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The Institution of the Angelus

The institution of the Angelus occurred June 28-29, about 1456 by Pope Callistus. The Turks had been threatening Europe and it was the Pope’s request that the Faithful recite the Angelus for the safety of Christendom against the Turks, and for peace. The Angelus was first recited about sunset, a general practice throughout Europe in the first half of the 14th century, recommended by Pope John XXI. The morning Angelus seems to have started somewhat later, again, for peace. The recitation of the midday Angelus began sometime in the 14th or 15th century; it was called the “Peace Bell.”

This present-day custom of reciting the Angelus is a short practice of devotion in honour of the Incarnation, repeated three times each day, morning, noon, and evening, at the sound of the church bell. It is curious how the Angelus is associated historically with the invasion of the Turks, again, in 1683, when they laid siege to Vienna. Emperor Leopold of Austria fled and begged for assistance and help from John Sobieski, a great Polish general, who gathered his army and hastened to the rescue, stopping at one of Our Lady’s shrines in Poland for blessing.

On 11 September, Sobieski was on the heights of Kahlenberg, near Vienna, and the next day engaged in battle with the Turks. Brilliantly leading his troops, he forced the Turks into a trap, but the number of the foe was so great that he could not penetrate their ranks; then Sobieski’s cavalry turned in retreat, interpreted by the Turks as flight. The Turks rushed forward; but were re-attacked. The shouts and cries of Sobieski’s men threw terror into the Turks, when they learned that Sobieski himself, “The Northern Lion,” was on the battlefield, for he had defeated the Turks in Poland on previous occasions, and they feared him; therefore, the Turks fled panic-stricken. The battle raged for a time; all along the front was Sobieski everywhere commanding, fighting, encouraging his men and urging them forward. The Turks were finally defeated, Vienna and Christendom saved, and the news was sent to Pope Innocent XI at Rome.

Sobieski was a humble man, for in the height of his greatest victory, in a letter to Pope Innocent XI, he said it was God’s cause he was fighting for, and Mary’s honour. His message to the Pope on the victory read: “I came, I saw, but God and Mary conquered.”

The day after the Battle, Sobieski entered Vienna victoriously. Later he pursued the Turks into Hungary, again attacking and defeating them. The Turkish threat to Europe had vanished forever, or at least until the 21st century. Pope Innocent XI, after the battle of Vienna, requested the whole Christian world to recite the Angelus for peace. The Angelus takes on special significance today because Communism has duplicated, in many respects, the pattern of the Turkish invasion of Europe. In our own time, we see the peaceful Moslem invasion of Europe, which once again, Poland is resisting.

The 500th anniversary of the institution of the Angelus by Pope Callistus III, was a reminder to recite the centuries old prayer for peace and for the protection of the Christian world from the Red menace of Communism and the enemies of Western Civilization.1

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In order to honour the Annunciation all throughout the year, the Church has given the faithful the Angelus prayer, the name of which is derived from the first word of its Latin form. To say it is to replay the drama of the Annunciation once more, placing it vividly before our eyes and within our hearts.

The Angelus

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, etc…

V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to Your Word.

Hail Mary, etc…

V. And the Word was made flesh,
R. And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary, etc…

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

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 His Cross
Be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Incorporate the Angelus into Your Day

The Angelus should be recited three times a day: as early in the morning as possible at 6:00 a.m. (or upon awakening), again at noon, and once more at 6:00 p.m. It may be said privately, of course, but whenever recited with others, one person leads it by saying aloud the verses and the first half of the Hail Mary—that is, until “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” The others make the responses and say the second part of the Hail Mary;—then all join in to say the closing prayer.

It is common practice that during the recital of the Angelus prayer, for the lines “And the Word was made flesh/And dwelt among us,” those reciting the prayer bow or genuflect. Either of these actions draws attention to the moment of the Incarnation of Christ into human flesh.

Jesus loved us enough to die for us so that we might live with Him eternally! When we pray the Angelus with humility and love, we are emulating Mary’s faith in His goodness. We are blessed in that we can ask both God and His Blessed Mother for their assistance on our journey towards Eternal Life!

 

Read Also: In Honour of the Annunciation


Footnotes:

  1. The Institution of the Angelus – from The Woman in Orbit