November 21, 2007

Oldest prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary


The prayer we call by its first words— “Hail, Mary”— actually has two halves. The first half combines two greetings to Mary that appear in the holy Gospel according to Luke: the greeting from St. Gabriel the Archangel and a form of the greeting from St. Elizabeth.
HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE THE LORD IS WITH THEE

BLESSED ART THOU AMONG WOMEN AND BLESSED IS THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB JESUS
Those two greetings are not “petitions,” that is, they do not ask for anything.

The second half of the prayer (the half that is actually a prayer of petition) was added much later.
HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD
PRAY FOR US SINNERS
NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH
The oldest known actual prayer addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary goes back to before A.D. 300, the Sub tuum praesidium.
We fly to your patronage,
O holy Mother of God.
Despise not our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us from all dangers,
O ever-glorious and blessed Virgin.


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