Earliest known prayer to Our Lady…

This is the earliest known prayer to Our Lady and dates back to c250. Written in Greek on papyrus, it was discovered in Egypt in 1917.

Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Theotokos:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.

• St Augustine of Hippo (354-430), a model of conversion and whose feast is celebrated today, also wrote one of the earliest recorded prayers to Mary.

Blessed Virgin Mary, who can worthily repay you with praise and thanksgiving for having rescued a fallen world by your generous consent? What songs of praise can our weak human nature offer in your honour, since it was through you that it has found the way to salvation? Accept then such poor thanks as we have to offer, unequal though they be to your merits. Receive our gratitude and obtain by your prayers the pardon of our sins. Take our prayers into the sanctuary of heaven and enable them to bring about our peace with God.

May the sins we penitently bring before Almighty God through you be pardoned. May what we beg with confidence be granted through you. Take our offerings and grant our request; obtain pardon for what we fear, for you are the only hope of sinners. We hope to obtain the forgiveness of our sins through you. Blessed Lady, in you is our hope of reward.

Holy Mary, help the miserable, strengthen the discouraged, comfort the sorrowful, pray for your people, plead for the clergy, intercede for all women consecrated to God. May all who venerate you, feel now your help and protection. Be ready to help us when we pray, and bring back to us the answers to our prayers. Make it your continual care to pray for the People of God, for you were blessed by God and were made worthy to bear the Redeemer of the world, Who lives and reigns forever.

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