Mary correspond to the 150 psalms of David which sang the praises of God and besought Him for mercy and grace.
As with the psalms the more we meditate upon the words we say the more effect they will have upon our spiritual health. The repetition of the Angelical salutation is always pleasing to Our Lady. The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer taught us by Our Lord Himself, and cannot be said often enough. So the very words we use in the Rosary have a virtue of their own and will merit much for us. The following notes on the “Hail Mary” and the “Our Father” supply food for meditation.
THE ORIGIN OF THE HAIL MARY
St. Luke tells us the origin of the “Hail Mary” in words that glow with the devotion of a loving son. Raphael, in his picture of St. Luke painting the Virgin and Child, portrays in the face of the artist a deep love of the Virgin.
St. Luke writes: “And in the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth,
“To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
“And the Angel being come in, said unto her: Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed are thou among women.
“Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.
“And the Angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
“Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shall bring forth a son; and thou shall call His name Jesus.
“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever,
“And of His kingdom there shall be no end.”
“And Mary said to the Angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?
“And the Angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
“And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren; because no word shall be impossible with God.
“And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word. And the Angel departed from her.
“And Mary, rising up in these days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda.
“And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth.
“And it came to pass; that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (St. Luke I, 26.42.)
“Hail, full of grace.”
We salute Mary with: “Hail, full of grace.” Not without good reason did the angel omit her name, “Mary,” saying instead, “Full of grace.” He wished thereby to intimate that the title, “Full of grace” is more proper for her than her name, and due far more to her than the title “wise” was due to Solomon, “obedient” to Isaac, and “strong” to Samson.
“The Lord is with thee.”
God is indeed everywhere, but He is in one way with men and in another with irrational and inanimate beings; one way with the good, and another with the bad. He is with irrational beings without their knowledge, and with rational beings who know and acknowledge Him; but, above all, He is with the good who know and love Him. He is with the Blessed Virgin in a special manner; He is one with her not only in the will but also in the flesh. “The Lord is with thee;” this is a prerogative that raises her above the angels.
“Blessed art thou among women.”
She “conceived,” but “without sin”; she brought forth “without pain” and “without knowing man”; to her great glory she is the “Mother of Him Whose Father is God”; she, the creature, became the “Mother of the Creator”; she became a Mother, without ceasing to be a “Virgin.” Had not the angel reason to say: “Blessed art thou among women?” Can we therefore honour the Blessed Virgin more than by praising her with the angelic salutation:
“Blessed art thou among women?”
“The Hail Mary,” writes St. Grignion de Montfort, “is a heavenly dew which waters the soul, and renders it fruitful in all virtues; a soul not watered by this prayer, brings forth no fruit, nothing but briars and thorns.
The Hail Mary is the sanctification of the soul, the joy of the Angels, the song of the predestined, the canticle of the New Testament, the pleasure of Mary, the glory of the most Holy Trinity. The Hail Mary is a loving kiss we give to Mary; it is a brilliant rose we present to her; a special pearl we offer to her; a cup of ambrosia and divine nectar.”