Several months ago, I realized how much I missed this prayer. I missed the regular, comforting words and moments of peace that accompany it. I missed the chance to pause in the midst of life’s hustle and bustle to meditate on the Incarnation. I missed the chance to join with the centuries of Catholics before me who have recited this prayer each day. So I set alarms on my phone and began praying the Angelus once again.
As I’ve launched into the rhythm of the daily Angelus–the recitation of three Hail Marys with a few accompanying verses–I’ve begun to realize how impactful this simple prayer is. The prayerful recitation of the Angelus can change our world. Here’s why.
It compels us to put our lives and agendas on hold while we refocus on God.
Since the Angelus is recited at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., it means that there are regular breaks where we step apart from our activities to meditate on the Incarnation. Jean Francois Millet’s famous image, The Angelus (shown above), depicts farmers stopping their work in a field to pray. We, too, can frame our days around this prayer and give our time to God. While it may be inconvenient to delay eating lunch or answering an e-mail while we launch into the words of the Angelus for a few moments, this is a beautiful sacrifice we can make out of love for God.
It naturally draws Scripture and the gift of the Incarnation into our lives.
In the Angelus, the Hail Mary—a prayer formed by the words of the Angel and Elizabeth in Scripture—is recited three times. In between the Hail Marys, we also recite the words of Scripture; phrases from the Gospels that narrate Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation (Lk 1:38) and the Incarnation, when God became man (Jn 1:14). When we revolve our days around God’s Sacred Word, our lives will change, and our Catholic culture will flourish.
It reminds us of the universality of the Catholic Church.
While the history of the Angelus is rather unclear, there are specific developments that we do know. For instance, we know that many popes, across the centuries, have recommended the practice of praying three Hail Marys at certain points of the day. In the 16th century, the verses of the Angelus were formally included in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This practice has been devoutly done for hundreds of years, around the world. When we pray the Angelus, we remember that as Catholics, we belong to a universal Church. Knowing this fact can give us hope and strength throughout our days, for we remember that we are not alone in the mission to live out our Catholic faith in an increasingly secular world.
The Angelus is an incredible prayer. It is simple and approachable, since it merely involves a few verses and the recitation of three Hail Marys. Yet, this basic prayer has a powerful depth to it. Pope Paul VI speaks on this fact in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus, as he notes:
“What we have to say about the Angelus is meant to be only a simple but earnest exhortation to continue its traditional recitation wherever and whenever possible. The Angelus does not need to be revised, because of its simple structure, its biblical character, its historical origin which links it to the prayer for peace and safety, and its quasi-liturgical rhythm which sanctifies different moments during the day, and because it reminds us of the Paschal Mystery, in which recalling the Incarnation of the Son of God we pray that we may be led “through his passion and cross to the glory of his resurrection.” (41)
If you don’t already pray the Angelus, why not give it a try? Even if we are unable to pray this at all three intervals, we can seek to pick one time each day in which to recite this prayer with our families. If all Catholics joined in praying the Angelus, can you imagine how our world will change?
Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller