In the Extraordinary Form Calendar, the “Regina Coeli” rings out until sunset on the Octave of Pentecost. Still another few days to go. In the Ordinary Form Calendar, the Angelus has been ringing out since daybreak of the Monday after Pentecost. Yikes!
Jean-François Millet himself intended this painting to be a pro-life representation of prayer to the God of Life, the prayer being the Angelus. He immediately added the steeple when the American who commissioned the painting didn’t front up with the money. Freakishly, Salvador Dali insisted like a madman that this was a painting of sexual agression, and that there was a coffin of an infant between the couple. Upon analysis, it seems that there might have been tracings, in fact, of some sort of box there between them. Probably the potato basket, but lets take the worst case scenario, shall we?
Let’s suppose that they plotted to kill any child born to them, since all they wanted was sex, sex and more sex, apart from any children. In that case, what we have here is a representation of repentance from such sexual aggression, and prayer to repair their misdeads, begging the Lord of mercies, born a little Child among us, for forgiveness and the grace of a firm purpose of amendment of life. Hah! A great message for society today, especially today.
The point of the steeple is to indicate the type of prayer that they are saying as good Catholics in the then as now oppressively anti-Catholic “enlightened” society. The Church bells at that time of day would have been ringing out the Angelus, as would be the case also at noon and at sunset. Let’s take a look at this most Christmasy of all prayers:
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V. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ, (The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,)
R. Et concepit de Spiritu Sancto. (and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.)
V. Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
R. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostræ. Amen. (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.)
[With this first versical/response and Hail Mary, one begs for an increase in the virtue of faith by way of the intercession of she who believed by faith in Him who she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. What agility and purity of soul one must have to have such faith in the blood-filled world of yesteryear and today! We turn to her who had more than all of us put together, more agility of soul and purity than we could ever begin to know in this world. The Church Militant beseeches the Lord by way of the Church Triumphant.]
V. « Ecce Ancilla Domini. » (Behold the handmaid of the Lord.)
R. « Fiat mihi secundum Verbum tuum. » (Be it done unto me according to thy word.)
Ave Maria… (Hail Mary…)
[With this second versical/response and Hail Mary, we ask our Lady's intercession that the Lord might grant us an increase in the virtue of hope, which our Lady had so very abundantly, bravely accepting what the Lord had in mind for her even though she risked, in human terms, being stoned to death as an unwed mother. Mary said and does say "Yes!" to life, even when risking death. The saints did that in yesteryear as they do today. We need only think of the very recent Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and so many like her, who, in fact, give their lives that their children might live, instead of the other way around. Far from killing her Son for the sake of convenience or as a "sacrifice to Satan" as so many do today, Mary rejoices to have the opportunity to bravely be the bearer of Him who is Life.]
V. Et Verbum caro factum est. (And the Word was made flesh,)
R. Et habitavit in nobis. (and dwelt among us.)
Ave Maria… (Hail Mary…)
[With this third versical/response and Hail Mary, we ask our Lady's intercession with her Incarnate, Divine Son, that we might have an increase in the virtue of charity, by which she gave us the greatest Christmas gift of all, her Divine Son. Christmas means "Christ, who was sent". And Mary "sends" Christ to us, giving Him to the whole world. She followed Him everywhere, even to the Cross, even to the Sepulcher. Once a mother, always a mother. Always. Such great charity. Mary remained a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ, showing that she had not yet given birth to the entire Christ, to His Mystical Body, to us, doing this for us by way of her perfect intercession under the Cross, for which Christ was born. Her intercession was that the life of Christ be given to us, and this by way of His death, by way of His having the right in justice to have mercy on us, He taking on the worst we could give out, death, but remaining innocent, and being able to insist, then, with His heavenly Father: Father, forgive them! In her purity, by way of her Immaculate Conception, by way of her extraordinary agility of soul, of her clarity of vision, she could see the goodness of her Son, and, by way of contrast, all the hell that we would vomit on Him from the beginning of time to the end. All she had to do was behold her Son of the Cross, and she could see it all, exactly what we needed. She saw our need perfectly, perfectly interceeded for us, and was, and is, therefore, the mediatrix of all graces, and is rightly called as a fitting human complement of the sole Mediator, the co-Redemptrix, that is, because of her perfect intercession for ALL that Christ would give us in redemption and salvation. What great charity, giving Christ, her Son, to us. ]
V. Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genetrix. (Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God,)
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi. (That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.)
[Technically, we don't pray to Mary. We pray to our Lord, but asking the intercession of His good Mother! She desires that we be made worthy of the promises of Christ by way of the grace of Christ Himself.]
Oremus: Gratiam tuam quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui Incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
(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 Cross, be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.)
[Basically, the whole history of redemption right there in that one sentence. Not bad to call to mind thrice daily, is it?!]
V. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, (Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit)
R. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. (As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.)
[The Gloria is repeated three times.] [You'll note the Roman Pontiffs always add three times the Gloria, one for each round of versical/response, for each increase in faith, hope and charity granted by our Lord, all in sanctifying grace.
The avatar of Holy Souls Hermitage is a church bell, which is rung for the Angelus. By tradition, each versical/response recieves three rings, while the bell is rung rather vigously during the final prayer.]
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In the title to this post I mentioned Holy Souls Hermitage. There’s a story there. On the way up the path to Holy Souls Hermitage on Holy Souls Mountain, at the base of the ridge, I have constantly been greeted — how can I say this — by what must be an angel. I suppose that sounds a bit out of the ordinary, and, believe me, for me it is just that, very out of the ordinary, not only because I’m not one who very good at paying attention to my guardian angel all the time, but also because of the heavenly goodness and kindness of the — how to say it? — presense of a spiritual being, who encourages me, invites me, rather insistingly, if also in a friendly manner, to pray, and very specifically to pray the Angelus. This happens without fail, going up and coming down. So, what else can I do? I pray the Angelus, very frequently! There are different intentions, with the bishop of the diocese being front and center with this intention, but also the priests and seminarians and benefactors, living and deceased. Yikes! I can only think that my little prayer is nothing, that my prayer is worthless, but that, nevertheless, our Lord wants me to pray, so much so — and so blockheaded am I — that such a good and kind angel almost has to whoop me upside the head to get me into gear. How far I am from the agility of soul Mary knew when the angel came to her. I suppose it’s for that very reason that she, as Queen of the Angels, makes sure that I’m well taken care of by my guardian angel. Only the very weak need to get whooped upside the head on a regular basis. Here’s one weak hermit! But, guardian angels are really very cool. They rejoice to overlook the weakness in favor of the triumph of our Lord’s grace. Such weakness, but such power of the goodness and kindness of Mary’s Son!
Why not make it a practice to pray the Angelus thrice daily? Memorize it today. When’s the last time you ever memorized something? I usually pace about when memorizing. It doesn’t take long. Give it a shot. We’re now in the 12 days of Christmas. Go on!