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Photo Credit: Painting by Fra Angelico

PRAY | A ringing devotion

The Angelus is a long-held devotion, rooted in the 11th century, and a reminder of Christ’s incarnation and Mary’s role in salvation history

Do you ever hear church bells ringing at noon? If it’s coming from a Catholic church, it’s likely those bells are ringing for the Angelus.

The long-held devotion, which commemorates the Incarnation of Christ and highlights Mary’s role in salvation history, dates back to 11th century Italy, where Franciscan monks said three Hail Marys during evening prayers.

It developed over the centuries and now typically includes the recitation of the prayer in the morning, at noon and in the evening. Some churches ring bells, most often at noon, which encourages the faithful to stop and pray.

The name Angelus comes from the Latin version of the first line, “Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ …”

The prayer includes reciting a versicle, which includes three biblical verses narrating the mystery and alternating with three Hail Marys.

According to the U.S. bishops’ conference, the end of the prayer comes from a seventh-century papal practice at Rome where it was assigned to March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel appeared unto Mary when she conceived Christ; for the 1970 Latin edition of the Roman Missal, the prayer was transferred to the last Sunday before the birth of our Lord.

The prayer also preserves an early insight that the whole mystery of Christ — from His incarnation, passion, death and resurrection and His continuing presence in His body the Church — is one integral mystery. The bishops note that specific moments of this mystery in salvation history are mapped out over the course of the Church year, but the prayer reminds us that every Sunday, every liturgy, celebrates the whole mystery and our share in it.

The Angelus Prayer

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.

R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary …

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

R. Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary …

V. And the Word was made Flesh.

R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary …

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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