The Angelus prayer celebrates the awesome mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus. The Baltimore Catechism says, “God did not abandon man after Adam fell into sin, but promised to send into the world a Savior to free man from his sins and to reopen to him the gates of heaven…. By the Incarnation is meant that the Son of God, retaining His Divine nature, took to Himself a human nature; that is, a body and soul like ours.”
The prayer as we know it dates back to the 16th century, but during the Middle Ages, the custom of praying three Hail Marys in a row goes back to at least the 12th century. At a meeting of Franciscans in 1279, St. Bonaventure suggested the praying of three Hail Marys after Compline (Night Prayer) while meditating on Our Lord’s Incarnation, and the ringing of a bell before the prayers.
Especially in days past, this prayer was prayed at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., and accompanied by the ringing of church bells. Perhaps you have seen the famous oil painting “The Angelus” by Jean Francois Millet (painted between 1857 and 1859). In this lovely painting, a couple working in a field pause, bow their heads, and pray the Angelus at the end of the day’s work.
With the beautiful Angelus prayer below, we honor the Incarnation of Jesus. We also venerate His holy Mother Mary, who said “yes” to God’s will and became the Virgin Mother of God (cf. Luke 1:26-38).
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.
V. And the Word was made flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
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.
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