“Should you be saying ‘hail mary’? Or Hail Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour? Why is Mary mentioned so much? It should be Jesus. And how is Mary holy? Holy means set aside from the rest. Mary was just as normal as me and you. She was not holy. GOD is Holy. ONLY!”
This is the text of a recent e-mail I recently received and I want to thank the wonderful lady that sent it – it inspired me to write this article.
Why Do Catholics Say ‘Hail Mary’?
The phrase “hail Mary” is actually biblical! Take a look at Luke 1:28. The following are various renderings from various translations of the Bible:
And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” – NAB
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” – NIV
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. – KJV
And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” – NASB
And he came to her and said, Hail, O favored one [endued with grace]! The Lord is with you! Blessed (favored of God) are you before all other women! – Amplified
There are common themes among the various translations. Let’s compare.
It seems that the spoken part by the angel Gabriel starts off with a greeting – “Hail” in some translations “Greetings” in others. I suppose it depends on what the translator was comfortable with and who is the target audience for each specific translation. According to Dictionary.com ‘hail‘ (in this sense) is a term that is used as a greeting for someone, sometimes signifying importance of that person.
So, saying “hail Mary” could really be considered another way of saying “hi Mary” or “what’s up Mary?”
How is Mary holy?
We see in that same verse that Gabriel calls Mary highly favored (by God). We also see in Luke 1:42 Elizabeth calls Mary “Most blessed among women”.
Taking the e-mail author’s definition of ‘holy’, that is set aside from the rest, it’s clear to see that the Bible agrees. Mary is ‘most blessed among women’ and ‘highly favored’ by God. How many other people in Scripture have received such designations – none.
But why is Mary holy or favored?
Mary is considered of such high favor with God and Elizabeth recognizes that she is special only because of Jesus. Mary was chosen to bear Jesus by God, so God singled her out from many, many other women on the planet. Elizabeth recognized that she was bearing the son of God and so recognized that she was special.
Mary was not just as normal as you and me – she was highly favored by God and greatest of all women. Not too many people have angels coming in the middle of the night to proclaim such things to them so I would say that Mary is a tad more than ordinary.
Why is Mary mentioned so much?
Without Mary’s free acceptance of her calling from God we would not have Jesus in human flesh. Also, the fact that Scripture refers to her in such a special way is good enough reason to talk about her.
The frequency of the mention of Mary in any particular setting really depends on your perspective. In my experience Mary is not the core component of faith. The core of Catholicism is Jesus, not Mary.
However, we cannot simply neglect Mary. She plays an integral role in the redemption of the world. She said yes, Jesus was born and we were redeemed (by Jesus of course). One cannot simply talk about Jesus without being grateful to his mother.
Catholics do not put Mary on par with God; we just do a better job at recognizing the role she played in Christian history. Mary is certainly worthy of reverence, but not worship.
The Hail Mary is not a prayer of worship, but it is a recitation of Scripture and then an asking of her to pray for us to God; much like asking our other Christian brothers and sisters to pray for us.