The Hail Mary is one of the most beautiful prayers in the world. It combines the words of the Archangel Gabriel (who is a messenger from God), the words of Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist, filled with the Holy Spirit in her womb), and a very powerful petition for our mother to pray for us always, especially at the hour of our death, when satan will make his most powerful attempt to deceive us one last time.
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ in Mary's womb is a very special part of the Bible, as it is the dividing line between the Old and the New Testaments. The Old Testament was the time before Jesus was on the earth, and the New Testament is the time after Jesus is on the earth. Every time we devoutly say a Hail Mary, we are recalling that very special time when the promised Messiah of the Old Testament became a reality in the New Testament. The Archangel Gabriel was last seen in the Bible in Daniel Chapter 9, when he foretold that the new Messiah would be born in "69 weeks of years", or 483 years (69 x 7). Daniel lived around 500 years before Jesus, so this prophecy was fulfilled by Mary giving birth to Jesus; Gabriel was involved not only with the prophecy, but with announcing its fulfillment.
Gabriel also used a royal greeting for Mary, when he said "Hail" ("Ave" in Latin). This term "Hail", as in "Hail Caesar" or "Hail, King of the Jews", wasn't used for peasants. It is a term used for royalty, as in the Queen of the King of Kings, or the Queen Mother of Heaven. Notice too, that Gabriel did not address her by her name of Mary, but rather by her new title - "Full of Grace" ("gratia plena" in Latin). To be "full of grace" means that there can be NO room for sin anywhere in your body or soul. And we know from Romans 6:14 that the more grace one has, the less sin one has:
Romans 6:14: For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Gabriel, still relaying God's message to Mary (an angel is a messanger), next said to her, "The Lord is with you". This is a very powerful statement, coming before she had Jesus in her body. In other words, God had handpicked her from all women from all eternity to be the Mother of Jesus. She wasn't holy just because she had Jesus living in her for 9 months: she was already holy before that. And notice the word "is" in Gabriel's statement - not "was" or "is now, but not forever", but "IS". That means that the Lord was with Mary, and still is with Mary. How many people dismiss her as just an ordinary woman randomly chosen to be an "incubator" for Jesus. WAY TOO MANY. Mary was the very first Christian and the very first evangelist, after all.
Next in the Hail Mary, we hear the words of Elizabeth, already pregnant with John the Baptist, who, according to Luke 1:15 is filled with the Holy Spirit while still a "fetus" (warning to pro-choicers - whatever you do to the least of Jesus' brothers, including those in the womb, you do unto him). Elizabeth said "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb", in Luke 1:42. Notice how this part of the prayer praises Jesus as well as Mary! So now we know that Mary is blessed among all women, more blessed than our own mother, who we are commanded to honor in the 4th Commandment. So if Mary is more blessed than our own mother, then how much more should we honor her, the woman chosen by God to be His living tabernacle for 9 months? And the term "among women" should also remind us of the 6th Chapter of the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament, which talks about the "fairest among women". Verses 9-10 of of Chapter 6 say the following:
"My dove, my perfect one, is only one, the darling of her mother, flawless to her that bore her. The maidens saw her and called her happy; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her. "Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?"
Notice these verses talk about the fairest among women being flawless (immaculately conceived and sinless), as well as "bright as the sun". "The dawn" is when the sun comes up and lights up the world, and Mary brought forth "the Son", who is the light of the world. St. John wrote a thousand years later in Revelation 12:1 about Mary being "clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet". And if the maidens, queens, and concubines praised her, then so should we!
And notice how Elizabeth calls Jesus "the fruit of her womb". That calls to mind other verses from the bible, like
Matthew 7:17-18: So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
So if Jesus if the good fruit of Mary's womb, then, according to the Bible, Mary has to be a sound tree, that is, sinless and holy. If she were sinful, then it would have been impossible for her to bear the good fruit of the sinless Jesus Christ.
The final part of the Hail Mary does not come directly from Scripture like the first two parts do. Rather, it is a petition - "Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen." Students of this prayer will realize that we are only asking Mary to pray for us, which is intercessory prayer, lauded by St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1. Non-Catholics sometimes mistakenly believe that we are praying to Mary as if she were some kind of stand-alone goddess, but that is because they are ignorant of Catholic teachings. The word "pray" only means to ask, as in "Pray tell, what are you doing?" In Genesis 19:2, Lot said this to 2 angels:
"My lords, turn aside, I pray you, to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise up early and go on your way."
And besides that, God has always chosen to use people for his intermediaries, whether it's Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, Isaiah, Elijah, Peter, Paul, or Mary. Jesus is the one mediator between God the Father and man, but Mary's role is to cooperate in that and lead us to Jesus, who then shows us The Father. This is no different than your spouse or your pastor leading your Jesus, who then leads us to The Father.
But, some will say, "Mary is dead and can't hear our prayers", and she doesn't know what's going on down here on earth. But that is totally unbiblical. In Luke 20:38, Jesus says that "
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for ALL live to Him. "
The Bible also says in
Luke 15:7:Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Now if dead Christians are in heaven, then they must know what is going on down here if they are rejoicing over our turning away from sin. After all, Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 that they are our WITNESSES!
Saints who have died and have gone to heaven are one with Christ, and are partakers in His divine nature. They are no longer separate individuals, but they are ONE WITH CHRIST.
1 Corinthians 6:17: But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
2 Peter 1:4: by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.
So therefore, we know that Mary and Jesus were one body and blood while on earth, because Jesus was inside of Mary's womb, and we also know that in heaven she is one spirit with him, and she is a partaker of His divine nature. Why would any Christian hesitate to ask for such a holy person's intercession, like James says in James 5:16:
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
No, the real "Bible Christian" not only accepts Mary as his mother (John 19:27 and Revelation 12:17) because we want to have Jesus as our brother, but he/she will always ask for her very powerful prayers and intercessions to her Son. Just as the King of Israel, Solomon, could not refuse the Queen Mother (Bathsheeba) anything (1 Kings 2:20), just so, Solomon's successor on the throne of Israel, the King of Kings, Jesus, will not refuse the Queen Mother of Heaven (Revelation 12) anything. Just look at how Jesus obeyed her when the wedding feast ran out wine at Cana, even though it was not yet His time (John 2:4)!
Catholics agree completely with Gabriel. Hail Full of Grace! The Lord IS with you!