A meditation on the Annunciation and the Angelus
Wherever you live, chances are you hear church bells from time to time. Maybe you’ve gotten so used to their gentle chime that you don’t even notice it, but Catholic churches usually ring their bells three times a day: at 6:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
This is called the Angelus – a call to prayer. The Angelus is a traditional prayer to Mary, the Mother of God, which consists of three short “versicles” and responses, each followed by a Hail Mary, and finally a special concluding prayer. It is customary for the church bells to ring three times for each invocation and nine times for the closing prayer.
Although the Angelus has its origins in the 13th century or earlier, it was in the 16th century that the three daily calls to prayer became standardized.
Pope Paul VI, in the final section of his 1974 apostolic exhortation on proper devotion to Mary, Marialis Cultushas written at length on the value of the Angelus.
French painter Jean-François Millet, one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France, commemorated the prayer in an acclaimed painting titled “L’Angélus”. In it, a farmer and his wife stop their work in the field to pray, as they hear the Angelus bells ringing in a distant church tower. The son of a devout farmer and his wife, Millet often saw his parents stop near the end of their day to pray, their heads bowed, as the Angelus bells erupted into the setting sun with their insistent call. Millet sought to recreate the quiet peace of the evening sky, the rosy glow of the setting sun in the fields, and the pious devotion of the peasants.
It is said that when Millet’s agent and closest friend, Alfred Sensier, first saw the image on Millet’s easel, the artist turned to him and asked, “Well , What do you think?”
“This is the Angelus,” the agent replied, acknowledging its deeper meaning.
“Yes,” Millet said. “Do you hear the bells?
The painting is now on display at the Louvre in Paris.
* * * * * * *
The Angel of the Lord said to Mary,
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; you are blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Here is the servant of the Lord:
Let it be done to me according to your word.
I salute you marie…
And the Word became Flesh:
And dwelt among us.
I salute you marie…
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,
so that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray. Pour, we implore you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, your Son, has been revealed by the message of an angel, may, by his passion and his cross, be brought to the glory of his resurrection, by the same Christ our Lord. Amen.