There was a time in old Naga when at 6 pm Cathedral bells would ring and everybody would pause for evening prayer. Calesas would stop, motor vehicles would come to a halt, and everybody in the streets would stand still to pray the Angelus.

It was one of the most beautiful childhood memories in old Naga.

At home, we would drop everything, face the direction of the Cathedral, as we renewed our devotion in honor of the Incarnation commemorating Archangel Gabriel’s Annunciation to the Blessed Mother. Her “Yes” to God, her “Fiat,” resulted in God becoming Incarnate in her Immaculate Womb.

My mother at home would always lead the prayer:

The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.

And she conceived of 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. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.

Be it done unto me according to thy word.

Hail Mary…

And the Word was made flesh.

And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary…

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Angelus prayer dates back to the year 1263 when the medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher turned saint (St. Bonaventure) initiated the prayer of meditation to honor the Annunciation, from which the Angelus may have originated.

The ringing of the bells heralded the prayers. They consisted of three strokes each followed by a pause, and then nine strokes while the prayer was being completed.

The Angelus may also have originated in the ancient curfew bell, a signal for evening prayer, but as far as we were concerned, it was also our “curfew” to be home or face the consequence of our parents’ “sermon,” or even run the risk of encountering “evil spirits” lurking in the trees and grassy fields surrounding our house in Bagumbayan.

Sad to say, this worldwide Catholic ritual is now a rarity. This used to be practiced countrywide in the Philippines.

I still miss this centuries old practice. In a world of religious pluralism, however, I do not know if this tradition will ever return to Naga, even as I muse how reviving this sacred practice will further solidify Naga’s reputation as the Pilgrim Capital of the Philippines. Why not? After all, haven’t our Muslim brethren preserved their practice of the Adhan, the special call to prayer, as they face the Qibla?

Be that as it may, perhaps we could set aside a little time to practice this devotion again at least once a year during the Christmas season. After all, what is two minutes of meditation in the City of Pilgrims at break of day.

Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ is forthcoming. The Angelus brings more significance to this joyous occasion.

For what could be more joyful than the announcement by the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit and He shall be called Jesus.