209. Praying the Angelus

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” [Luke 1:26-33, 39-42, NRSV]

   The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet

“The Angelus” is a set devotional prayer commemorating the Incarnation and honouring Mary for her role in salvation history. In keeping with the Catholic tradition, the term Angelus is derived from the first word of the prayer: Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ (“… the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary …”).

Traditionally, this prayer is recited in Roman Catholic churches, convents, and monasteries three times daily at 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm. At the Carmelite Chapel in Kuching, Malaysia where we reside, The Angelus is recited just before the morning Mass which starts at 6:00 am. Though it is a very Catholic devotion, this prayer is also used by some Anglican and Lutheran churches. We understand that it is still fairly common among Catholics to pray The Angelus at home or “quietly” at their places of work before lunch.

The mid-19th century painting of The Angelus by Jean-François Millet is for some reasons very touching and contagious. We see the simple food basket having been taken down from the cart and placed on the ground. There is also a hint of the hustle and bustle in a busy city in the distant horizon, Seeing the farming couple so naturally and devotedly reciting the prayer at dusk before settling down for their simple meal break, one too is inspired by a sense of gratitude for the good news brought by the angel Gabriel. In ways easier felt deep inside than expressed externally and somewhat inadequately, one yearns to participate in the simplicity and purity of faith exemplified by this working couple. And deep down too, one senses that as one prays The Angelus, one joins in the chorus of prayers reverberating around the globe in gratitude for the Incarnation.

In The Angelus, one recites as versicle and response three Biblical verses narrating the mystery of the Incarnation, alternating with the prayer “Hail Mary”. When prayed in a group setting, a leader recites the verses and everyone recites both the responses and the Hail Mary’s in between each verse.

The Angelus reminds us of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with startling news. The Gospel of Luke presents to us that God wished Mary to be the mother of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. For Mary to be able to do so, she has first to be truly humble, in accepting the Word of God once it is uttered, and in agreeing to collaborate with God no matter how disturbing it may be and how great a sacrifice it may demand. Obedience to God in humility, regardless of human punishment, holds the key to Mary’s “yes” to God. This explains the traditional image of Mary as truly a model of humility (Luke 1:26-38). She who presented herself as handmaid/servant of the Lord, would be exalted by the Lord (Matthew 23:12), for henceforth “all ages shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). Reciting The Angelus is an affirmation of that.

The Latin and English texts of the prayer:

Latin

. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ,
. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

. Ecce ancilla Domini.
. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

. Et Verbum caro factum est.
. Et habitavit in nobis.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. * Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen.

. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

Oremus.
Gratiam Tuam, quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii Tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem Eius et Crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.
: Amen.

English

. 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.

. 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.

. 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.

. 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 You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
. Amen.

. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
. As it was in the beginning now and ever shall be world without end Amen.

Copyright © Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh, October 2018. All rights reserved.

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