Image: Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, sourced from Wikimedia Commons
By Vir Christi
A Catholic prayer that receives special focus during the season of Advent is the Angelus. Some of us pray it on a regular basis. Others may, upon reading this article, immediately go to Google to determine which prayer is being referenced. Regardless, Advent is a good time to meditate upon the verses of the Angelus. How are we implementing the fruits of this prayer in our own lives?
“The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”
“…and she conceived of the Holy Spirit.”
We’re so used to throwing around language like “the Incarnation,” Mary the “Mother of God,” and other such terms; do we stop to think of their enormity? The God of all creation, the God Whom the Jews knew to be responsible for breathing life into being out of nothing, deigned to approach a humble girl. Mary was betrothed to Saint Joseph but not yet living with him, which meant that she would’ve been about thirteen years old. This was the age that Jews thought young women were prepared to be married.
Can you remember what you were doing when you were between thirteen years old? Many of us hadn’t even made our Confirmations at that stage! What an incredible joy yet an incredible responsibility, to have God declare that such a young maiden would be intimately involved in His greatest miracle yet!
Lord, may we never forget that through You all things are possible.
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord…”
“…be it done unto me according to Thy word.”
How often when we pray to God do we want things done our way? Maybe it’s a significant other whom we desire God to put into our lives. Maybe it’s an opportunity or promotion at work that we feel like we’ve been missing out on. If we’re honest with ourselves, our prayers can easily fall into the habit of treating God like a wishing well or a genie. Instead of having an open, loving conversation with our Creator, we project our wants and desires onto God. We want Him to form His plan according to our specifications, not conform our plans with His desires.
Here, in Mary’s beautiful response, is an example for all of us to begin internalizing this Advent. Mary makes no request on the timing, nor does she ask for particulars beyond one single clarifying question. God lays out what He wants of Mary, and with beautiful simplicity she accepts.
Lord, may we be like Mary, trusting that all we need to do is say “yes” and You will provide the rest.
“And the Word was made Flesh…”
“…and dwelt among us.”
We’ve all watched a movie or read a book at some point in our lives where we see a demonstration of affection that seems completely crazy. Someone makes a big, dramatic gesture designed to win the notice or the heart of the object of their attraction, and it inevitably works. Why is this the plot of so many romance stories? Because it’s something that’s not only relatable, but desirable. We want to be pursued.
In the Incarnation, we have the most dramatic gesture of that pursuit made manifest among us. God loves us so much that He will go to any lengths to get our attention and win our hearts. The Incarnation is The Gesture, a move made by the Divine Heart that burns with relentless love for each and every part of His creation. God was and is so determined in His pursuit of us that He was willing to demean Himself by becoming a lowly part of creation. The gulf between created and Creator is so vast that even if we had all eternity, we’d never be able to comprehend it. Created beings are incapable of crossing that gulf on their own. So what did the Creator do? He chose to come to us, since we weren’t capable of coming to Him.
And the best part? If you, the single reader reading this, were the only person in the history of all time from now until the end of days who committed a sin…God would have done it all, just for you. That kind of love doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t exist. And yet…it does.
Lord, may we never fail to remember Your love for us, by both loving You and others and allowing ourselves to be loved.
“Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God…”
“…that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
I personally feel that this is the hardest part of the Angelus to live up to in my own life. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. It’s very easy as a Christian to fall into the mindset of believing that as sinful, lowly creatures, we’re in good shape because God understands this and will cut us some slack. While it’s true that Jesus meets us exactly where we’re at, His encounter with us presents a hefty challenge for the future: He doesn’t desire to leave us there, but to raise us up with Him.
If that sounds like a daunting task, well, it is. But this line of the prayer both contains God’s challenge and God’s charity. In Our Mother, we have a beautiful intercessor who never fails to pray for us to her Son. Behind Our Lord, it’s Mary who most earnestly desires that we should attain eternal life. She will not leave any of her children without aid, most especially those who call upon her. With the help of Mary’s prayers, we can grow in the necessary graces to live up to the life to which Our Lord calls us.
Lord, may we have the grace to grow in devotion to Our Lady and to trust in her intercession for us before Your throne.
Remember God’s Love
Saint Teresa of Avila recounts that in a vision Jesus once said to her, “I would create the universe again just to hear you say that you love Me.” The Angelus may feel like just a simple recounting of events around the Annunciation, but at its core it’s a profound expression of grateful love. It’s awe at the power of God, amazement at the obedience of Mary as His handmaid, longing to be held in His embrace by way of the Incarnation, and joyful hope that we can be with Him in eternity through Mary’s intercession.
So what are we really saying when we pray the Angelus? Lord, I hear Your voice. I obey Your commands. I long to be held by You. And I know that with Your help, I can get to where You need me to go. Christmas is God’s joyful answer to our prayer. Within the Angelus lies an excellent focal point for the solemnity of Christmas. Let it stir up that joyful love and hope in your heart this Advent season as we prepare for Christmas.
Lord, we love You. Come and make Your dwelling in us, and let us never be separated from one another.
Vir’s heart has been on fire for the Church from day one, and he dreams of the day when Constantinople will be a city again. He has a competitive drive satiated by sports and board games, but is also just as happy to sit down and read a good book for hours on end.