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Apostolic Movement

What is the origin of the Hail Mary prayer?

By: Ana Cláudia Pereira

The Hail Mary is one of the prayers that best combines humbleness and trust

“First of all, prayer must be humble.” This is what the book Everyday Sanctity teaches us, adding that humbleness must always be coupled with trust: “humbleness without trust ends in gloomy despair. And trust without humbleness is reckless boldness and frivolity” [1].

The “Hail Mary” is one of the prayers that best combines humbleness and trust. We begin by recognizing our insignificance before the Blessed Virgin, exalting her as the full of grace and blessed among all women, and praising the fruit of her womb, Jesus. In the second part, the prayer becomes a filial petition. With faith, we entrust ourselves to our Mother in the most decisive moments we can experience: the now and the hour of our death.


Do you know how the Hail Mary came about?

Its first part was taken from the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, it was composed by God Himself. The phrase “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” was spoken by the Archangel Gabriel at the moment of the Annunciation. The phrase “blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” was uttered by Saint Elizabeth. It is interesting to note that this passage draws a contrast between Mary and Eve, “While the latter wanted to take for herself the fruit of the tree, the former gives up the fruit of her womb.” [2]

Initially, these two greetings were found joined together in the liturgy. They became a prayer formula in monasteries around the year 1000. The prayer subsequently spread and became universal after the 13th century.[3]

The second part of the prayer is a plea of the faithful that was also prayed in the liturgy, in the Evening Prayer, asking the Blessed Virgin for Protection in the hour of death. In the 16th century, Pope Pius V formulated the text of the prayer as it is known today, including the addition of the names Jesus and Mary. [2]


Like the early Christians

Although the Hail Mary prayer was developed over time, Christians in the first centuries already venerated the Virgin Mary with the Angel’s greeting. “In the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, there is a 3rd century graffiti at the base of a column with the words of the angel: Ave Maria. Even earlier, in the second century, the famous prayer Sub tuum praesidium, in which Christians invoked the protection of the ‘glorious and blessed Virgin’ and ‘holy Mother of God’ was composed.” [2]

Following the example of the early Christians, let us raise our humble and trusting prayer to the Mother of God.


[1] KENTENICH, J.; NAILIS, M. A. Everyday Holiness. Santa Maria: Pallotti, 1986.

[2] AZEVEDO, Father Paulo Ricardo de. The prayer of the “Hail Mary.” 2014. Available at: <>.

[3] LACERDA, Marlete. How did the prayer of the Hail Mary come about? Available at: <>





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