The Ave Maria is perhaps the most popular of all the Marian prayers. It is composed of two distinct parts, a Scriptural part and an intercessory part. The first part, the Scriptural part, is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke and joins together the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation (Lk 1:28) together with Elizabeth's greeting to Mary at the Visitation (Luke 1:42). The joining of these two passages can be found as early as the fifth, and perhaps even the fourth, century in the eastern liturgies of St. James of Antioch and St. Mark of Alexandria. It is also recorded in the ritual of St. Severus (538 AD). In the west it was in use in Rome by the 7th century for it is prescribed as an offertory antiphon for the feast of the Annunciation. The great popularity of the phrase by the 11th century is attested to in the writings of St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) and Hermann of Tournai (d.c. 1147). Later, probably by Pope Urban IV around the year 1262, Jesus' name was inserted at the end of the two passages.
The second half of the prayer (Holy Mary..) can be traced back to the 15th century where two endings are found. One ending, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, is found in the writings of St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444 AD) and the Carthusians. A second ending, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, can be found in the writings of the Servites, in a Roman Breviary, and in some German Dioceses. The current form of the prayer became the standard form sometime in the 16th century and was included in the reformed Breviary promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1568
| AVE MARIA, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
|| HAIL MARY, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death. Amen.