Now that we have entered the Easter Season, the Regina Caeli is one of the four antiphons that can be chanted (or recited) to the Blessed Virgin Mary. This prayer is said during vespers or compline within the Liturgy of the Hours. It can also be prayed throughout the day, at the time when the Angelus is said outside of Easter.
It is not fully known who is the original composer of the Regina Caeli, although there are a few traditions. The most popular and evidential lies with Pope St. Gregory the Great as the one who composed a part of the prayer. During the late 6th century, a plague struck Rome. To fight the disease, St. Gregory the Great suggested a procession be made throughout the streets of Rome. He asked all of his clergy to join him in this procession. It began at the Church of Ara Coeli (today: Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli) and ended at Saint Peter’s Basilica. As they walked the streets of Rome, St. Gregory carried the traditional icon written by St. Luke the Evangelist of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On their way to St. Peter’s, they walked past the Castle of Hadrian. It was here where he heard beautiful angelic voices. The astonished Holy Father replied, “Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia!” At once, an angel appeared and wiped out the destructive plague affecting the city of Rome. To honor this supernatural event, St. Gregory the Great transformed Hadrian’s fortress into the Castel of Sant’Angelo, the Castle of the Holy Angel.
The Regina Caeli, as we have it today, was composed between the ninth and twelfth centuries. It began to be recited within Franciscan hermitages around the late twelfth and early thirteenth century. It was eventually added to different chant manuscripts. In 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 rang.
The Regina Caeli is a simple and beautiful request to the Blessed Virgin, who serves as s our Queen interceding and praying for us. Since Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, Our Lady is rejoicing with joy.
Queen of Heaven, 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.