The Hail Mary or Ave Maria (Latin) is a traditional Catholic prayer asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The prayer incorporates two passages from Saint Luke’s Gospel: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women” (Luke 1:28) and “Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (Luke 1:42)
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) do not worship Mary. However we love, revere and honor her. I recently wrote about how Mother Mary Went The Distance both physically and spiritually. I feel a deep reverence for Mary personally, and I have thought of her often this Christmas season. Perhaps, as a mother myself, I feel a closer bond with her. The fact that she was chosen to perform the mission of being the earthly mother of God’s Only Begotten Son, to bear and nurture him through his growing years, indicates that she was a chosen and exceptional spirit.
LDS Apostle Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote,
“We cannot but think that the Father would choose the greatest female spirit to be the mother of his Son” (The Mortal Messiah, Book 1: From Bethlehem to Calvary).
I also recommend reading Sheryl Condie Kempton’s beauitful article, “Magnifying the Lord: Mary’s Example for Us,” Ensign, Dec 1980.
The Ave Maria has been set to music numerous times. Among the most famous settings is the version by Charles Gounod (1859), adding melody and words to Johann Sebastian Bach‘s first prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier.
Celtic Women Perform Gounod’s Ave Maria
Another famous musical version of the Ave Maria comes from composer Franz Schubert. With the possible exception of Mozart, no other composer in the history of music ever surpassed Franz Schubert’s genius for melodic writing. His lieder (art songs for voice and piano) were composed at an astonishing rate, and number in the hundreds. Some of Vienna’s greatest singers were his closest friends, and he took pleasure in creating his songs for them. One of his most well-known songs, “Ave Maria,” was composed in 1825 when he was only 28 years old. A very nice article has been written by Conrad Askland regarding this subject.
Lyric Soprano Barbara Bonney is considered one of the foremost Lieder singers. Here she exquisitely performs Schubert’s “Ave Maria” in German. While you listen, I have included additional quotes to read regarding Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
“In my judgment, Mary is one of the greatest women who has ever lived on earth…I think we see in Mary a pattern of piety and submission to the will of the Lord which is the perfect example for all women.” – (Elder Bruce R. McConkie,”‘Our Sisters from the Beginning’,” Tambuli 1979)
“Just as Jesus was selected for his redeeming mission in the premortal world, his prophets were also preappointed for their earthly missions, according to their faithfulness. (See Abr. 3:22–23; Alma 13:2–10.) It was in the premortal life that faithful sons and daughters of God received their first lessons in righteousness and became followers of Jesus. Some were foreordained to be prophets; others no doubt were appointed to be the fathers, mothers, and wives of prophets. There is no impropriety, then, in believing that Mary and Joseph were selected in those ancient councils by the Father to be the earthly guardians of Jesus. Mary was given the unique privilege and responsibility of bringing the great Jehovah into the world, in which he would obtain a body of flesh and bones, experience mortality, and continue his mission for the redemption of mankind.” – Mary and Joseph By Dr. Robert J. Matthews
(Dr. Matthews is an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and serves on the LDS Church Adult Correlation Committee.)
As we listen to these two beautiful musical settings, we can hear the echo of the angel’s words: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, … blessed art thou among women.” (Luke 1:28.) And likewise we hear Mary’s own faithful exclamation: “… My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. … from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46–48.)
Mary, as the mother of Jesus Christ, holds a role unique in all the ages of our sphere of existence. There is only one Son of God in the flesh, and only one mother of that Son. As we celebrate the birth of her Son, I hope that these two beautiful prayers set to music have touched your heart and helped you feel Peace.