ten Hail Marys
33. This is the most substantial
element in the Rosary and also the one which makes it a Marian prayer par excellence.
Yet when the Hail Mary is properly understood, we come to see clearly that
its Marian character is not opposed to its Christological character, but that it
actually emphasizes and increases it. The first part of the Hail Mary, drawn
from the words spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel and by Saint Elizabeth,
is a contemplation in adoration of the mystery accomplished in the Virgin of Nazareth.
These words express, so to speak, the wonder of heaven and earth; they could be said
to give us a glimpse of God's own wonderment as he contemplates
his "masterpiece" – the Incarnation of the Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
If we recall how, in the Book of Genesis, God "saw all that he had
made" (Gen 1:31), we can find here an echo of that "pathos
with which God, at the dawn of creation, looked upon the work of his
hands".36 The repetition of the Hail Mary in the Rosary
gives us a share in God's own wonder and pleasure: in jubilant amazement we acknowledge
the greatest miracle of history. Mary's prophecy here finds its
fulfilment: "Henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1:48).
of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two
parts, is the name of Jesus. Sometimes, in hurried recitation,
this centre of gravity can be overlooked, and with it the connection to the mystery
of Christ being contemplated. Yet it is precisely the emphasis given to the name
of Jesus and to his mystery that is the sign of a meaningful and fruitful
recitation of the Rosary. Pope Paul VI drew attention, in his
Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, to the custom in certain regions
of highlighting the name of Christ by the addition of a clause referring to the
mystery being contemplated.37 This is a praiseworthy custom, especially
during public recitation. It gives forceful expression to our faith in Christ,
directed to the different moments of the Redeemer's life. It is at once a profession
of faith and an aid in concentrating our meditation, since it facilitates
the process of assimilation to the mystery of Christ inherent in the repetition
of the Hail Mary. When we repeat the name of Jesus – the only name
given to us by which we may hope for salvation (cf. Acts 4:12) – in close
association with the name of his Blessed Mother, almost as if it were done
at her suggestion, we set out on a path of assimilation meant to help us enter
more deeply into the life of Christ.
uniquely privileged relationship with Christ, which makes her
the Mother of God, Theotókos, derives the forcefulness of the appeal
we make to her in the second half of the prayer, as we entrust to her maternal
intercession our lives and the hour of our death.