Hail Mary Prayer: History

The Hail Mary

– Excerpts from The Greatest Marian Prayers: Their History, Meaning and Usage, written by Anthony M. Buono

In a way the Hail Mary summarizes the whole of the Church's public prayers to Mary. For this Marian prayer was in its initial form among the first to be used in the Church and in its completed form among the last to be used of those treated -- being finally put together in the fifteenth century and finalized in the sixteenth.

The prayer may be divided into two major parts: (1) the Evangelical Salutation (cf. Luke 1:28 and 42), and (2) the Supplication of the Church. The first part was used very early in the Church. A formula of the two scriptural salutations that make up the first part is found in the Eastern Liturgies of St. James of Antioch and St. Mark of Alexandria, which may date from the fifth or even fourth century. It is also part of the Liturgy of the Abyssinian Jacobites and the ritual of St. Severus (538).

In addition, this first part also appears on an Egyptian potsherd of the sixth century with the additional words "Because you have conceived Christ, the Son of God, Redeemer of our souls." The word Mary is added in some copies of the Liturgy of St. James, and the words "Mary, Virgin Mother of God" in some Greek churches.

The first appearance of the Salutation in the Western Church occurs as an Offertory Antiphon for the feast of the Annunciation, Ember Wednesday in December, and the Fourth Sunday of Advent.


In recognition of the Year of the Rosary, October 2002 - October 2003

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