Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Angelus: Domestic Church Style

Ding. Dong. Ding. Dong. Ding. Dong.

The church bell tolls insistently from the iPhone set on my kitchen counter. My daughter comes bouncing in, American Girl doll in tow. From the distance of his room, I hear my son begin: "The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary..."

My daughter and I reply in unison: "And she conceived of the Holy Spirit." 

Like generations of Catholics before us - following a prayer tradition that possibly stretches all the way back to the thirteenth century, our domestic church stops each day at Noon to pray the Angelus. The Angelus is a short prayer reciting the key scripture verses related to the Incarnation of the Lord, punctuated by three Hail Marys between each verse.  It is traditionally recited three times per day at 6AM, Noon and 6PM and is perhaps best known by the Holy Father's public recitation of it each Sunday at Noon from his balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. 

I have always loved the painting by Jean-Francois Millet which depicts a farming couple pausing from their work in the fields to recite the Angelus. Thinking of that painting and the promise of the restful, prayerful mid-day pause that it captures led me to institute the practice here in our home.  

Boy was I  in for a shock to discover that the reality of the recitation of the Angelus here in my domestic church is a bit different than the serene, reverent image of Millet's painting. More often than not, the Angelus is interrupted by my children's demands to be the one leading the prayer, requests for lunch, or the ever-present speed Angelus - also known as "the one to finish the Hail Mary fastest wins."  Hardly the pious practice I was looking for. I have often wondered if I should even bother continuing to pray this everyday - I mean, really, is anyone even thinking about the Incarnation? Most times, I am not. I am thinking about the million things I didn't get done that morning and the fact that there is no food in the fridge for lunch. Still, we persist and everyday at Noon the Angelus bell strikes, and we begin our prayer. 

Today as we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, the recitation of the daily Angelus takes on a special meaning. It is on this day that we commemorate the events that we recite each day during the our noontime prayer - the reality that God himself has become man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And in doing so, he entered into the messiness of our world.

In thinking about that reality this morning, I realized something very important. If our lives (and consequently the daily recitation of the Angelus) were perfect, we would have no need of the Incarnation that we pray about.  It is precisely our messy, messed-up humanity that Christ entered in order to redeem, perfect and save us. A perfect humanity has no need of a Savior. Today as my children and I pray the Angelus I am reminded of the beautiful words of the Exsultet; "O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!" Our prayer was not perfect, but we gladly offer it to the Incarnate Lord Jesus, who came to save us, imperfections and all. 

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  1. Haha, I was smiling the whole time I read this about the Angelus. Its comforting to hear I am not alone in my thoughts of whether it is really worth it. As well as my kids fighting over who gets to lead. God bless you Debbie for all you are doing. I don't know how you fond time for all of it!

    Margie in AZ

  2. Hi Margie! So nice to hear from you! Thanks for reading and for your encouragement - it is good to be on the journey together and I am grateful for technology which allows us all to share with each other! God bless you and your family!

  3. Just Beautiful Deb!!!! God bless you. Looking forward to tomorrow's blog already. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!!!!

  4. That was great Deb! Writing from the heart and everyday messy life!!

  5. Thanks Michele and Larry! Thanks be to God!

  6. Love this reflection, Debbie. There is such beauty in your honesty! What a great idea to set a daily alarm at noon for this prayer. Thanks so much for sharing and linking up.