Every time we repeat the words of this prayer we are trying to approach Jesus through Mary. The first words of the Hail Mary are those that were spoken by the Angel Gabriel when he appeared to her to announce the imminent conception of Christ. The words "the Lord is with thee" recall the Prologue to the Gospel of John: "the Word was with God, and the word was God." In the second sentence of this Trinitarian prayer the name of Jesus is invoked directly, so that the Mary Prayer can be said to enfold the Jesus Prayer in something like the way the Christ Child is borne in the arms of his Mother in the most familiar icons of Madonna and Child. Thus you could say the icon is a visual translation of the Hail Mary. In the third sentence, Mary's motherhood is invoked, and along with it the entire Church whose soul is the Holy Spirit.
There comes a time in the life of many Christians when the Hail Mary, brief as it is, suddenly expands until it encompasses the whole of life. It becomes possible to meditate upon it constantly. Each phrase contains a mystery that we never grow tired of gazing at.
Hail Mary – we address her from out of our darkness; or is it that we are called by the Angel’s words into her presence?
Full of grace – Mary’s title: she is what all of us should be, a creature brimful of her Creator.
The Lord is with thee – He is always with her, and in this "with" are the secrets of what it is to be a person.
Blessed art thou among women – a blessedness that marks her out, yet brings all other women along with her.
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus – the hub of the mysteries, the Creator encompassed by the creature, the tree bearing fruit that contains the seed of all things.
Holy Mary, Mother of God – God has become a single cell, growing to be a child, and wakes in her arms.
Pray for us sinners now – for we are sinners now, lost in the woods, and we need her to find us.
And at the hour of our death – since death approaches all of us, and we will struggle to be born from the womb of the world.
Illustration: "Salus Populi Romani" from the Basilica of St Mary Major. See here.