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.

A reflection on the word “HAIL”

By Fr. Patrick Toner

We all recognize the greeting of Gabriel. The Greek word “chairo” can be translated as “greeting” or “hail” or “rejoice.”

We use greetings with multiple meanings, such as “Good Morning.” It can be a fact or a wish, and often it is meant to be both.

If Gabriel greeted her in Hebrew, it would likely have been “shalom” or “peace be with you”. The Gospel was written in Greek, so that term is used.

The translation “Hail” speaks of saluting one of great favor. The Roman greeting “Hail Caesar” easily comes to mind. Certainly Gabriel understood whom he was greeting and the significance of the words that would follow.

In Nazareth, over the grotto of the Annunciation, there is a depiction of Mary and Gabriel overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. They are dancing with great joy. I love to consider “what would make an angel dance?” Gabriel is in the presence of a rare person, one totally filled with God’s grace. His greeting must have been more in terms of “Rejoice” than a simple greeting.

When we pray the “Hail Mary,” we should welcome her into our hearts each time so that we may meditate on the mysteries with her. To greet her is to acknowledge that she is present to us. May that be a heartfelt and warm welcome full of joy.

Fr. Patrick Toner is the pastor of St. Joseph Church and has been a dear friend and inspiration for our family for many years.