Composed of two distinct parts, the Ave Maria is one of our most familiar prayers. The first part is a combination of text from the Gospel of Saint Luke and includes the greetings of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation and Elizabeth's greeting at the Visitation. The second part is a call for Mary to intercede for us, and signals in a verse the Catholic position on unity of the church on Earth and the church in Heaven. Just as we may ask for the prayers of our relatives and friends, we are in the blessed position of being able to ask for the prayers of the Saints (of whom Mary is the chief), who are still fully alive and with Christ.
AVE Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae.
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.
The tradition of including an intercessory addendum to the first part of the prayer dates from the 15th century and can be found in the writings of Saint Bernardine of Sienna (1380-1444 AD) and the Carthusians. The current wording appears to have become common practice by the mid 16th century and was included in the reformed Breviary advocated by Pope St. Pius V in 1568.