“What can I do to be conscious of God’s presence, especially amidst the hustle and bustle of my life?”
If this question has crossed your mind, then behold a 700-year old solution: The Angelus.
What is it?
This prayer is a summary of human history’s pivotal event and it only takes a few minutes! The simple Angelus directs our focus towards Jesus’ Incarnation and calls us to, like Mary, respond to what God is asking of us in our lives. It helps us to be conscious of God’s presence at our side, and thereafter respond by uniting ourselves with Him.
While its history is not easy to trace, the Angelus is generally thought to have began some 700 years ago when monks would pray three Hail Marys during the evening bell. Short, introductory phrases from the Bible which were associated with the Hail Mary were gradually added, and these form the Angelus prayer that we know today. This ancient Marian devotion is traditionally recited together by Catholics all over the world – at 6AM, at noon, and at 6PM.
In contrast to present times, most Catholics once knew how to and prayed the Angelus three times a day. The Popes have thus been trying to turn this situation around, ever since St. John XXIII started praying the Angelus with the tens of thousands who assemble in St. Peter’s Square each Sunday. The Angelus takes after the monastic ideal of ora et labora, where prayer and labour find balance.
Often, the Angelus would seem to interrupt our day as if to insist that something other than the task before us matters more. This conventional recital of prayer would undoubtedly challenge our flexible and unpredictable schedules. However when we surrender those few minutes to God, we allow Him space to enter our time to carry out His work of salvation and sanctification in and through us, thereby forming us in faith and charity as we seek to love others as God daily summons us to.
You are Invited
The Angelus prayer barges in on our routine and insists that the Divine abides in the people or things which are at hand; regardless of how messy they appear. Upon returning to our tasks after prayer, we bring the Incarnation along with us. What an amazing difference it might make to our world and country if we Catholics would unite, throughout each day, to recite this simple yet powerful devotion!
The Prayer and the Meanings Behind
The Angelus first teaches us willingness when we recall our Blessed Mother’s “Fiat” as she rose to God’s calling:
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary; and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Mary further exclaimed, “Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.” Recalling that gives us gratitude for her perfect obedience to God’s will, and helps us to imitate her “Yes” in our own lives:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word.
The prayer also brings to heart and mind the immense love God has for us, that in sending His only Son and by His Passion and Cross, we may share in the glory of His resurrection.
And the Word was made Flesh; and dwelt among us.
We end the prayer by asking for Mary’s intercession, and that we might also be filled with grace to be able to respond to Jesus’ presence and promises in our lives.
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.