IV. ADDRESSING MARY IN THE “HAIL MARY”
Address Mary with the words: “Hail Mary,” thinking how they apply to her in the special circumstances of each Mystery. Mary is always “full of grace,” always “blessed,” because the Lord is always with her. Yet, the Lord is with her in a different way in the stable of Bethlehem, on the Hill of Calvary, and at the throne of the Father in Heaven. She is “with the Lord,” with the Fruit of her womb, Jesus, but her being with Jesus in the home of Nazareth is a very different thing from her being with Jesus dying on the Cross.
From Mary’s union with Jesus comes all her greatness. This way of saying the Rosary is to tell our Mother that we greet her as full of God’s grace, blessed, because she is with Jesus as no other human being can ever be; in His joy, in His sorrow, and in His triumph. Let us see briefly the different shades of meaning we can put into the words of the “Hail Mary” in each of the five Joyful Mysteries.
In the first mystery, the Annunciation, we remember at once that we are addressing to Mary the very words that the Archangel addressed to her at the Annunciation. He said to her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1, 28.) We say the same to her, thinking that she is indeed “full of grace” at this moment. Conceived immaculate, she has corresponded so well with the graces God has given her that now God’s messenger thus addresses her. We tell her she is “blessed among women,” because at this moment, when the Word is made flesh within her womb, “the Lord is with her” in a way He has never been with any other; blessed amongst women because the Son thus conceived in her womb is the Son of God. .
At the Visitation, too, we are using the actual words spoken to Mary by St. Elizabeth: “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” (Luke 1, 42.) When we say “the Lord is with thee” during this mystery we remember how truly He was with her then, bringing grace and sanctification to St. John the Baptist even before his entry into the world. As we repeat “Blessed art thou” we are actually fulfilling, even now, the prophecy that Mary made at the Visitation: “Behold all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1, 48.)
During the recitation of the third Mystery, the Nativity, we can have before our minds that first Christmas night and the wonderful application of the words must strike us at once. “The Lord is with thee”; yes, indeed, with thee now as with no other creature, with thee in the most intimate union of mother and new born Babe. “Blessed art thou among women”; more blessed in thy poverty than the richest mother in the land, more blessed than any other woman ever was or ever will be, because this thy Child, the fruit of thy womb, is blessed, none other than God Himself.
The fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation, shows us Mary in the Temple offering the fruit of her womb to the Eternal Father. That offering in her case meant far more than it did for any other Jewish mother. Their offerings were symbolical, hers was real. True, she gave in the Temple only the gift of the poor, whilst many of the others gave the gift prescribed for the rich. Yet, who shall say that theirs was an offering equal to hers? She gave to Almighty God His Son and hers.
THE FINDING IN THE TEMPLE
The final mystery of this decade, the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, gives us two aspects of the truth of the words we say in our prayer.
Mary is blessed when she finds her Child, because once more, “the Lord is with her.” After the desolation of those days of fruitless search, what a joy, what a relief it must have been when she was with Him once more! God had done such wonderful things for her: the miraculous conception, the Virgin motherhood, the possession of God as her own Son; how she must have wondered when so soon afterwards He disappeared from her. How comforted she must have been when she had Him with her again and when “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them.” (Luke 2, 51.)
These last words open out a vista of thought for the Fifth Mystery. Whilst we say the “Hail Mary” let us tell the Divine Mother that we know how “full of grace” she must have been during those happy years in Nazareth, when the “Lord was with her” night and day. He learned at her knee, He obeyed her voice, He was her dutiful Son, and yet all the time she knew that He was her God. “Blessed art thou among women” because the fruit of thy womb-thy Son- is blessed above all others, Jesus, thy God.”
Whilst we say the second part of the “Hail Mary” in these joyful mysteries we will ask Holy Mary, Mother of God to pray for us, that we may be full of God’s grace and that the Lord may be with us. Pray for us, Mother of God, now, that in all the joys and sorrows of life “the Lord may be with us”; pray for us at the hour of our death, that we may be blessed for all eternity, with the “Blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”