Ave Maria

November 12, 2022 by  
Filed under Faith

By Cheri Cowell –

The Ave Maria is one of the oldest and most popular Catholic prayers, and is perhaps one of the most beautiful of Christmas hymns. The Ave Maria (Hail Mary) is of unknown origin; it was not officially incorporated into the liturgy (as part of the Rosary) until the 15th Century. It is composed of two distinct parts, a Scriptural part and an intercessory prayer.

The first part, the Scriptural part, is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke and joins together the words of the Angel Gabriel with Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary. The joining of these two passages can be found as early as the fifth and perhaps even the fourth century in the eastern liturgies. The opening word of the greetings translated “Hail,” literally has the meaning “rejoice” or “be glad.” The second half of the prayer (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.) can be traced back to the 15th century where it first appeared in print after the Council of Trent.

Ave Maria has been set to music many times but its most famous version is that of Franz Schubert, who wrote it at age 27 for Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake. According to Schubert, his friends were surprised at the deeply devotional character of the Ave Maria. Explained Schubert, “I think the reason for this is that I never force myself into devotion or compose hymns of prayers unless I am truly overpowered by the feeling; that alone is true devotion.”

PRAYER: Dear God, as Schubert, Elizabeth, and Mary did, I fall in adoration and am overcome by devotion at the gift You’ve given us in Christ. Today I stand amazed in how You used a frightened little girl to deliver the Christ child, and today You continue to use anyone who, like Mary, will humble themselves to be a vessel of the Most High God. May I be such a person.

“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” “In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”” (Luke 1:28, 42 NIV).

About Cheri Cowell

Cheri Cowell is the author of the new Bible study, Parables and Word Pictures of the New Testament: Following God series http://www.CheriCowell.com
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