Farmers pause in their fields at midday and bow their heads in prayer. Businessmen and women overhear the ringing bells of nearby churches during their lunch break in the downtown business district. Neighbors to Catholic Churches hear the church bells toll thrice daily at six, noon, and six, as an invitation to pray the traditional devotion of the Angelus.
The Angelus has been one of my favorite Marian prayers throughout the years because of its simplicity. In my own reflection on the Angelus prayer, I have come to realize that it is a perfect prayer not only for the entire year, but especially for the Advent Season. Here are three reasons you should consider praying the Angelus this Advent season.
1. An Invitation to Meditate on the Incarnation
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.
The season of Advent is a time of expectation as the Church awaits the birth of her savior on the 25th day of December. The Angelus affords the devotee the opportunity to reflect on the annunciation by recalling the words of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. In praying the Angelus, one is able to reflect on the joy and anticipation of the Advent season, just as Mary did, becoming like her as we treasure these moments of Mary’s life in our own heart.
2. Anticipate the Church’s Liturgical Action
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.
Every Sunday when the faithful profess their faith with the Nicene Creed, the Church instructs them to bow at the following words: “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.” On Christmas day, however, the faithful are not to bow, but instead are to genuflect at these words. The Church makes this instruction twice a year: on the feast of the Annunciation and Christmas day. The reason for this is because these two days are intimately connected to the incarnation and are the embodiment of this phrase. The Annunciation being the day in which the Angel declared to Mary she was to be the mother of the Lord and Christmas day being the day in which God became incarnate of the Virgin Mary.
When praying the Angelus, it is customary to make some sort of reverence at the mention of the incarnation: and the word became flesh and dwelt among us. If one is standing, it is typical that the individual will make an act of genuflection; if one is sitting, it is common to bow one’s head. This liturgical action of genuflecting was quite common in the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy because at the liturgy’s end, the Last Gospel (the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel) would be read. It is from this gospel that the phrase, “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” can be found. During the liturgy, individuals would genuflect at the mention of the incarnation.
In developing a devotion to the Angelus during the Advent season, an individual will anticipate the liturgical gesture of Christmas day by their genuflection.
3. Unite Your Prayer with the Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent
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.
If one listens closely to the collect (opening prayer) at Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent, one will hear the same collect as that of the Angelus. The collect is fitting for the Advent season because we ask the Lord to pour forth His grace into our hearts as we meditate upon the message of the Angel who announced the Incarnation of Jesus. Additionally, the Third Sunday of Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday. Some priests will elect to wear rose colored vestments on this Sunday since the Church provides this option. On Gaudete Sunday the faithful are to rejoice—which is the meaning of the word Gaudete—because God will soon be with us. If we look at the collect for Gaudete Sunday through the lens of rejoicing, we can find cause for great rejoicing because God has become man and will set us free from our sins. Moreover, we too will one day be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
The Angelus prayer is a perfect prayer for the Advent season because it draws our minds and hearts to contemplate the mystery of the incarnation. Our prayer of the Angelus allows us to rejoice with Mary who found favor with God to become the Mother of our savior. In the forthcoming weeks of Advent, rejoice with Mary and anticipate the Church’s liturgical action by praying the Angelus each day, whether it is three times or just once a day. Consider praying the Angelus before each meal. If you dedicate yourself to this prayer during the Advent season, I hope and pray that you will celebrate Christmas in a new and profound way.
This article originally was published in 2012 on Catholiclane.com and has been revised and re-written for 2013.
Edward recently published his second children’s book, Breakfast in Bethlehem, a fitting Christmas gift for a student preparing for their First Holy Communion. Edward’s published works can be purchased from his online store.