Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil, as sorcerers do who practice black magic and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as the Devil, sooner or later you will be converted and save your soul if –and mark well what I say–if you say the Rosary every day for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining pardon and contrition for your sins.
St Louis De Montfort The Secret of the Rosary
The second in a series explaining why the Hail Mary is a Prayer for all Christians not just Catholics.
Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners.
Now, and at the hour of our death, Amen.
In part 1 the Angelic Salutation, we talked about how the opening words of the Hail Mary, taken directly from the greeting of the Angel Gabriel, signifies not only the importance of Mary as the very first Christian but her position relative to the heavenly host.
Lets begin Part 2: The Human Confirmation
The next words of the Hail Mary are:
Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of your womb,
Like the initial line this comes directly from scripture let’s go back to Luke chapter 1 and take this passage in context:
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
As we did before let’s include the King James version
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
As with the angelic greeting not only the words that are part of the Hail Mary but the entire passage is important to understand it. Let’s consider it point by point:
A: It’s Mary’s presence that prompts the initial reaction
Let’s begin not with the first reaction of Elizabeth to Mary’s greeting, let’s begin with the first person who reacts period, the unborn St. John the Baptist in verse 41a:
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb
Mary is heard and John reacts. This child, who will have the spirit and power of Elijah, reacts to the sound of the Mother of the Christ.
Now one might first say, big deal babies jump in the womb all the time but let’s remind everybody what Gabriel said about John in verse 15:
He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and it’s important enough to be included in inspired scripture. This means it’s VERY significant. That leads to our 2nd point:
B: The Holy Spirit reacts to the presence of Mary
The Unborn St. John already filled with the Spirit of Elijah has acted and the next action comes, not from Elizabeth but directly from God in verse 41b
“Elisabeth filled with the Holy Spirit…”
At the presence of Mary The Holy Spirit fills Elisabeth. This is quite interesting in that while John apparently already has the spirit of Elijah in him the Holy Spirit does not enter Elisabeth until this point.
So right away we see Mary’s greeting causes one already inspired by God to act, and further causes the spirit of God itself to act. God acting due to the words of Mary. We’ll talk about that in a future post
But even beyond those two things is what happens next our 3rd point:
C: Elizabeth praises Mary and directly honors her presence.
John and the Holy Spirit have both acted. Elizabeth speaks the words that will appear in the Hail Mary:
Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
Now in one sense this simply reiterates what the Angel Gabriel has already but consider how radical it is for her, the elder married relative speaking this to a younger unmarried (and pregnant) relative. By saying these words inspired by the Holy Spirit she is giving confirmation to those words. Then consider what, under that inspiration of the spirit, comes next.
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
She declares herself honored by the visit of the MOTHER of her Lord
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
She notes that it was MARY’S voice, that prompted the reaction of her unborn child St. John
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
And finishes off praising MARY for her belief.
What does all of this mean? Just this.
We have already established in part one that the Angels consider Mary their superior, now here woman (as in mankind) to give giving her praise as well, both a generation born and those not yet born.
Now none of this, of course decreases for one second the Child Jesus but the example here is profound under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit man, both born and unborn explicitly praises Mary, and does so as the Mother of God.
And how does Mary react to all of this? With a spectacular prayer does two critical things
D: Mary confirms her status before man for all time while giving Glory to God
Mary’s answers these greetings with her song the prayer we call the Magnificat
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Look at what Mary does she “proclaims the greatness of the Lord” proclaims “God her savior”, notes the holiness of his name, his mercy and talks of his great deeds and promises, but in the middle of all of this praise she also confirms that
from now on will all ages call me blessed
Which coincidentally is exactly what this line of the Hail Mary does.
Oh and one more thing about Mary’s speech, note that while it is explicitly stated that Elizabeth is inspired by the Holy Spirit to react it doesn’t say anything about the Holy Spirit inspiring Mary prayer or speech in any way. At this point Mary is already so advanced in grace and so blessed that she knows God without further inspiration.
So lets’ review:
Mary’s words cause a reaction by the great St. John (A)
Mary’s words cause the holy spirit to enter Elizabeth (B)
Elizabeth praises Mary under the inspiration of God (C)
Mary confirms this praise is proper while at the same time praising God as well. (D)
This says that Mary is not only to be praised by man, both those born and those yet to come, but it is to happen for ALL generations.
One final thought, remember, all of this comes from inspired scripture that is not in dispute between Protestants and Catholics.
Next time: Part 3 The Holy Name