On March 25th, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation: an important moment for us to pause to recall what suddenly happened in the history of mankind, so that man could be changed profoundly and saved. In order to honor the Annunciation all throughout the year, the Church has given the faithful the Angelus prayer, the name of which is derived from the first word of its Latin form. To say it is to replay the drama of the Annunciation once more, placing it vividly before our eyes and within our hearts.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to Your Word.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc...
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.
The Angelus as we know it sprung organically from an even more ancient tradition. The practice of reciting the Hail Mary three times in a row dates at least to the 12th century, and Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) strongly recommended it. This devout practice was a great favorite also of Saint Mechtilde of Helfta (1241-1298) in her Revelations. Saint Bonaventure, in a Chapter of the Order of the Friars Minor in 1269, proposed they recite three Hail Mary's in the evening after Compline, meditating on the mystery of Christ's Incarnation, urging at the same time that the recitation be preceded always by the ringing of a bell so that the brothers and all the faithful nearby would know that it was time for the triple Hail Mary.
The morning Angelus
Shortly after the recital of the three Hail Mary’s at evening had become familiar, a custom established itself of ringing a bell in the morning and of saying the Ave thrice. It was the town bell which was rung in this case, for the preservation of peace, whence it was called "the peace bell." The same designation was also applied elsewhere to the evening bell.
In a culture in which the activities of the Church and those of her children were intertwined, it seems probable enough that this morning bell was also an imitation of the monastic triple peal for the morning prayers. The morning Angelus soon became a familiar custom in all the countries of Europe and was almost as generally observed as that of the evening.
The Angelus Today
In most Franciscan and contemplative monasteries, the Angelus continues to be prayed three times a day. In the United States and Canada, some Catholic radio stations run by laity broadcast the Angelus daily.
In Ireland, the Angelus is currently broadcast every night at 6:00 pm on the main national TV channel, RTÉ One, and on the broadcaster's sister radio station, Radio 1, at noon and 6:00 pm. RTÉ Audience Research finds that a clear majority of Irish viewers still favors keeping the Angelus broadcasts, chimes and all. Its appeal is summarized by one audience member as follows, "To the person of faith, it's a moment of grace; to the person without faith, it's a moment of peace. What's not to like?"
In the Philippines, radio and television stations run by the Catholic Church and some religious orders broadcast the Angelus at 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm. The devotion is also broadcast over the public address system at noon and 6:00 pm in some shopping malls, and in many Catholic educational institutions mostly at noon on schooldays (some only ring bells at 6:00 pm).
Could there be a connection between these two countries continuing to honor the moment when “the Word became Flesh” and the fact that unborn children still find protection in the laws of both Ireland and the Philippines?
Incorporate the Angelus into Your Day
The Angelus should be recited three times a day: as early in the morning as possible (at 6:00 a.m., or upon awakening), again at noon, and once more at 6:00 p.m. It may be said privately, of course, but whenever recited with others, one person leads it by saying aloud the verses and the first half of the Hail Mary—that is, until “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The others make the responses and say the second part of the Hail Mary;—then all join in to say the closing prayer. (see below)
It is common practice that during the recital of the Angelus prayer, for the lines "And the Word was made flesh/And dwelt among us," those reciting the prayer bow or genuflect. Either of these actions draws attention to the moment of the Incarnation of Christ into human flesh.
Jesus loved us enough to die for us so that we might live with Him eternally! When we pray the Angelus with humility and love, we are emulating Mary’s faith in His goodness. We are blessed in that we can ask both God and His Blessed Mother for their assistance on our journey towards Eternal Life!
It is 3:00 on the afternoon of March twenty-fifth; it is a Friday. Taking on the appearance of a man, the Archangel Gabriel, whose name means Strength of God, leaves heaven for earth; he has a divine proposal to deliver—and a reply to receive.