Assumption of Mary Dogma

The “Hail Mary” has deep historical and theological roots in the Catholic tradition. Throughout the centuries, this Marian prayer has developed and enriched in response to popular devotion and theological reflection. Let me highlight some of the relevant biblical, historical, and theological roots.

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Hail Mary – Biblical Foundation:

  • “Hail Mary, full of grace” is based on the greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary in the Gospel of Luke 1:28: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”
  • “The Lord is with you” is also taken from the same verse, Luke 1:28.
  • “Blessed are you among women” is found in Luke 1:42, when Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, greets Mary saying, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
  • “And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus” refers to Luke 1:42, where Elizabeth continues by saying, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
  • “Holy Mary”: The term “holy” refers to the holiness of Mary, derived from her chosen status by God to be the mother of Jesus. Although there is no explicit biblical verse that mentions Mary as “Holy Mary,” her holiness is manifested in her cooperation with divine grace and her role as the mother of the Savior.
  • “Mother of God”: This affirmation is based on the title “Mother of my Lord” used by Elizabeth in Luke 1:43. When Mary visits Elizabeth, the latter exclaims, “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43). The title “Lord” here refers to Jesus, thus confirming Mary’s divine motherhood.
  • “Pray for us sinners”: In 1 Timothy 2:5, we are told that there is one God and one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ. While Jesus is the ultimate mediator, the Church understands that the faithful on earth can ask the saints, including Mary, to intercede on their behalf before God. This practice of seeking intercession from the saints is based on the concept of the communion of saints, which is mentioned in the Apostles’ Creed.
  • “Now and at the hour of our death”: In Hebrews 4:16, we are exhorted to confidently approach the throne of God’s grace, to receive mercy and find grace for help in time of need. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary, as the mother of Jesus and the spiritual mother of all believers, is always ready to intercede for us, both in the present and at the moment of our death.

Hail Mary – Patristic Sources:

Saint Jerome (384 AD):
Saint Jerome, in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke (44:31-32, pg 313), highlights that Mary receives impressive greetings in the Bible that go beyond her physical appearance. The phrase “Hail, full of grace” in Greek, “chaire kecharitomené,” resonates melodiously. In the Gospel of Luke, the word “grace” (charis) is associated with joy and wisdom. The use of the participle in the Greek construction indicates that Mary has been the object of divine grace and favor, signaling that she has been chosen from long ago. The fullness of divine favor has poured into her.
Additionally, it is mentioned that the Hebrew form of greeting would be “shalom lakh,” which means “peace be with you.” The messianic fullness of God is exceptionally manifested in her, anticipating the redemptive work of Jesus. The greeting “The Lord is with you” implies a special office or prerogative that acknowledges the fulfillment of divine promises in Mary. Furthermore, the possible allusion to Isaiah 7:14’s Emmanuel and the presence of angelic mediators in salvation history are mentioned. Mary contemplates intensely with a strong spirit of faith.

Saint Augustine (413 AD):
Saint Augustine, in his Sermon 215 (paragraph 4), reflects on the birth of Jesus, affirming that no one can adequately narrate the mystery of how God has chosen to be born as a man and that a virgin conceived him without the intervention of a man. It is emphasized that Jesus entered the womb of the Virgin Mary without depriving her of her virginity and came out of her while maintaining his integrity. The maternal honor and virginity of Mary are highlighted.
Furthermore, the author states that although we may not fully comprehend these mysteries, we are obliged to praise and believe in them. The faith of Mary and her acceptance of God’s will are also emphasized. In summary, Saint Augustine emphasizes the uniqueness and greatness of Jesus’ birth, underscoring Mary’s faith as an integral part of this event. Believers are also invited to accept and believe in these divine mysteries, even though their full understanding is beyond human capacity.

Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (335-337 AD):
Saint Athanasius, in his work “On the Incarnation” (II, 8), emphasizes that the Word of God, being incorporeal and incorruptible, manifested Himself on earth out of His benevolence towards us. He observed the destruction and corruption that reigned among humanity, as well as the wickedness and dependency of all upon death. In order to prevent the destruction of what was created and fulfill the law, He decided to take on a human body, with no difference whatsoever, from a pure and immaculate virgin. “Indeed, although He is powerful and the creator of the universe, He prepares a body in the Virgin for Himself like a temple, making it suitable as an instrument in which He is known and dwells.”
Taking on a body similar to ours, He surrendered Himself to death for the benefit of all, abolishing the human law of corruption and granting

life instead of death through His resurrection. This passage emphasizes the condescension and sacrifice of Jesus in taking on a human body, freeing humanity from corruption and death, and offering them the opportunity for eternal life.

Hail Mary – Theological Roots:

The theological roots of the “Hail Mary” prayer are found in various teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church. Here are some of the important theological roots of this Marian prayer:

  • Mary as “full of grace”: The first phrase of the prayer, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” is based on the teaching that Mary was conceived without original sin and was specially graced by God. This doctrine, known as the Immaculate Conception, asserts that Mary was full of divine grace from the moment of her conception.
  • Mary as the Mother of God: The second part of the prayer, “the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,” recognizes Mary as the Mother of Jesus, who is God incarnate. This belief is based on the doctrine of Mary’s divine motherhood, affirming that Mary is the mother of Jesus in both his human and divine nature.
  • Mary as intercessor: The phrase “pray for us sinners” reflects the belief that Mary can intercede for the faithful and present their petitions before God. This doctrine of Mary’s intercession is based on the belief that Mary, as the mother of Jesus and a prominent member of the Church, has a special role in the spiritual life of believers.
  • Mary as a model of virtue: The prayer also highlights Mary as an example and model of virtue. By greeting her as “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” her holiness is acknowledged, and believers seek to imitate her life of faith and virtue.

These are just some of the important theological roots of the “Hail Mary” prayer. Throughout the centuries, the Church has developed and deepened these teachings, and the prayer has been a way to express devotion and seek the intercession of Mary.


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