The Regina Caeli
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom thou didst merit to bear, alleluia.
He has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray. O God, who through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, didst vouchsafe to give joy to the world; grant, we beseech Thee, that through His Mother, the Virgin Mary, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
According to an account in The Golden Legend, composed between 1255 and 1266. Pope Gregory the Great is supposed to have heard angels singing the verses as the picture of the Virgin which was being carried in procession crossed the river Tiber.
"And because the mortality ceased not, he ordained a procession, in the which he did do bear an image of our Lady, which, as is said, Saint Luke the Evangelist made, which was a good painter, he had carved it and painted after the likeness of the glorious Virgin Mary. And anon the mortality ceased, and the air became pure and clear, and about the image was heard a voice of angels that sung this anthem: Regina cæli lætare, etc., and Saint Gregory put thereto: Ora pro nobis, deum rogamus, alleluia."
This story gained in popularity and it became customary to sing the Regina Caeli at this point during processions. However, the hymn itself does not date to much before 1200 and may be possibly slightly later. Pope Clement VI, then resident at Avignon, dictated that it should be sung in his household. Following an instruction by Pope Benedict XIV in 1743 this prayer has replaced the angelus during the season of Easter.
This prayer reminds us at Easter, and throughout the year for that matter, of how much we have to be thankful for, even in the midst of our daily trials. When our Lord conquered death in His resurrection he opened the gates of Heaven for us to be able to share Eternal Life with Him there, along with his Mother, the saints, and our loved ones!
Christ had prophesied of His rising from the dead during his Earthly ministry, yet His disciples couldn’t fully grasp what He meant until after His Resurrection. Imagine the joy they must have felt when He appeared to them then. They saw for themselves that “He has risen, as he said,” as we read in Matthew’s Gospel (28:6) and in the Regina Coeli above!
In addition, when Jesus said to St. John while on the cross “Behold, your Mother” (John 19:27), He was referring to Mary not just as the beloved disciple's mother but as the mother of all Christians, that is to say our mother as well, as has been noted by theologians over the centuries. We can thank our Blessed Mother for her crucial role in our salvation as our mediator with Him.
As St. Bernard once said “the Eternal Father, wishing to show all the mercy possible, besides giving us Jesus Christ, our principal advocate with Him, was pleased to give us Mary, as our advocate with Jesus.” And in the words of St. Augustine, because Mary gave “flesh to the divine Word,” as the Mother of God, for our redemption, “she is more powerful than all others to help us gain eternal life.”
Although she is Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary is by no means aloof! St. Alphonsus Liguori, in his famous work The Glories of Mary, quotes Blessed Amadeus as saying “our Queen is constantly before the Divine Majesty, interceding for us with her most powerful prayers.”
We can always count on her assistance with the graces we need for our journey towards heaven if we approach her in prayers such as the Hail Mary, the Memorare, Hail Holy Queen, and the Regina Coeli with love and contrition for our sins.
Keep in mind that in our prayers to Mary, we are not worshipping her instead of our Lord but rather worshipping Him through her, as many theologians, such as St. Alphonus and St. Louis de Montfort have stressed in their writings.
Along these lines, speaking of rejoicing, as we do in this prayer, as St. Ambrose once said, “let the soul of Mary be in each of us to magnify the Lord, and the spirit of Mary be in each of us to rejoice in God!”