The other central part of the prayer is Elizabeth’s response to Mary in the visitation.
In what follows, we will reflect upon the biblical meaning packed into these phrases.
The Lord is with You
The phrase “the Lord is with you” (or its near equivalent) resonates deeply throughout the Bible, occurring at key junctions in salvation history—where one is at the cusp of some great moment in the progress of redemption. The phrase ensures God’s presence and assistance in carrying out a special mission that will have far-reaching implications.
We see this phrase with Moses when he hesitates to accept his mission to lead Israel out of slavery (Exodus 3:12); it occurs with Joshua as he prepares to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land (Joshua 1:5) and with Gideon, continuing the on-going work of Joshua. We also see this phrase with Jeremiah, beginning his difficult (and unpopular) prophetic ministry of calling the people to repentance, and Zerubbabel as he starts rebuilding the Temple and the city.
In other words, this phrase we see in the Hail Mary, “the Lord is with you,” signals to the biblically-minded reader a momentous stage in salvation history. It also indicates that the “yes” of the individual will have great consequences for the unfolding of God’s great plan of salvation. With this in mind, Gabriel’s words to Mary (“the Lord is with you”) should resonate with the reader—making us aware of the pivotal moment.
Blessed Among Women
The other phrase we see in the Hail Mary, “Blessed among women,” also has biblical precedents. It occurs when some heroic woman has defeated an enemy of God’s people—and has done so by striking a mortal blow to the head. In Judges 4 and 5, Jael drives a tent peg through the temple of Sisera (Judges 4:21). And in the next chapter, we read: “Most blessed of women be Jael” (Judges 5:34). Similarly, Judith strikes down Holofernes, severing his head from his body (Judith 13:7-8). Then Uzziah praises her, saying, “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth” (Judith 13:18).
The fact that this phrase (“blessed among women”) shows up in conjunction with the striking of the head of the enemies of God’s people draws us back to Genesis 3:15, a passage known by the Tradition as the protoevangelium, the “first Gospel”—the first promise of redemption.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”Genesis 3:15
This verse foretells a time when a woman and her seed would crush the head of Satan himself, ultimately referring to Mary and Jesus.
We should hear these resonances when Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:42). Mary is presented as the New Eve, the woman who would bear the seed who would defeat the Devil once and for all. And as Eve participated in the work of Adam’s downfall, so too this New Eve will join in the work of the New Adam.
Her participation begins here in the Annunciation, her great “yes” to God on behalf of all humanity; it continues in her faithfulness at the Cross, where she unites her will to God’s will and offers her Son to the Father on behalf of all humanity. Finally, we recognize Mary’s continued participation in her constant maternal love and prayers for each of us as she earnestly seeks to lead us to her Son.
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