Expert Answer Forum
The Angelus QUESTION from Caroline Wong October 22, 2000 Why do we pray the Angelus at 6am 12noon & 6pm?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on December 17, 2000 Dear Mrs. Wong:
The Angelus is a prayer in honor of the Incarnation. It is traditionally said in the morning, at mid-day, and in the evening when the Angelus bell is rung. The Angelus bell consists of three strokes followed by a pause repeated three times, and then nine strokes. The bell is rung usually at 6am and 6pm.
On Saturdays and Sundays the Angelus is said standing (with a genuflection at the third versicle). It is said kneeling on other days. The Angelus is omitted altogether during paschaltime and replaced with the Regina Caeli recited while standing.
The reason for reciting this prayer three times a day is probably associated with the offer of any prayer three times in honor and recognition of the Trinity.
The Angelus probably developed first in monasteries when the bell for the morning office of Prime was rung. The noon recitation came from the custom of ringing the Church bells at noon on Fridays to commemorate the crucifixion of Our Lord along with the ringing of the bells for Sext (Mid-day prayer). The tolling of the bells in honor of Christ's Passion was accompanied by three Hail Mary's which was eventually added to the Angelus.
The custom of the Angelus bells was extended to every day of the week by Pope Calixtus III in 1465 when he invited all Catholics to pray for victory against the Turks.
The Evening Angelus goes back to the ringing of Church bells in the evening, perhaps as a curfew.
Pope Gregory IX may have encouraged this prayer on behalf of the Crusades. The Franciscans are likely the ones responsible for spreading the devotion.
Pope John XXII in 1318 granted an indulgence to the Angelus and other Popes also granted indulgences. By the 16th century the Angelus recited three times a day was very popular.
Pope John-Paul II has made the custom of the Pope coming out to lead the recitation of the Angelus from the window of his personal study in the papal apartments on Sundays and other solemnities. He usually offers some sort of sermon or reflection at this time too.
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