(From the Catechism of the Catholic Church)
2675a Beginning with Mary’s unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the holy Mother of God, centring it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries…
2678a Medieval piety in the West developed the prayer of the Rosary [containing 50 to 150 'Hail Marys' and other prayers] as a popular substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours [the divine office, focussing on the prayer of the 150 biblical psalms].
THE ‘AVE MARIA'; ‘HAIL MARY’
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
2676 …HAIL MARY (or Rejoice, Mary):
The greeting of the angel Gabriel opens this prayer. It is God himself who, through his angel as intermediary, greets Mary. Our prayer dares to take up this greeting to Mary with the regard God had for the lowliness of his humble servant and to exult the joy he finds in her.
FULL OF GRACE, THE LORD IS WITH THEE:
These two phrases of the angel’s greeting shed light on one another. Mary is full of grace because the Lord is with her. The grace with which she is filled is the presence of him who is the source of all grace. “Rejoice…O Daughter of Jerusalem…the Lord your God is in your midst.” Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God…with men.” Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world.
BLESSED ART THOU AMONG WOMEN AND BLESSED IS THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB, JESUS:
After the angel’s greeting, we make Elizabeth’s greeting our own. “Filled with the Holy Spirit”, Elizabeth is the first in the long succession of generations, who have called Mary “blessed”. “Blessed is she who believed…” Mary is “blessed among women” because she believed in the fulfilment of the Lord’s word. Abraham, because of his faith, became a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Mary, because of her faith, became the mother of believers, through whom all nations of the earth receive him who is God’s own blessing: Jesus, the “fruit of thy womb.”
2677 HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD:
With Elizabeth we marvel, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.” By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done.”
PRAY FOR US SINNERS, NOW AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH:
By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy-One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.
The Bible passages the above text refers to (marked in the text with quotation marks) in the order of their appearance in the text: Lk 1:46-55; Lk 1:48; Zeph 3:17b; Zeph 3:14, 17a; Rev 21:3; Lk 1:41, 48; Lk 1:45; Gen 12:3; Lk 1:43; Lk 1:38; Jn 19:27.