A quick guide to the ancient prayer known as the Angelus.
When walking by a Catholic church, it is common to hear the ringing of church bells throughout the day. Besides marking the hour, the bells will often ring multiple times at three specific moments in the day.
These bells recall an ancient tradition in the Catholic Church of praying a prayer known as the Angelus. The name comes from the first word of the prayer in Latin, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ (“The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary”). It is a prayer that recalls the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and invokes the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the process.
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It originates in a monastic custom of ringing bells to call monks to prayer. For many centuries, religious men and women have adopted a custom of praying multiple times a day, based on a Jewish practice found in the Old Testament.
The author of the Psalms proclaims,“Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he will hear my voice.” (Psalm 55:17)
Eventually the Jewish people began a tradition of praying three times a day: morning, afternoon and evening. Early Christians continued this practice and over time it developed into the custom of praying the Angelus at 6:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. It is at those times when you will hear the church bells ring the longest.
The bells will often ring in a specific pattern as well, giving you an idea of how to pray. The pattern is frequently the following set of peals: 3-3-3-9. This corresponds to the four sets of prayers included in the Angelus. While there may not be enough time to pray the prayer in between the peals of modern-day bell ringing systems, it is a good reminder of the ancient prayer.
Below is the Angelus prayer that is said during most of the year, while it is typically replaced with the Regina Coeli during the Easter season.
[3 peals] ℣. The Angel of the LORD declared unto Mary,℟. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst 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. [3 peals] ℣. Behold the handmaid of the LORD.℟. Be it done unto me according to thy word.Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst 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. [3 peals] ℣. And the Word was made flesh.℟. And dwelt among us.Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou amongst 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. [9 peals] ℣. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.℟. That we might 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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