There is an old joke that goes like this: A simple farmer went into town to make his annual confession to the parish priest. After hearing the man’s confession and giving absolution, the clergyman gave the man his penance. A couple hours later, the priest was outside taking a walk before lunch when he saw the very same man standing in the town square yelling, “Bong! Bong! Bong!” The clergyman asked a parishioner what was going on, and was told “Fred went to confession this morning and is doing his penance. He was told to do the Angelus.”
The Angelus is not the ringing of bells but the prayer people are reminded to pray by the bells rung three times a day—at dawn (6 a.m.), midday (noon), and dusk (6 p.m.). It is an ancient prayer based on the biblical account of the Annunciation and the Incarnation of Christ. Taking lines from the Gospels of Luke 1 and John 1, the prayer goes as follows:
“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary” (said by the leader or by self if in private).
“And she conceived by the Holy Spirit” (response by congregation or by self if in private).
*** At this point the Hail Mary is said in its entirety by everyone. *** “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord” (taken from Luke 1:38).
“Be it done unto me according to thy word” (taken from Luke 1:38).
*** At this point the Hail Mary is said again in its entirety by everyone. *** “And the Word became Flesh” (taken from John 1:14).
“And dwelt among us” (taken from John 1:14).
*** At this point the Hail Mary is said again in its entirety by everyone. *** “Pray for us O most holy Mother of God”
“That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
“Pour forth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace unto 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.”