We say “our” Father in the Lord’s Prayer because prayer is not something we do alone. We pray to God with Jesus Christ and others. In prayer, we go together to God as children of God.
We pray with Mary, the mother of Jesus and all the saints, because we’re united to them in Jesus Christ.
In the Hail Mary, Mary the Mother of Jesus leads us to God. The prayer’s earliest form developed in the middle ages with the simple greeting of the angel Gabriel at Nazareth, from St. Luke’s gospel:
full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
You are favored by God, the angel announces to her. She would bring Jesus Christ into the world. That message continues through the ages and is meant also for us. Like her, we are favored by God and bring his Son into the world. God’s promise of grace to Mary echoes in God’s promise to us. As it was promised to Mary, God will be with us.
Over time her cousin Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary, also recorded in St. Luke, was added to the prayer:
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
Finally by the 15th century, the remainder of the prayer appeared:
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.
The prayer asks Mary, full of the grace of her Son, to intercede for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. She is a model for believers and knows what it means to believe. She who knew her Son so well, can teach us the way to him.
On Calvary Jesus entrusted her to us as a mother when he said to his disciple “Behold your mother.” Ever since, she brings Christ into this world. She knew Jesus from the beginning and witnessed his life, death and resurrection. She helps us to know him. She also knows our needs. Aware of the needs of the newly married couple at Cana in Galilee, she approached Jesus, her Son. She is aware of our needs too.
By the end of the 16th century the practice of saying 150 Hail Marys in series or decades of 10 became popular among many ordinary Christians. With her help they remembered the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That practice of prayer is known now as the Rosary.
Mary is a model of faith and a companion of Christian believers. When the angel Gabriel came to her, she believed the words he spoke even to the dark test of Calvary. She helps the family of believers on the journey of faith.
The Hail Mary and the Rosary are blessed prayers, simple and profound. They’re not beyond anyone’s reach; their repetition brings peace to the soul. They draw us into the joys, sorrows and glory of Jesus, the world Mary knows so well. We hope to “imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen”
We will be celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary at the end of this week.