For centuries, the Angelus Domini, more commonly called “the Angelus”, has been recited by the Church three times a day – at six in the morning, at noon, and at six in the evening – to commemorate the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the announcement of the Angel and the answer of the Virgin, “Fiat mihi secundum Verbum Tuum,” God himself, the Word, became flesh. The entire story of redemption revolves around the Incarnation. It was through this mystery that the Virgin Mary became co-redemptrix; it was through it that the Blessed Virgin made her greatest act of obedience: her Fiat. The Angelus venerates this great and wonderful mystery, which was brought about by Mary’s consent.
The practice of reciting the Angelus three times a day likely originated from the monasteries of the Middle Ages. At that time, the practice of ringing the bells of the monasteries and convents at dusk signaled the beginning of prayers at Compline, around nine in the evening. The sounding of the bells marked the hours not only for monasteries, but for the entire surrounding countryside. The prayers of the hours began with Matins around midnight and then continued every three hours: Lauds at about three in the morning; Prime at six; Terce at nine; Sext at noon; None at three in the afternoon; Vespers at six; and Compline around nine. The working hours of laborers were regulated by the ringing of the monastery bells. This is the origin of curfew; in Medieval Latin ignitegium or salvaterra, it was the signal to end the day’s work. The bell signaled curfew by tolling repeatedly for around a quarter of an hour, calling the farmers back home from the fields. At the end, the city gates were locked, and it was forbidden to be in the streets without a lantern.
It is said that Blessed Urban II, at the Council of Clermont in 1095, established the recitation of the Angelus in the morning and in the evening, invoking the protection of the Virgin over the Crusades. In 1318, Pope John XXII granted an indulgence of ten days to the practice of praying three Hail Mary’s when the bells were rung for evening prayers. The Angelus in its present form was recognized officially by Pope Benedict XII (1334-1342). In 1724, Benedict XIII granted an indulgence of 100 days each time the Angelus is recited and a plenary indulgence once a month for anyone who faithfully recites it every morning, noon, and evening. This indulgence is still valid. Finally, Benedict XIV decreed on April 20, 1742 that, during the Easter season, the Angelus Domini should be replaced by the Regina Caeli.
The Angelus is a prayer that originated as a tribute to the Blessed Mother and to the Mystery of the Incarnation. The Angelus was initially called the “Prayer of Peace”. In fact, its purpose was to honor the Son of God through the Blessed Virgin, who, conceived in the womb of Mary, laid the foundation for universal peace. However not only was the Angelus a prayer of peace, it was also one that invoked the protection of the Blessed Virgin in time of war, most especially in spiritual war. The Angelus fills the soul with peace and serenity, but it also provides those who pray it with hope and strength in their struggles with the devil.
In spiritual warfare, there is no victory unless we engage in battle, but without the active disposition of a fighting soul, there is no battle. A warrior without his weapons is not only open to attack, he is completely defenseless. The Angelus is a perfect weapon for all of us, showing us true obedience, humility, and submission to God’s Will through Mary’s Fiat, reminding us of Christ’s Incarnation, and giving us the opportunity to contemplate that great mystery. The wisdom of the Church dictates that we should recite this three times a day, thus allowing our easily distractible minds to remember Christ’s Divinity and Mary’s example of perfect obedience. When approached with God’s Will for her, the Blessed Virgin responded with her Fiat. This Fiat, this act of flawless submission, is the Fiat we should make each day of our lives. Every time we say the Angelus, we echo Mary’s Fiat and come closer to making it ourselves.
– St. Louis de Montfort, Pray for us!