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The Ave of Maria

        Among the meanings given for the Latin word "Ave," is the greeting "Hail."  When the Angel Gabriel approached the Blessed Virgin Mary about becoming the Mother of Jesus, he said to her, "Hail, full of grace," which is rendered in Latin as "Ave, gratia plena."
        Interestingly, ave is also the reverse of the Latin spelling of Eve, Eva, whose disobedience led Adam to fall into sin, with awful consequences for the race.  While these consequences for us were caused by his decision to sin, Eve was instrumental in the wreckage that was wrought.  It began when she succumbed to the devil's temptation and offered the forbidden fruit to him.  In this sense, she shares in the cause of our plight.  The worst effects of their sins, were the loss of sanctifying grace and the closure of heaven.  
       Gabriel's "Ave" addressed to Mary, would mark the beginning of Redemption, which would reverse these effects.  Mary would be instrumental in restoring sanctifying grace to the race and re-opening heaven.
        Since Aramaic was the language that Jesus spokeHis mother tongue is you will  it would be reasonable to conclude that in all likelihood, the angel spoke in Aramaic to Mary.   But can we be absolutely certain of that?   Remember that Adam and Eve had the gift of great knowledge before the Fall  ― before original sin  ― and that Mary was preserved from that sin.  Might she have possessed great knowledge as well?  Remember too that the Roman world existed around her and perhaps she heard Latin being spoken by soldiers and by those with whom they engaged in commerce.  She may have understood quite a bit more than Aramaic.  It would depend on what God wanted said to her, and what Mary understood. 
         In any event, whatever the angel said to Mary, the Ave vs. Eva would assume significance in the story of our salvation.   Curiously,  as was once pointed out by a grade school student in a religion class, ave appears in the word save.
        The instance where Gabriel addressed Mary as he did, is found in Luke 1:28 of the Bible.  As far as what was set down in writing, the lines of the Holy Book were originally written in one of three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.  Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and most of the New in Greek  This was not the Greek of classics but rather an international form of the language used in the civilized world after the conquests of Alexander the Great. 
         The Latin of the Bible is a down-the-line translation.
         St. Jerome wrote the Old Testament in Latin, translating from Hebrew, and revised the Latin New Testament, using Greek manuscripts.  
         Steve Kellmeyer, author of  the book Bible Basics, says the word for "Hail" (Ave) in Greek, was spoken as "chairoo," and was only addressed to royalty, which would be an indication of the regard in which Mary was held.   (He said it was used only five other times in the Bible: four times it was directed to Christ and once used by Him after the Resurrection, in which case, "Jesus acknowledges his royal priesthood of believers.")  Perhaps its meaning can best be understood by the use of the term, "Your Highness."   That signals for us that a royal person is being addressed.
         Today we are most apt to hear the word "ave" sung in song.   The Hail Mary prayer, commemorating Luke 1:28 and 1:42, is also called the Ave Maria or the Angelic Salutation.

 

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