In the Easter Season, which starts on Holy Saturday night and concludes with the seventh Sunday of Easter, Pentecost Sunday, the Regina Caeli is one of the four seasonal antiphons that can be chanted or recited to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is commonly done during Compline (night prayer) during the Liturgy of the Hours. The Regina Caeli is also the prayer that should be chanted or recited in place of the Angelus during the same time frame.
During the late 6th century, a great epidemic hit the entire city of Rome. In order to combat this paralyzing virus, Saint Gregory asked that a procession of prayer be organized.
Beginning at the Church of Ara Coeli, now the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, the Holy Father, along with his clergy, began the prayerful procession through the streets of Rome, which would conclude at Saint Peter’s Basilica. As he walked the streets, the Pope carried what is said to be the traditional icon by St. Luke the Evangelist of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As Saint Gregory approached St. Peter’s Basilica, he along with all the clergy walked by the Castle of Hadrian. It was there he heard the most beautiful angelic voices singing. The amazed Pope replied, “Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia!” Instantly an angel appeared and quickly wiped out the drastic disease that plagued Rome. To bring honor to this supernatural event, Pope Saint Gregory the Great changed Hadrian’s Castle to the Castel of Sant’Angelo, the Castle of the Holy Angel. The words that he stated were also written on the roof of the Church of Ara Coeli.
Although the actual prayer itself is believed to have been composed, as we know it today, between the ninth and twelfth centuries, it is believed that St. Gregory the Great did have a part in the composition of the prayer during his lifetime. According to traditions within Franciscan heritages, the Regina Caeli was being recited in the late twelfth century and early thirteenth century. It was later added to a variety of chant manuscripts.
In the year 1742, Pope Benedict XIV professed that the Regina Caeli was to be prayed in place of the Angelus during the Easter Season when the bells were rung. It’s a beautiful and simple request to the Blessed Virgin as our Queen who can intercede and pray for us. Because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, she is rejoicing with joy.
Queen of Heave, rejoice, alleluia. The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia, has risen as he said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia! For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia!
Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia, quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia, resurrexit sicut dixi, alleluia, ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia. Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
As we end the season of Lent, it is a joyous time to sing and pray with Our Lady knowing that we have been given life over death through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also serves as a good reminder, especially in our current age, that Heaven hears us and will answer our prayers according to God’s will.