The Hail Mary, also known as the Angelic Salutation, or Ave Maria (Latin title used by Roman Catholics) is a traditional Christian prayer asking for the intercession of Mary the Theotokos (Θεοτοκος, meaning “the one who gave birth to God”). A variation, slightly different from that used by the Orthodox, is used by Roman Catholics, as well as by other groups within the western tradition of Christianity.
It is typically sung thrice at the end of Great Vespers during an All-Night Vigil, as well as occurring many times in the course of daily prayer.
As used in the Orthodox Church (and by the Eastern Catholics) the hymn is in the following form:
Θεοτόκε Παρθένε, χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη Μαρία, ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξί, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου, ὅτι Σωτήρα ἔτεκες τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν.
Hail, O Virgin Theotokos, Mary full of grace: the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the Fruit of your womb, for you have borne the Savior of our souls.
Another English translation of the same text reads:
O Mother of God and Virgin, rejoice, Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Savior of our souls.
Most of the text can be found within the Gospel According to Saint Luke. The first part of the prayer is taken directly from the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Theotokos found in Luke 1:28: “And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’” The second part is taken from Luke 1:42, where the Righteous Elizabeth, while being filled with the Holy Spirit, greets the Theotokos: “Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
To the Biblical texts, the hymn adds the opening invocation “Theotokos Virgin” and the concluding “for you have borne the Savior of our souls.” These phrases salute Mary as the virgin who gave birth to God in the flesh. In this way Mary is praised in order to glorify the One Who was born of her.