Although I am without merit and am, indeed, conscious of my many sins, I have the utmost trust in Your Passion, Lord Jesus, and in the merits of Your Mother, the glorious and holy Virgin Mary. It is upon her that I wish to dwell for a moment; I pray, therefore, that I may be made worthy of doing so, since I dare not approach her without first being given permission.
I am well aware that due to my unworthiness I ought not present myself before this supremely worthy woman whom even the Angels admire and venerate, while exclaiming: “Who is this that arises from the desert of the world and overflows with the delights of paradise?”
Therefore, dearest Mary, it is unseemly that I should dare to dwell the thought of your beauty and your greatness, for I am but dust and ashes and am even the vilest creature on earth since I am a sinner and inclined to every kind of perverse act.
You, however, have been made higher than the heavens; you have the world beneath your feet and are worthy of honor and reverence because of the exalted state of your Son. Your ineffable kindness, which transcends every imagination, enchants me and draws my affections to you, for you are the comfort of the afflicted and always ready to help wretched sinners.
I am very much in need of great consolation and especially of your Son’s grace, because I am utterly unable to help myself. But if you, most merciful Mother, condescend to look upon my littleness, you can in many ways help and strengthen me with abundant consolations. Therefore, as soon as I feel burdened with difficulties and temptations, I shall have immediate recourse to you, for where grace abounds, mercy is more at hand.
If, then, I would attempt to grasp your exceptional glory and greet you in a worthy way from the depths of my heart, I must advance with a very pure spirit, for those who presume to approach your door without due reverence obtain not glory but a justified disgrace. Anyone approaching you must proceed with the greatest reverence and humility, but also with great hope of being admitted in virtue of your mercy and clemency.
I come to you, therefore, with humility and reverence, with devotion and confidence, and with the greeting of Gabriel on my lips —- a greeting that I joyously repeat with head bowed in respect and with hands open in deep devotion. I pray that this greeting may be repeated a hundred, a thousand, and even more times on my behalf by all the heavenly spirits. Indeed, I do not know anything dearer and more worthy I can offer you than this greeting.
Listen now to one most enamored of your name: “Heaven rejoices and earth is amazed when I say: Hail, Mary! Satan flees, hell trembles when I say: “Hail, Mary! The world becomes contemptible, the flesh foul, when I say: Hail, Mary! Sadness disappears and joy returns when I say: Hail, Mary!
“Tepidity vanishes and the heart is inflamed with love when I say: Hail, Mary! Devotion grows, compunction is born, hope intensifies, and consolation is increased when I say: Hail, Mary! The soul is renewed and the inclination to good is strengthened when I say: Hail, Mary!”
So intense is the sweetness of this blessed greeting that it cannot be expressed in human words. It remains forever loftier and more profound than any creature can grasp. Therefore, I kneel again before you, Most Holy Virgin Mary, and say: “Hail, Mary! full of grace.”
My most merciful Lady, Holy Mary, accept this very devout greeting and, with it, me as well, so that there may be something in me that pleases you, strengthens my trust in you, enkindles in me an ever increasing love, and keeps me forever devoted to your holy name.
Heaven grant that in order to satisfy my desire to honor you and greet you eternally from the depths of my heart, all my members may be transformed into tongues and the tongues into fiery voices. Mother of God, I want to be able to utter this greeting as a pure and holy sacrifice of prayer that will atone for all the sins by which i have merited God’s wrath, greatly saddened your Son, and very often dishonored and offended you and the entire heavenly court.
Since my life is a frail thing and transient due to all my excesses, my negligences, and my vain , unclean, and perverse thoughts, may heaven grant that all the blessed spirits and the souls of the just may turn to you, Most Blessed Virgin Mary, with pure devotion and ardent prayer.
May they repeat over and over in your honor that loftiest of greetings which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were the first to use to you through the mouth of the Angel. Thus, I would in a way find an incense worthy of being a sweet odor, for in me there is nothing good and nothing deserving of reward.
But now, impelled by heartfelt devotion, I prostrate myself before you. Wholly on fire with reverence for your holy name, I repeat that joyful new greeting, never heard until the Archangel Gabriel, sent by God, entered your room and there on bent knee honored you by saying: “Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with you.”
In keeping with the precious custom of the faithful, I desire to address you and to do so with pure lips as far as is possible for me. How I desire with all my heart that all creatures would address you in the same way: “Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Such is the Angelic greeting, composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and wholly befitting your dignity and your holiness. It is a prayer poor in words but rich in mysteries. As an utterance it is short, but its content is profound.
This prayer is sweeter than honey and more precious than gold. It is to be repeated over and over with alone’s heart, devoutly, and with pure lips, so that from these very few words may flow a broad river of heavenly sweetness.
But woe to those who become annoyed with it, who pray without devotion, who do not reflect on its words that are more precious than gold, who do not taste its cups of honey, and who so often recite the Hail Mary without attention and reverence.
Sweetest Virgin Mary, preserve me from such serious neglect and lack of attention; forgive me my past indifference. I will be more devout, more fervent and attentive in saying the Hail Mary, wherever I may be.
After these reflections, what shall I now ask of you, my dearest day? What is better, more useful, and more necessary for me, an unworthy sinner, than to find favor with you and your beloved Son?
Through your intercession, then, I ask for the grace of God, since as the Angel said, you received the fullness of grace from God.
No favor is more precious to me and nothing else more needed by me, than the grace and mercy of God. His grace is enough for me, and I need nothing else, for without grace of what value would all my efforts be?
But what will be impossible for me if grace attends and aids me? I have many different spiritual defects, but the grace of God is a medicine effective against all the passions. If He deigns to come to my aid, all these defects will be lessened.
I am also poor in wisdom and spiritual knowledge, but God’s grace is a supreme teacher and dispenser of heavenly learning. It is able, therefore, to instruct me in everything necessary; it also dissuades me from seeking anything beyond what is necessary and from wanting to know what it is not permissible to know.
On the other hand, it advises ad teaches me to humble myself and be content with it alone.
Merciful Virgin Mary, ask this noble and precious grace for me, that I may not desire or seek anything but grace upon grace.
(The Imitation of Mary, Thomas a` Kempis, Chapter 1)