The Three Ave before Saint Mechtilde?
The current form of the devotion of the three Hail Marys comes from the revelation of the Virgin to Saint Mechtilde. However, the recitation of three Ave Marias in honor of the Blessed Virgin was already common well before the 14th century, it would even go back to apostolic times ...
In the Mystical City, the Venerable Marie d'Agréda (1602-1665) reports that this practice dates back to the time of the apostles. She would have been born of the Assumption, very precisely. Let him speak:
“Saint Peter and Saint John, having entered the small oratory where the body of the Immaculate Virgin was lying lifeless on a bed of honor, saw a great light which surrounded it, and heard the celestial music of the angels who sang:
“Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. "
And there were others who repeated, after each Ave Maria repeated three times:
"Virgin before the divine birth,
Virgin during the divine birth,
Virgin after the divine birth. "
And, from then on, several faithful of the primitive Church had devotion to this divine praise of the very pure Mary; since that time it has come, by tradition, to us who know it, and the holy Church has confirmed it. » ( Mystical city , third part, book VIII, chap. XX, n ° 747)
It is in this form that it is still known and is recited in Spain today, as preached by Saint Anthony of Padua to maintain perfect purity of body, mind, heart and soul.
In 1095, at the Council of Clermont, Urbain II (1042-1099) specially recommended that the faithful pray to the Three Hail Marys for the success of the Crusade.
At the same period, Saint Bruno (1030-1101) probably instituted among the Carthusians the custom of reciting them, the evening after Compline. This custom is clearly established in 1342. It will then be recommended to resume this prayer in the morning after Lauds. Nowadays, the Carthusians recite the triple Angelic Salutation four times a day.
We still find the practice of the three Ave among the Servites of Mary, at the origin of their Order, founded in 1233 by seven wealthy Florentine merchants.
It is also mentioned in the Ordinances of the Congregation of Bursfelde (Benedictine reform movement of the 13th century then affecting the Holy Roman Empire) which prescribe three times the Angelic Salutation "before the night watches", "bare head, the prostrate body, or at least inclined ”and the same after morning lauds. There is also noted the pre-existence of this devotion in the monasteries of Gaul, generally the recitation took place after Matins and Compline.
The Three Hail Marys, in different forms, were therefore already widespread at the time when the Blessed Virgin made the special revelation of them to Saint Mechtilde by giving her the purpose of giving glory to the Most Holy Trinity for the three great privileges of Power of Wisdom and Mercy conferred on Mary by the three divine Persons. Henceforth, the object was the honor due to Mary for these same privileges, and the very special purpose of obtaining the grace of final perseverance.
Thanks to the very wide distribution of the works of Saint Mechtilde, the devotion of the Three Ave experienced a meteoric rise. It first spread to the monasteries and from there spread to the faithful. Gradually, it became a common practice throughout Christendom. It had its promoters and its apostles.
Proof of the universality known to this devotion, our modern Ave Maria ends with this supplication: “Pray for us… at the hour of our death”.