One of the most memorable lessons you learn in the Master of Arts in theology program at the University of Notre Dame is: lex orandi, lex credendi. “The law of praying is the law of believing” This was such a novel idea for me as student years ago. For my entire life as a Catholic and then as a religion teacher, I had thought of the study of theology simply as the exploration of beliefs. Prayer and worship just seemed like something extra or something expressive of what we believed. The principle of lex orandi, lex credendi helped me gain a new appreciation of how and what we pray together in the liturgy and in Catholic devotions.
As we close this season of Advent, it is worth reflecting on how much balance we placed on our preparation for Christmas in both prayer and belief.
In recent years I have unfortunately found myself focusing more on Advent beliefs than Advent prayers. Working for a Catholic publisher, I’ve had many Advent books and devotionals to read during the season. Friends have shared and invited me to sign up for the many Advent video series offered by Bishop Barron, Matthew Kelly, and others. These resources have been helpful in gaining a greater appreciation of the season of Advent, but there was always something missing.
What really makes Advent meaningful are the devotions we share. Lighting the candles on the Advent wreath builds the anticipation of Christmas each week with each new candle. The Jesse Tree helps us relive the stories of Salvation History. Participating in Los Posadas this year will help us experience in a new way the travel of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
For me, in recent years, another devotion has become a part of our families’ collection of Advent devotions. During this final week of Advent, particularly focused on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this devotion becomes even more important.
I invite you to pray the Angelus with me and many others in preparation for Christmas.
What do we believe about the Virgin Mary and what prayer can we practice to pray what we believe?
I can think of no better devotion during the season of Advent, especially this final week, than praying the Angelus. Though we pray it all year, it prepares us in a particular way to celebrate what we believe about Christ. The Angelus helps us meditate on the Annunciation and the Incarnation. We declare God’s saving action in the world through the angel Gabriel and the Holy Spirit coming upon the Virgin. We meditate on Mary’s words proclaiming herself to be a servant of the Lord by pronouncing them with our own lips and aligning our hearts with hers. By abruptly stopping anything we are doing at 6:00 a.m., noon, and 6:00 p.m., we recognize that no matter where we are and what we are doing, the Word is present here among us. The Lord is Emmanuel, God-is-with-us.
We turn to Mary asking for her intercession to be made worthy. What better time to ask this of her than in preparation for the Nativity of the Lord? And if this invitation to pray the prayer couldn’t be more appropriate, the Church’s collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent matches the closing prayer of the Angelus.
Each prayer of the Angelus, makes manifest what we believe this Advent season. While practicing a devotion like the Angelus with memorized prayers may seem receptive and mindless, I believe you will find as I do that the act of praying helps us come to a deeper appreciation of what we believe by letting us experience it for ourselves.
The act of praying the Angelus manifests what we believe about Advent.
To join me and hundreds others in a special commitment to praying the Angelus during Advent, visit AdventAngelus.com.
Download the McGrath Institute for Church Life's app to help you pray the Angelus, 3D Catholic: