The Angelus is a Catholic prayer practice that started in the thirteenth century as a tribute to the mystery of the Incarnation. Three times a day believers recite certain verses with three Hail Mary's and a concluding prayer. During this ritual, the church bells ring three tolls for each of the invocations and nine for the concluding prayer.
Influenced by the piety and devotion of his parents, French artist Jean-Francois Millet titled his most famous painting The Angelus. We see two laborers in the field. At the woman's feet lies a basket of potatoes and not far away from her is a wheelbarrow stuffed with empty sacks. Near the man's side is a pitchfork that has been stuck in the ground.
There is a quiet reverence evident here as they pause in prayer at dusk. The man has taken off his hat and gently holds it in his hand; her hands are clasped in prayer. They are both bowing in humility. We can imagine hearing the Angelus ringing from the distance in the church seen on the horizon with the sunset.
For many Christians, this traditional form of devotion is still held in high esteem. But Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century monk in France, worked in a monastery kitchen. As he prepared meals, he came to realize that it is a serious mistake to "think of our prayer time as being different from any other. Our actions should unite us with God when we are involved in our daily activities, just as our prayers unite us with him in our quiet devotions."
We can embrace both kinds of devotion here: the more traditional activity of The Angelus and the awe proclaimed by Brother Lawrence in his classic book Practicing the Presence of God.