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Angelus, Origin of

Origin of the Angelus

Q: Who wrote the Angelus prayer?

A: There is no single author of the Angelus, unless we attribute the origin of the Angelus to St. Luke, the author of the Lukan Gospel. Indeed, we find in Luke 1,26 ff. the three key ideas structuring the Angelus:

1) The Announcement of the Angel
2) Mary's Fiat
3) Conception and Incarnation of Jesus Christ in words also reminiscent of John's gospel (1, 14-15).

In short, the theological message of the Angelus is contained in the words of the Hail Mary.

The present form of the Angelus, as it was recommended by Pope Paul VI in his Marialis Cultus (n. 41), is the result of a century-long development and was definitively approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1724. Here are some of the stages of this development:

- 1269 The Franciscan chapter of Assissi exhorts the Franciscans to disseminate the greeting of Our Lady after Compline with a Hail Mary. The Hail Mary and the ringing of the bells were to remind the faithful of Christ's Incarnation. Before this time, a Hail Mary was said in the morning.

- About the same time, the Franciscan Bouvesin of Riva (c. 1260-1315) introduced the evening ringing of the "Hail Mary Bell" in the region of Milan (Italy).

- 1318 (Oct. 13) Pope John XXII approved the custom of reciting the Hail Mary at curfew.

- 1327 (May 7) The same pope ordered the evening bells of the three Hail Marys to be rung in the city of Rome. During the fifteenth century the custom of remembering Mary's sorrows was linked to the evening Hail Marys.

- 1456 Pope Callistus III prescribed the daily ringing of the bells at midday with the prayer of the three Hail Marys. The Hail Marys were said for the success of the crusade. King Louis XI of France introduced the "Angelus of Peace" rung at midday.

- It is in the the sixteenth century that these various devotions found their unitary form we now call the Angelus.

The Angelus is an explicitly biblical prayer. It has quasi-liturgical character in as much as it provides sanctification of various parts of the day. It is a constant remembrance of the Paschal mystery, and, from early on, was said for peace and safety.

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