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The Ave Maria, also known as the Hail Mary, is a Roman Catholic Prayer which is commonly used in the personal devotion known as the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is not a part of the Mass, but the faithful often recite five decades of the Rosary in the time before Mass when Catholics gather in the sanctuary. The text of the prayer is as follows:
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 at the hour of our death. Amen.
The first part of the text is a combination of the angelic greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28, and Elizabeth's greeting in Luke 1:42. In the Middle Ages, this first part was the whole of the prayer. The second part was added at the time of the Catholic Counter-reformation in the 16th century.
The words are often sung to a musical setting by Franz Schubert. Curiously, although his original song was inspired by his devotion, it was not entitled Ave Maria, but Ellens dritter Gesang (Ellen's third song), and was a setting for a German translation of a portion The Lady of the Lake, a long poem by Sir Walter Scott. In the original, Scott's heroine is praying to the Virgin Mary, and opens her plea with the phrase "Ave Maria," but continues in her own words:
Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.