A year ago, one of my parish priests encouraged all parishioners to memorize The Angelus. It was a prayer he deeply loved and one to which he knew St. John Paul II had been devoted. As a convert to the Catholic faith, it is a prayer I had never prayed growing up, and no priest in any parish I had ever attended up to then had ever led the penitent in these responsorials. However, since my current parish celebrates noon mass twice weekly, dear Fr. Masutti introduced me to this lovely devotion.
I made it a goal to memorize the prayer and began to recite it often but not regularly and not at the three specified times a day, six in the morning, noon, and six in the evening. I thought it a beautiful prayer, but perhaps due to my laxity in recitation, I found it less than overawing. However, The Holy Spirit was not done with me.
I was privileged to attend a conference with Fr. Ripperger that same year. The topic of The Angelus popped up, this time in the context of spiritual warfare. This seasoned exorcist told us that the first spiritual exercise he and the Doloran Fathers give to anyone suffering from spiritual affliction and seeking their assistance is the discipline of praying The Angelus at the three specified times daily. He explained that satan and his minions vehemently despise Our Lady; they also are far less able to influence a soul who is disciplined in prayer and willingly subjects themselves to the mortification of regular prayer. Fr. Ripperger further stated that the combination of a thorough confession and this practice resolved most cases of those complaining of diabolical issues. It was the frontline of defense for anyone soliciting help from his order and significantly reduced the number of people who required exorcism.
This intrigued me.
Several negative thought patterns continuously troubled me, and I struggled to overcome habitual venial sins. I realized I needed to become more serious about praying The Angelus. What was it about this prayer that was so powerful? It seemed too simple, too brief to be such a potent weapon against the enemy of my soul. What had I overlooked?
I began to build this discipline, albeit in baby steps; I would occasionally sleep through my alarm or leave my phone in another room and forget the time. However, as I pressed into this devotion, I began to notice a shift. A mystery unfolded to me. I realized this simple prayer contains the totality of salvation.
The initial invocation reminds us of the angel Gabriel Coming to Mary and announcing The Messiah, Jesus, whose name means savior, God With Us: here, Heaven was reunited with Earth. The New Adam entered the New Eve: the re-creation of Heaven and Earth began with the words of an angel.
The second invocation recalls Mary’s fiat, her complete and total yes to God without any thought of herself or her own personal suffering. Her life belonged to The Lord. She was open to all he had to offer her, all he asked of her: nothing was too much. “Be it done unto me.” How honestly can we say these words when we are in the midst of trials: when we find ourselves in a difficult marriage, when a child leaves home and rejects their faith and their family, when we are in the throes of a miscarriage, when we lose a job?
Most of us struggle with those words. I know I do. These words remind me my trust in God’s Mercy needs to deepen. My total abandonment to Divine Providence needs to expand. My self-will and self-love need to die. They need to expire in the tomb, not so I am lost, demolished, or destroyed. No, death is the door to resurrection.
Death is the door to resurrection.
Without Mary’s yes, there could not have been a God-Man born to die to show forth the power of the resurrection. Without Mary’s yes, Jesus could not have conquered death by death and confounded the powers of hell by entering into its very bowels to lead out the captives in his train. No wonder satan hates The Angelus so vehemently. It reminds him of his defeat.
The third invocation comes from the first chapter of the gospel of John. “And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.” The first thing that comes to my mind is the words: full of Grace and Truth, which immediately follow. Jesus is The Truth. It is his very nature. He is Grace itself, or as he told St. Faustina, he is Mercy itself, which is another way of expressing the meaning of Grace. The Word, Second Person of The Blessed Trinity, became en-fleshed. His divine nature took to himself a second complete human nature in the incarnation. This human nature in no way diminished his divine nature, whose very essence was and is Grace and Truth. This divine nature is in absolute opposition to the one who is called Liar and Accuser. The Word made Flesh is the remedy against that one who comes to steal, kill and destroy. Truth triumphs over the lies. Grace and Mercy triumph over The Accuser. Grace and Truth are the antidote to the poison of sin and all the flaming darts of the evil one.
Next, we ask our Blessed Mother to pray for us. This is what we need. We must be relentlessly reminded that we have a mother who Christ gave us in his final hour; a perfect mother. We are to behold her as she constantly beholds us. We can go to her with anything. She will always intercede on our behalf. She will always take our fumbling and stumbling attempts to please Our Lord and add to them Her perfect merits. She will assist us in all our trials.
Finally, in the closing prayer, we are again reminded that the message of the incarnation was brought to us by an angel. Why is that? God could have used another method. He could have come to Mary in a Dream. Why send an angel? In reading St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Mystological Catecheses, I was reminded that the angels were the first sons of God. They are constantly watching salvation history unfold. Those who followed St. Michael in acclaiming “Who is like God” obtained their reward and now enjoy the beatific vision. Those who joined Lucifer in his rebellion tremble with fear as they attempt to wreak vengeance on God through the corruption and enslavement of God’s creatures.
When we are sealed through baptism, we are adopted into God’s family. Thus we become kindred souls with the faithful angels. We who were created in the material realm, lower than the angels, are now raised above the angels. How is this possible? It is through The Word made Flesh. Christ, taking on our human nature, is the second person of the Godhead with both a divine nature and a human nature. When we are given The Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation, we participate in the divine nature. Therefore, through God’s infinite Grace, we bear an even greater resemblance to God than the angels, who, in the first order of creation, are pure spirits.
This is a profound mystery; my mind can barely contain the thought, let alone comprehend it. I am brought to awe at the humility of God and the angels who serve him. I almost feel sorry for Lucifer. No wonder he became so disgruntled when God revealed that Mary, a mere human, was destined to be even more beautiful than he and obtain the rank of Queen of Heaven. Lucifer saw the reflection of God’s beauty in Mary and desired it for himself. He was not content to serve, and thus, he hated her. The General of the angels was to bow at her command. It is almost understandable how his pride must have been assaulted. Is it not tragic that he was unable to master his consternation?
Yes, through an angel, one of our heavenly brethren, the salvation message was heralded. This reality is closer to us than we realize. Each of us has our dedicated angel to remind us that through the passion and the cross, we may come to the joy of the resurrection. We should ask our guardian angels to assist us daily. They are by our sides to walk with us as we suffer and carry our cross. They rejoice at each step we take towards the joy of The Resurrection.
The Angelus is establishing a rhythm in my life. It helps me recognize that every moment offered to God through Mary is sanctified, whether it be a doctor’s appointment, paying the bills, sweeping the floor, scrubbing toilets, or visiting a friend. The Angelus reminds me I am part of an extraordinary family. The angles are my brethren. Mary is my Mother. God is my Father. The Word made Flesh is Grace and Truth. This knowledge is a spiritual shield that plants my feet firmly in the invisible Paradise that is NOW and is to come. Finally, I understand why The Angelus is so powerful. Now, I offer it to you.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail, Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to thy Word.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
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 Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.