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Christian Documents Index.

The Hail Mary Prayer

Also known as the "Ave Maria"

The "Hail Mary" or "Ave Maria" is a collection of scriptural extracts compiled into a devotional prayer by about the XIth century, when attention to Mary was becoming increasingly important in the western Church. Internally it is structured as a salutation (lines 1 and 2) plus a general petition for Mary's intercession (line 3). In addition to its use within Catholic liturgy, it is often used in multiple repetitions, most conspicuously in "saying the rosary," an act of personal piety. (See "rosary" in the listing of Catholic Religious Vocabulary.)

(Some Catholics use this as a prayer in moments of urgent distress. This is the context from which we get the once charming, now threadbare, sports term "Hail Mary pass," i.e., a football pass very unlikely to succeed without supernatural intervention. Generalized outside of sports, the expression "Hail Mary pass" has come to refer to any desperation tactic.)

The English version given here is the standard one used by Catholics in the United States. An interesting account of different translations of the Hail Mary text into Chinese can be found at Everything: Ave Maria in Chinese.

1 Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
2 Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
3 Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
4 Amen Amen 亞孟。

Line 1. This is the salutation of the angel Gabriel as he announces to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus. (Luke 1:28)

Line 2. This line comes from the words with which Mary's cousin Elizabeth greets her when the two pregnant women meet. (Luke 1:41) The name Jesus has been added to the prayer.

Line 3. This line was added at the Council of Trent (1545-63) to emphasize Mary's role as an intercessor with her son for the salvation of humans.