Whenever we pray the rosary we always wonder what is its root and history. Below are three of the common devotional prayers in honor of the Blessed Mother. Notice that the petition aren’t equating Mary with God or comparing her abilities with Jesus’ abilities. These are simply asking for Mary’s help and for her intercession.
In 1623, the Franciscans introduced the practice of saying three Hail Marys in honor of the Incarnation. And though the custom of reciting three verses and three Hail Marys first appeared in the mid-16th century, the version as it’s now said didn’t pop up before the second decade of the 17th. At about that time, the substitution of a different Marian prayer (the Regina Caeli) for the Angelus at Easter time was recommended and finally became the standard practice.
It also became customary that the devotion was repeated three times daily – morning, noon and evening – at the sound of a bell.
V. The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary;
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit;
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord;
R. Be it done unto me according to your word;
V. And the Word was made flesh;
R. And dwelt among us;
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, your Son, was made known
by the message of an Angel, may by his Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of
His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen
Tradition holds that St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) wrote this prayer. It was penned almost a millennium after the Sub Tuum, but there’s still fleeing and flying, and there’s still the belief that, while Mary can help a petitioner, she’s no replacement for Christ.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of Virgins, my Mother.
To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O, Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions,
but in your mercy hear and answer me. Amen
Sub Tuum Praesidium (We Fly To Your Patronage)
The first half of the Hail Mary is based in Scripture (Luke 1:28 and 42) but the Sub Tuum Praesidium is the earliest known prayer to the Blessed Mother whose text has survived. As with many traditional prayers, it gets its name from the Latin.
Even so, the earliest text that’s been unearthed wasn’t in Latin. It was written in Greek on an Egyptian papyrus discovered in Egypt in 1917 and it dates back to the second half of the third century.
It’s not known when the prayer was written. The Sub Tuum is used in litanies to the Blessed Mother and as a concluding prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.
We fly to your patronage O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen