Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Angelus

This weekend at Mass the opening prayer is the following

Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord,
your grace into our hearts,
that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son
was made known by the message of an Angel,
may by his Passion and Cross
be brought to the glory of his Resurrection.

This is a prayer used by many Catholics THREE TIMES a day!

I first encountered the Angelus Prayer when I was in my third year of seminary studying in Rome. We always prayed it before lunch, but I gradually learned that many Catholics pray the prayer at 6 am, Noon, and 6 pm. Below is a famous painting by Jean Francois Millet titled "The Angelus" which shows people stopping during their day to pray the Angelus.

The Angelus has three short strophes which are followed by a "Hail Mary". Those three strophes are the following

The Angel (first word in the Latin version is "Angelus" which is where the prayer derives its title) of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary...

Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your Word.
Hail Mary...

(genuflecting) The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Hail Mary...

The Angelus is kind of a constant reminder of the key points of Marian doctrine.
1) Mary conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit
2) Her famous fiat (Latin for "be it done") that is a model for each of us each day
3) Mary actually gave birth to a real human being

I have found this prayer very helpful for me throughout the day, especially the "May it be done unto me according to your Word" phrase. This phrase is key, and that's why I preached on that phrase this weekend.

The Angelus prayer concludes with a short strophe
"Pray for us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Let us pray

and one concludes with the opening prayer for today's Mass (mentioned above).

This is a devotion that I have found very helpful and formative. Here a word of caution, though, before adding this to your devotional life. We ought to always be leery of adding other devotions into our life. It is possible to be what is known as "overly-devotional" in the sense that some people will recite prayers and devotions but never spend any time in silent prayer. I am VERY cautious about adding a devotion to my life. For the past 4-5 years my devotional life has consisted in a daily Rosary and the Angelus three times a day. One's devotional life is very personal and ought to be constantly examined to continue to strike a successful balance between being overly devotional and not having any devotional prayer in one's life at all.

In conclusion, for those of you interested in making the Angelus a part of your day, here is the whole prayer.

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: 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.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

(genuflecting) And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

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.