The Angelus is a traditional Catholic prayer which gets its name from the first word of the prayer sequence in Latin which starts as, “Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae”, translated as “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary”.

The Angelus is a short prayer traditionally said three times per day: morning (6 a.m.), noon and night (6 p.m.).  The prayer consists of saying three Hail Mary’s with short verses (versicles) about the Incarnation in between.  Ideally, the recitation of the prayer is accompanied by the ringing of a bell in accordance with the traditional cadence of three chimes of a bell, followed by a pause, then an additional nine chimes of a bell.    Note: During the Easter season, the Regina Coeli prayer is used instead of The Angelus.

The prayer has a long history with roots in the monks’ practice in monasteries before the 14th century of saying three Hail Mary’s at the evening ringing of a bell which marked the end of the day.  The evening practice of the monks’ Hail Mary’s eventually spread to the laity in the villages; and then, over the centuries, was expanded to include the versicles and recitation three times per day.  It seems that by the end of the 16th century, the prayer had evolved into the form that is used today – although at that time, it was required that the prayer was to be recited while kneeling – at the three specified hours, and accompanied by a bell.  Over the years, the strict postures of the recitation have been relaxed, and the prayer is recited by the faithful at approximate periods of the day.  In today’s practice, many of the faithful focus on the Resurrection during the “morning Angelus”, the Passion at noon, and the Incarnation during the “evening Angelus”.

The beauty of the Angelus is its consistency in the daily life-cycle and its “interruptive” nature.  For the faithful in days past, when the bell rung at the appointed hour, all would stop and the prayer would be recited.  It mattered not whether it was work or pleasure, a pressing need existed to stop and recite the prayer – an interruption to re-focus on God via the Incarnation of Jesus through Mary.

The Angelus prayer remains as beautiful as ever, whether said in English or Latin.

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.
Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae.
Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto.
Say the Hail Mary:
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.
Say the Ave Maria:
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
Ecce ancilla Domini.
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.
Say the Hail Mary (see words above)Say the Ave Maria (see words above)
And the Word was made flesh.
And dwelt among us.
Et Verbum caro factum est.
Et habitavit in nobis.
Say the Hail Mary (see words above)Say the Ave Maria (see words above)
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genitrix.
Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
Let us pray.Oremus.
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.Gratiam tuam, quaesumus Domine, mentibus nostris infunde: ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
The Angelus Prayer

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Image Credit: “The Angelus” by Jean-Francois Millet (1857-1859) (Public Domain)