Praying the Angelus in Advent

By Edward Looney at Ignitum Today:

angelus-300x248Farmers pause in their fields at midday and bow their heads in prayer. Businessmen and women overhear the ringing bells of nearby churches during their lunch break in the downtown business district. Neighbors to Catholic Churches hear the church bells toll thrice daily at six, noon, and six, as an invitation to pray the traditional devotion of the Angelus.

The Angelus has been one of my favorite Marian prayers throughout the years because of its simplicity. In my own reflection on the Angelus prayer, I have come to realize that it is a perfect prayer not only for the entire year, but especially for the Advent Season. Here are three reasons you should consider praying the Angelus this Advent season.

1.  An Invitation to Meditate on the Incarnation

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.

The season of Advent is a time of expectation as the Church awaits the birth of her savior on the 25th day of December. The Angelus affords the devotee the opportunity to reflect on the annunciation by recalling the words of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary.  In praying the Angelus, one is able to reflect on the joy and anticipation of the Advent season, just as Mary did, becoming like her as we treasure these moments of Mary’s life in our own heart.

2.  Anticipate the Church’s Liturgical Action

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.

Every Sunday when the faithful profess their faith with the Nicene Creed, the Church instructs them to bow at the following words:  “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.” On Christmas day, however, the faithful are not to bow, but instead are to genuflect at these words. The Church makes this instruction twice a year: on the feast of the Annunciation and Christmas day.   The reason for this is because these two days are intimately connected to the incarnation and are the embodiment of this phrase. The Annunciation being the day in which the Angel declared to Mary she was to be the mother of the Lord and Christmas day being the day in which God became incarnate of the Virgin Mary.

When praying the Angelus, it is customary to make some sort of reverence at the mention of the incarnation: and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. If one is standing, it is typical that the individual will make an act of genuflection; if one is sitting, it is common to bow one’s head. This liturgical action of genuflecting was quite common in the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy because at the liturgy’s end, the Last Gospel (the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel) would be read. It is from this gospel that the phrase, “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” can be found. During the liturgy, individuals would genuflect at the mention of the incarnation.

In developing a devotion to the Angelus during the Advent season, an individual will anticipate the liturgical gesture of Christmas day by their genuflection.

3.  Unite Your Prayer with the Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent

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.

If one listens closely to the collect (opening prayer) at Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent, one will hear the same collect as that of the Angelus. The collect is fitting for the Advent season because we ask the Lord to pour forth His grace into our hearts as we meditate upon the message of the Angel who announced the Incarnation of Jesus. Additionally, the Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Some priests will elect to wear rose colored vestments on this Sunday since the Church provides this option. On Gaudete Sunday the faithful are to rejoice—which is the meaning of the word Gaudete—because God will soon be with us. If we look at the collect for Gaudete Sunday through the lens of rejoicing, we can find cause for great rejoicing because God has become man and will set us free from our sins. Moreover, we too will one day be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.

Concluding Thoughts

The Angelus prayer is a perfect prayer for the Advent season because it draws our minds and hearts to contemplate the mystery of the incarnation. Our prayer of the Angelus allows us to rejoice with Mary who found favor with God to become the Mother of our savior. In the forthcoming weeks of Advent, rejoice with Mary and anticipate the Church’s liturgical action by praying the Angelus each day, whether it is three times or just once a day. Consider praying the Angelus before each meal. If you dedicate yourself to this prayer during the Advent season, I hope and pray that you will celebrate Christmas in a new and profound way.

This article originally was published in 2012 on Catholiclane.com and has been revised and re-written for 2013.

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V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of 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
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy 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 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.

The Angelus prayer evolved from a recitation of three Hail Mary’s following an evening bell around the 12th century to its present form (with morning and midday recitations) in the 16th century.

When prayed in a group setting a leader recites the verses and everyone recites both the responses and the Hail Mary’s in between each verse, as shown above.

Although the Angelus has been traditionally said three times daily, at 6 am, noon and 6 pm, you can pray it at anytime! It is still accompanied by the ringing of a bell (the Angelus bell) in some places such as Vatican City and parts of Germany and Ireland. The Regina Coeli prayer (which may also be sung as a hymn) replaces the Angelus during the Easter season.

annunciationThe Angelus reminds us of the Annunciation (shown in this famous rendition at left by Fra Angelico), when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with great, (if somewhat startling), news! As we read in Chapter One of Luke’s Gospel, (Luke 1:26-38) God wished Mary, truly a model of humility, to be the mother of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ!

His desire for her brings to mind the line from Matthew’s gospel: “Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matt 23:12).

Mary was the perfect choice. She had been born without the stain of original sin, as defined by the Church’s dogma of the Immaculate Conception. (Note that the Immaculate Conception relates to Mary’s conception, not our Lord’s.)

When Mary calls herself the handmaid, the servant, of the Lord, in the Angelus (from Luke 1:38) it is with inspiring humility and sincerity. How many politicians do we see today who talk a good game about service but basically just want to set up their own little fiefdoms and raid the public cookie jar? Or how many other insincere displays of humility do we see on TV or in our daily lives?

Mary’s humility was genuine. As St. Alphonsus de Liquori notes in his classic work The Glories of Mary, “her only desire was that her Creator, the giver of every good thing, should be praised and blessed.”

She thought of herself first and foremost as God’s servant, seeking glory not for herself but rather for Him. In so doing, she became, as St. Augustine put it rather poetically, a “heavenly ladder, by which God came into the world,” descending from heaven to earth, to become flesh in her womb.

Mary was happy to have God work through her. As she expressed it most famously in the canticle the Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47). St. Paul echoed this wonderful sentiment when he wrote that “he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord” (2 Cor 10:17).

The Angelus pays tribute to a crucial aspect of Mary’s role in the Incarnation, when it quotes from Luke’s Gospel “be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). This wonderful event could not have happened without her consent, without what is known as her fiat. By saying “yes” to God in allowing herself to become His mother, she showed us the ultimate example of trust in our Creator!

Do you think that having that kind of faith is too daunting a task? Think about the ways in which God calls each of in our daily lives. Do we say “yes” when Christ wants to work through us in showing His love to others? Or when He asks us to be graceful in trying situations? Prayer and meditation on God’s Word in scripture can help us to do His will.

Speaking of God’s word, the Angelus completes its short summary of the Incarnation with the moving reference to our Lord from John’s Gospel: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). As we read in the letter to the Hebrews, Christ was like us in all things but without sin (Heb 4:15). St. Bernard noted that our Lord came to show us His love so that He might then experience ours.

The lines that follow about being made worthy of the promises of Christ are also found in the Rosary and tie in well with what follows: an appeal for God’s grace to help us in our pilgrimage of faith.

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!

(ourcatholicprayers.com)

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7 Responses to Praying the Angelus in Advent

  1. Sally Scott says:

    Are there not prayers to be said in between the opening of the Angelus “THE ANGEL OF THE LORD DECLARED INTO MARY” AND BEHOLD THE HANDMAID OF THE LORD” LIKEa Hail Mary, an Our Father and a Glory be one of each??????

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  2. mmvc says:

    Thank you Sally for raising this point. I have now added the full prayer and some background information to the post.

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  3. This is a beautiful and timely post. Thank you for aiding us in our Advent meditations.

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  4. johnhenrycn says:

    The Angelus bells are such a Catholic thing. I know pride is a sin, but not pride in the Church, surely? Our parish church is one block from my home and one block from my office, so I hear the bells clearly every day. None of the Protestant churches do that sort of thing, not even the Anglicans. The passing of the day is marked by the Catholic Church, but is seemingly unimportant to our separated brethren; and subliminally, I think that message sinks in, even for them. A few years ago, in a small town in western Michigan, at six o’clock in the morning: I was woken from my slumbers by some faint chimes, and knew there was a Catholic Church somewhere nearby, and that all was right with the world, or at least in my small corner of it.
    ___
    The picture that introduces this post is my second favourite 19th century Christian painting – right after Heinrich Hoffmann’s Christ in the Temple, which I cannot find a good enough internet image of right now to share with everyone.

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  5. csawchuk2012 says:

    Reblogged this on crucesignatiblog and commented:
    Here is a wonderful blog posting on one of my favorite prayers: the Angelus.
    Enjoy, and have a blessed Advent!

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  6. Roger says:

    The Angelus is that Extrodinary moment when the promise to Adam and Eve was to be fulfilled. Genesis Adam “It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself” is this helper like unto Jesus ! Adam named Eve (Adam authority extended to the naming of the beasts). God named Mary and God named Jesus.
    This taken from above is NOT True “..Christmas day being the day in which God became incarnate of the Virgin Mary..” Actually its meaningless. At the Annuciation the Word was Concieved and BECAME Flesh! BUT this Flesh was of His Mother her Immaculate Flesh! He was born on Christmas Day. The Angelus is the celebration of the Promised Messiah incarnated in the Immaculate Womb of Our Lady.
    Our Lady’s Free Will when faced with the Holy Will Of God is to Humble Accept His Holy Will. Her FIAT was placing GOD’S Will above that of St Joseph! Our Lady Obeyed God before the opinion of MAN.
    Since both Joachim and Anne were children of Eve we Must understand that with Mary’s Flesh was human and therefor the same as Adam’s BUT before Adam’s Fall. The Incarnation is The Man God . True God and True Man coming to Redeem Adams Sin . Mary cannot be separated form Jesus!

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  7. Revd A says:

    Hi johnhenrycn, I’m Priest-in-Charge of an Anglican Church on the island of Barbados. From our bell tower the Angelus rings out faithfully everyday at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm. Next time you come to Barbados, visit us. St Martin Anglican Church, St Philip, Barbados.

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