It might be safe to say that more Americans would associate the term ‘Hail Mary’ with a lucky football pass than an earnest prayer. Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame may confuse things even more.
For Catholics, the Hail Mary is an important prayer and integral to praying the Rosary, as well as the Our Father and Glory Be prayers.
For those who are not familiar with the Hail Mary, here is the actual prayer:
“Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are 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.”
So, what does it have to do with Christmas? Quite a bit actually since Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ by Mary.
The first two sentences of the prayer are parts of what was said to Mary, first by the angel Gabriel and then by Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, in association with her virgin conception, pregnancy and the eventual birth of Christ.
“Hail, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee,” was the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary when he brought God’s message to her as recorded in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 1, verse 28). That is the first sentence of the Hail Mary prayer. A portion of the rest of Gabriel’s message is below:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus…”
Later, when pregnant with Jesus, Mary visited her relative Elizabeth who, as mentioned above, was then pregnant with John the Baptist. When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, she exclaimed,
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!” (Luke 1:42)
That is the second sentence of the Hail Mary prayer. The final sentence of the prayer is, of course, the request for Mary to pray for “us sinners”.
So, there you have it. The Hail Mary opens with the opening stages of the Christmas story.