Have you ever heard of the Angelus prayer? It is an old and widely popular devotion throughout the world, but was not one that was part of my home parish/family growing up (no matter how much we learn growing up, there is always so much more out there!). I first encountered it at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois, where we would pray it before the noon daily Masses. Then, in seminary it became even more prominent – we were all expected to have it memorized, we prayed it before most meals, and bells rang for it three times every day! It was at this point when I realized how well-known this devotion had been, and came to appreciate it as a daily practice.
The “Angelus” became popular in the Middle Ages, and gets its name from the beginning of the prayer in Latin, “Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae…” (“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”). It commemorates the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to announce the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary (Gospel of Luke 1:26-38). Traditionally it would be prayed at 6:00am, Noon, and 6:00pm. Church bells would ring to mark the times. People throughout the town – whether at work in the fields or at home – would pause and pray the prayer together. It consists of three sets of responses each followed by a Hail Mary, and then a closing prayer (I will list the full prayer at the end of this post).
What I came to love about the Angelus was the way that it invites us to pause at three key points of the day – the beginning, middle, and end (or breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – to reflect on the presence and action of God. Praying the Hail Mary in between the verses gives us a moment to reflect on the meaning of each section.
The first verse proclaims the Annunciation to Mary – a moment to reflect on what God has done in the history of salvation, and what He has done/is doing in our personal life. Next, it remembers Mary’s response: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” It invites us to see God’s will in the concrete circumstances of our life and to respond positively to His call. Finally, the Angelus calls to mind the fruit of Mary’s response: the Incarnation, Christ dwelling among us in her womb. The end result of cooperation with God’s will is receiving the life of Christ. We have no need to fear it or avoid it.
I wanted to share this devotion as a practice that may be helpful to you in your daily life now! Whether you pray it at multiple times a day or just once, it can help to give us a practical moment of discernment and reflection in the middle of a busy day. Like Mary, may we be open to the voice of God, and respond with our “yes” in every circumstance!
[Note: if two or more people are praying together, the leader says the parts in normal type, and the other(s) respond with the italicized parts]
The Angel of the Lord declared unto to Mary:
And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
And the Word was made Flesh:
And dwelt among us. [Traditionally a bow or genuflection is done here]
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.