Jesus, at the Very Centre By Fr. Nelson Medina, O.P.

It is most familiar to everybody that the Hail Mary has two parts. Not always we realize though that the very joint of these two parts is precisely the Holiest Name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. I think it is good to remember this fact and to meditate a bit on it, for it certainly is not a coincidence. In the Hail Mary, Jesus is first mentioned as the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb; then He is explicitly named. The interesting fact is that we have two versions in the Bible about how this came to be the name of the Holy Infant. According to Mathew 1,21, it is Joseph who hears from an angelic voice: “She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he is the one who will save his people from their sins.” According to Luke’s version there is even more to this name, for St. Gabriel affirms to Mary: “You have found favour with God. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his forefather David. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1,30-33). Therefore, we do not know for sure whether the name was given by Joseph or by Mary. What is clear is that this name came from Heaven and that it does contain a tremendous expression of grace and a unique announcement of salvation. In fact, the name “Jesus,” in Hebrew means “Yahweh shall save,” as Joseph was able to hear. It is not without reason that Mary hears the name of her Son immediately after learning how she stands before God. “You have found favour with God”; “You will become pregnant and give birth to a son”: the two phrases resemble the two sides of a coin, one facing to the past, “You have found”; the second facing to the future: “You will… give birth to a son.” Jesus Christ is the very expression of God’s favour, and the first to perceive this fact, which is at the very centre of the New Testament, is the Blessed Virgin. In his letter to Titus, St. Paul relates Christ’s presence on this earth and God’s merciful saving work: “When the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 3:,4-6). Jesus, our Lord, expresses and fulfills everything that is within God’s favour and grace. Consequently, we can see the Hail Mary as telling us the marvelous way in which the grace we receive becomes the grace we share. In the first part we address Mary as the Blessed One; in the second , we invoke her so that we come to be blessed as well. She received God’s grace in, and because of, her Child, Jesus. Now She is able to pray efficaciously for us, sinners, and She does so in, and because of her Child, Jesus. That is why we call Her “Mother of God,” that is: “Mother of the One who is God,” for every power of her intercession derives solely from the fact of Christ’s action in her life. Summary: the two parts of the Hail Mary can be related to the two basic aspects of Christian life: receiving and sharing God’s grace; at the centre of the Hail Mary Jesus himself stands as best expression of God’s favour and mercy.