The Regina Caeli, one of the greatest songs of praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is said in place of the Angelus during the Easter season. In common use since at least the 12th century, the Regina Caeli was usually sung in monasteries and convents on Marian occasions.
The Regina Caeli originated in the 6th century, as explained by Jacobus da Varagine’s The Golden Legend. The text begins its record with a note that a great pestilence swept over Rome in the pontificate of Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
And because the mortality ceased not, [St. Gregory] ordained a procession, in the which he did do bear an image of our Lady, which, as is said, St. Luke the Evangelist made, which was a good painter; he had carved it and painted after the likeness of the glorious Virgin Mary. And anon the mortality ceased, and the air became pure and clear, and about the image was heard a voice of angels that sung this anthum:
‘Regina caeli laetare, alleluia,
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,
Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia,
and St. Gregory put thereto:
‘Ora pro nobis deum, alleluia.’
At the same time St. Gregory saw an angel upon a castle which made clean a sword all bloody, and put it into the sheath; and thereby St. Gregory understood that the pestilence of this mortality was passed, and after that it was called the Castle Angel.Jacobus da Varagine, The Golden Legend
The city of Rome was undergoing a plague and mortality rates were extremely high. Pope Gregory the Great began a procession, carrying the statue of the Blessed Virgin carved by St. Luke and beseeching God to end the pestilence. The procession reached the base of a hill, at the top of which was a castle, and suddenly the stagnant air turned sweet and fragrant. From around the image came the singing of angels, and St. Gregory watched an angel, signaling the end of the plague, sheath his bloody sword over the castle – the fortress he would later name Sant’Angelo. The words of the angelic anthem were that of the Regina Caeli.
In the year 1742, Pope Benedict XIV declared that the Regina Caeli was to be prayed in place of the Angelus during the Easter Season. As a result, the Regina Caeli carries with it the same indulgences as the Angelus, namely a partial indulgence of one hundred days each time it is said and a plenary indulgence once a month if said every day faithfully.
While the Angelus reminds us of the Incarnation and the Blessed Virgin’s Fiat, the Regina Caeli celebrates the fulfillment of Mary’s Fiat: Christ’s victory over death and sin. It is a song of praise, laud, and joy. This prayer, first heard on earth coming from the lips of angels, glorifies Mary’s merit, her Son, and her place as intercessor for us. May we keep in mind the ultimate completion of the Virgin’s Fiat, Jesus’ unfathomable sacrifice, and the great joy of Christ’s resurrection each time we say the words: Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
V. Regina Caeli, Laetare, alleluia
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia
V. Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
V. Gaude et lætare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi, mundum lætificare dignatus es: præsta quæsumus, ut per eius Genitricem Virginem Mariam, perpetuæ capiamus gaudia vitæ. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
THE REGINA CAELI
V. Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
R. For He Whom thou didst merit to bear, alleluia.
V. Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
R. Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord is risen indeed, alleluia.
Let us pray:
O God, who gavest joy to the world through the Resurrection of Thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, grant that we may obtain, through His Virgin Mother, Mary, the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.