And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
Like “Amen,” “Hail” is a distinctly premodern word. We would use it as a joke. We would regard somebody who used it in ordinary conversation as we would somebody who said “thou” or wore Shakespearean garb. That’s because we live in a ruthlessly egalitarian age which has abandoned the snobbery and class consciousness of antiquity at the cost of the courtesy and courtliness of antiquity. Heaven preserves the courtesy without the snobbery. And so the angel Gabriel, a creature vastly superior to humans in the natural order, bowed to a young peasant Jewess and spoke with the utmost reverence and courtesy. For she was to give to Gabriel’s God what Gabriel will never have: the flesh and blood of the Incarnation. In this, she was made a participant, by God, in the salvation of the world and the greatest of His creatures. Today, greet Mary with the courtesy of Gabriel.