Just over 100 years ago Jean-Francois Millet’s painting L’Angélus was one of the most popular paintings in Western Europe and the United States. Painted in 1857 Millet’s depiction of two French peasants praying rapidly became an icon of Catholic identity.
A print of the painting hangs close to the bell pull in St Chrysostom’s church by which we sound the Angelus bell. We were delighted that a church member recently sent us a postcard from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris where the painting hangs.
In the painting we see two French peasants pause in their work during the potato harvest. In the distance we see a church bell tower which presumably is sounding the Angelus bell. The peasants pause to recite the angelus as they hear the bell sound.
The Angelus bell is a call to stay in the place we are and to redirect our thoughts to God, and to pray. The ringing of the Angelus bell is, then, a public call to a private act of prayer.
Similarly people of Muslim faith pause five times a day for Salat, a time of prayer. The faithful Muslim is called to stop the business in hand, to pause and to think of God.
At 5pm each day, and after 11am Sunday Mass at around 12 Noon, at St Chrysostom’s the Angelus bell is rung. On Sundays, the Mass having ended, we turn to Our Lady’s statue and sing the Angelus together, it is a much loved act of prayer in our church, and people, especially children come forward to light candles at Mary’s statue as we sing. (You can find the music we use here)
The 5pm invitation is closely connected to our call to daily prayer at 5pm in church and indeed to our #PrayVespers initiative.
When you hear the Angelus bell, or even when you imagine it is being rung, pause like the French peasants in Millet’s painting. Redirect your actions and thoughts to prayer and recite the Angelus. A special moment of private prayer, which by using the traditional words of the Angelus also strengthens your unity in prayer with the people of St Chrysostom’s and of course the wider church.
V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by 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 unto me according to thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
We beseech Thee, O Lord, pour Thy grace into our hearts, that as we have know the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son by the message of an angel, so by Cross and Passion we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.