Dating back to the 6th century, tradition says this prayer was created with the dialogue of an angel and a pope.
The Regina Caeli (Latin for “Queen of Heaven”) is offered us by the Church as a hallmark of Easter. Lasting for a full 50 days, Easter is a very long season — 10 days longer than Lent. The Regina Caeli is integrated especially into two daily Catholic devotions.
First, in the Divine Office prayed by priests, religious and many laypeople, the Regina Caeli is the Easter season Marian antiphon at the end of Night Prayer.
Then, the Church replaces during Easter the daily Angelus prayer with the Regina Caeli, traditionally prayed thrice daily (at 6:00 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m).
The Angelus/Regina Caeli is prayed publicly by the pope and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on most Sundays. The pope offers a short greeting (usually with a reflection on the day’s readings) before leading the people in the prayer.
According to legend, this prayer dates back to the sixth century with Pope Gregory the Great. As the story goes, when the city of Rome was plagued with an epidemic, St. Gregory led a procession out from St. Peter’s Basilica past the Mausoleum of Hadrian in prayerful petition to end the plague.
Then, on top of the mausoleum, he saw an angel singing the words of the Regina Caeli. He responded in words also in the prayer, “Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia!” or “Pray for us to God, alleluia!”
Inspired by this event, the faithful henceforth referred to the mausoleum with a different name: Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) and the nearby bridge became known as the Ponte Sant’Angelo(Bridge of Angels).
The Church in Rome received two gifts that day. The disease of the city was cured and a new prayer was established to help remind the faithful of joy even in times of great suffering.
What, specifically, do we meditate on in this prayer?
First, the prayer assures us that Jesus truly is risen. This reflects the journey that all the disciples had to undertake, encountering the Risen Christ and thus leaving behind their doubt to become Christ’s witnesses.
Second, the prayer reminds us what the season of Easter is all about. We offer joyful praise to God with the word “alleluia” six separate times. Also, we proclaim different variations of the word “joy” five times (rejoice, rejoice, glad, joy, joys).
The Regina Caeli reminds us of the Resurrection and the meaning that it has for our lives. The Lord is risen and we can share in Easter joy with Mary, the Queen of Heaven. We can truly proclaim “alleluia,” giving praise to God for the great gift of everlasting life he offers us.
We need help on this journey to heaven. So we turn to Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord whose openness to the will of God led to her coronation in heaven. We ask for her intercession daily so that we, like her, can experience the full joys of heaven in unity with her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Regina Caeli is a few-second way to get a little taste of heaven and keep the Easter joy alive.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia. For he, whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. Has risen as he said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. For the Lord is truly risen, alleluia. Let us pray: O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Regina cæli, lætare, alleluia: Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia, Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia, Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia. Gaude et lætare, Virgo Maria, alleluia. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia. Oremus: Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum lætificare dignatus es: præsta, quæsumus, ut per eius Genitricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuæ capiamus gaudia vitæ. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.