Preparing for Prayer

JMJ

ON THE DOMINICAN Calendar today is the Feast of St Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. It is ranked as a Memorial in other places. Since it is a Feast it has its own readings from the propers of the Order. The following, On preparation for prayer from the treatise On the Manner of Praying, attributed to Saint Albert the Great – seems very edifying.


   We should prepare ourselves for prayer. This preparation is of two kinds: remote and immediate.

   Similarly remote preparation is of two kinds: interior and exterior. Interior preparation consists in three things. First, there is the purification of the conscience: If our hearts do not reprove us, we have this confidence in God: that God hears us whenever we ask for anything. Secondly, there is the humbling of the mind, for the Lord hears the cry of the humble and does not spurn their petition. Thirdly, there is the forgiveness of injuries: Whenever you stand to pray, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may in turn forgive you your trespasses.

   Exterior preparation likewise consists in three things. First, there is the fulfillment of the commandments of God, for as Saint Isidore said: “If we do what the Lord commands, we will without doubt obtain what we ask for.” Secondly, there is reconciliation with anyone we have offended: If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother or sister has anything against you, leave your gift before the altar and go; first he reconciled with your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift. Thirdly, there is the practice of fasting and almsgiving which supports prayer, for Isaiah says: Share your bread with the hungry and take the poor and homeless into your house, then when you call, the Lord will hear you.

   Immediate preparation is likewise of two kinds: again, interior and exterior. Interior preparation consists in three things. First, there is personal recollection: Whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in private. Entering into your room is that personal recollection of the heart and closing the door is the maintenance of a spirit of recollection. Personal recollection is accomplished by gathering within oneself the thoughts and emotions which have had free range.

   Secondly, we focus our attention upon the Lord. For we pray in truth when we do not think about other matters. Thus, the soul must first be purified and thoughts about temporal concerns must be set aside so that the pure eye of the heart may be directed truly and simply to the Lord. Let every carnal or worldly thought depart, lest the soul think of anything else than that alone for which it prays. The priest in proclaiming the preface prepares our hearts by saying: “Lift up your hearts,” to which we reply: “We lift them up to the  Lord.” Thus, the heart is closed to its adversary and opened to God alone, lest we have one thing in our hearts and another on our lips.

   How can you be heard by God, you ask, when you cannot hear yourself? You want the Lord to be mindful of you when you are not mindful of yourself!

   This is to offend the majesty of God by negligence in prayer. This is to watch with the eyes and sleep with the heart, while the Christian ought to be watching with the heart even while sleeping. Thirdly, there is the stirring up of devotion to God, which is brought about especially by meditating upon our miserable condition and upon the goodness and mercy of God. In meditating upon our miserable condition we learn what it is necessary to ask for, and in meditating upon the mercy of God we learn with what devotion we ought to ask.

Exterior preparation consists in three things, namely, place, appearance and gesture. With regard to place it is certain that one can pray while standing as well as sitting, or even while lying down. Nevertheless in public prayer we ought to observe the form established by the Church or by the majority of us. With regard to appearance keep in mind that a humble and abject demeanor is appropriate to prayer. With regard to gesture note that it includes genuflecting, lifting up one’s hands, striking the breast, raising or lowering the eyes and countenance, closing the lips or silencing the voice, the shedding of tears, the emitting of groans, sighing, etc.


Kingdom Walking

JMJ

IT’S A NEW GAME TO PLAY with the whole holy family: Kingdom Walking. Get outside, walk your neighborhood, and pray. Use a rosary or read a litany, say the Jesus Psalter or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Get a prayer rope and say the Jesus Prayer. Take on the Rule of 150 Beads if you want to walk three times a day. Get out and offer it up for peace. Here are the rules:

  1. Pray for folks as you see them.
  2. Pray for peace and safety in the neighborhood.
  3. Remember when people see you they will see someone praying:
    • Share the sidewalk
    • Follow traffic rules
    • Be local
    • Share the Gospel.
  4. Don’t be surprise when homeless folks see you:
    • Carry cash
    • Give it away
    • Remember: Christ said, “As you do it to the least of these, you do it to me.”
    • Pray for them
  5. If you pass a hospital, fire house, police station (etc) pray for their safety.
  6. This is the infantry in spiritual warfare.
  7. See how many miles you can walk.

Prayer of the Heart

JMJ

THE WAY OF A PILGRIM is a classic text of 19th Century Russian Orthodox spirituality, carrying forward the tradition of the Jesus Prayer or “the prayer of the heart”. I read the text once, as a new convert to Orthodoxy, because that’s what you do, but I was troubled by many words that seemed to be too newagey for me. They were very triggering for me – since I have a past in that world. What got me was talk about “unifying the heart and the mind”. This sounds (for those with the same history) like certain exercises in Western esotericism. So, on the advice of a wise priest, I didn’t go there. There’s enough in Orthodoxy – indeed in Catholicism as well – that one needn’t get trapped by one or another spiritual practice.

Recently, reading a book for my class in Old Testament, I came across this line:

To an ancient, the brain had no thinking role; it ran the senses of hearing and seeing and smelling. The heart did the thinking, and the kidneys gave the emotional feelings of joy, fear, and sorrow.

Reading the Old Testament, An Introduction, 2nd Ed.
by Lawrence Boadt, Paulist Press, 2012

I’ve been wondering what it felt like to “think in the heart”. I seem to naturally “hear” my thinking voice in my head, between my ears, in my brain. Working on the assumption that there’s no reason – at all – for that voice to located in any one part of our bodies, it seems that it’s set there by social construction: a child is told things from birth about where feelings and thinking (etc) happen inside and so it seems to be true.

Now, here this passage from A Way of A Pilgrim:

He opened the book, found the instruction by St. Simeon the new theologian, and read: ” ‘Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe out gently, and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. Carry your mind, that is, your thoughts, from your head to your heart. As you breathe out, say “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Say it moving your lips gently, or simply say it in your mind. Try to put all other thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient, and repeat the process very frequently.'”

Translation from Russian by R.M. French

You see that that the writer is quoting St Simeon, a writer from the 10th Century. It’s certainly not newage stuff, but, as I mentioned, such language is used in that world too. Carry your mind, that is, your thoughts, from your head to your heart. Such language is quite common in both eastern and western religious traditions. Is is possible that this quest to put the “thoughts” in your heart is, in fact, an attempt to return to the way things were in the past when we all “knew” the heart was were thinking was? In other words, is this ancient and common spiritual practice a way to fix something that went wrong when we let the brain take over the thinking voice? There seems to be some sort of human awareness that this is broken.

The modern world seems to live in data and head-space, as if to say the heart is meaningless (except for “love” by which they mean gushy feelings and sexual pleasure). I have no further thoughts on this at the present time. It seems, though, as if the spiritual traditions of the world only “work” if the heart is doing the thinking.

Prayers Before Work

JMJ

FROM THE OFFICE of Prime in the older breviary, these prayers asking for the intercession of the saints and God’s blessing on the day’s labors happen just before the Monks go out to their various chores. They make a good morning boundary between “work at home” and “home at home”. Pope St Pius X gave us the prayer to St Joseph the Workman which is added as a beginning.


O GLORIOUS ST JOSPEH, model of all those who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously, putting the call of duty above my natural inclinations, to work with gratitude and joy, in a spirit of penance for the remission of my sins, considering it an honor to employ and develop by means of labor the gifts received from God, to work with order, peace, moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from weariness and difficulties, to work above all with purity of intention and detachment from self, having always death before my eyes and the account that I must render of time lost, of talents wasted, of good omitted, of vain complacency in success, so fatal to the work of God. All for Jesus, all through Mary, all after thine example, O Patriarch, St. Joseph. Such shall be my motto in life and in death. Amen.

Sancta María, et omnes Sancti intercédant pro nobis ad Dóminum, ut nos mereámur ab eo adjuvári et salvári, qui vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculórum.
R.  Amen.
May holy Mary, Mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, and all the Holy, Righteous, and Elect of God, make intercession for us sinners to the same God our Lord : that we may be accounted worthy to obtain from him help and salvation.  Who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever.
R.  Amen.
And then is said thrice:
V.  Deus in adjutórium meum inténde.
R.  Dómine ad adjuvándum me festína.
V.  O God, make speed to save me.
R.  O Lord, make haste to help me.
And then is said by the whole Choir in unison:
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper,  et in sæcula sæculórum.  Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.
V.  Kyrie, eléison.
R.  Christe, eléison.  Kyrie, eléison.
V.  Lord, have mercy upon us.
R.  Christ, have mercy upon us.  Lord have mercy upon us.
Pater noster. 
secreto usque ad
V. Et ne nos indúcas in tentatiónem.
R.  Sed líbera nos a malo.
Our Father. 
Which words are said aloud, and the rest secretly to:
V.  And lead us not into temptation.
R.  But deliver us from evil.
V.  Réspice in servos tuos, Dómine, et in ópera tua, et dírige fílios eórum.
R.  Et sit splendor Dómini Dei nostri super nos, et ópera mánuum nostrárum dírige super nos, et opus mánuum nostrárum dírige.
V.  Look upon thy servants, and upon thy works, O Lord, and be thou a guide unto their children.
R.  And the glorious majesty of the Lord our God be upon us ; prosper thou the work of our hands upon us, O prosper thou our handy-work.
V.  Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
R.  Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum.  Amen.
V.  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
R.   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be ; world without end.  Amen.
Orémus.             
Dirígere et sanctificáre, régere et gubernáre dignáre, Dómine Deus, Rex cæli et terræ, hódie corda et córpora nostra, sensus, sermónes et actus nostros in lege tua, et in opéribus mandatórum tuórum : ut hic, et in ætérnum, te auxiliánte, salvi et líberi esse mereámur, Salvátor mundi : Qui vivis et regnas in sæcula sæculórum.
R.  Amen.
Let us pray.             
Vouchsafe, we beseech thee, O Lord God, King of heaven and earth, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the way of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments : that through thy most mighty protection, O Saviour of the world, both here and for evermore, we may be preserved in body and in soul.  Who livest and reignest for ever and ever.
R.  Amen.

The Rosary: Closing Prayers & Suggestions

When praying the Rosary, it is traditional to do one set of five mysteries (eg, The Joyous Mysteries) – also known as five decades – at a time, although another pious practice is to do three Mysteries a day as a minimum.  My personal practice is five decades a day, although I do not get them all at once (more on that below).  At the end of the last decade, including the concluding Gloria, it is traditional to end your Rosary with these prayers:

The Salve Regina 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send forth our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

℣. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
℟. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, thy Son.

O GOD, Who by the life, death, and resurrection of Thy only-begotten Son, hath purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

℣. May the Divine Help remain with us always,
℟. And with those who are absent from us.

℣. May the souls of the faithful through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
℟. Amen.

In my own practice I end each set of five decades this way, but if I have to stop “in the middle” as it were, I  say instead, only this prayer, which is the oldest known prayer to the Blessed Virgin (dating back at least to 250 AD):

Under thy protection we flee, O Holy Theotokos; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.

There are various traditions of how to pray this and on what days to pray what.  You can see various suggestions around the net.  I stick with doing the Glorious Mysteries on Sunday, and starting the Joyous Mysteries on Monday.  However:

The traditional Dominican Rosary, as we have it today, with the three sets of five decades as we have included it in this series, is the method of praying the rosary that survived the Middle Ages.  There were other methods at that time: I’ve heard one scholar say that at one time there were 150 different mysteries, one “Ave” for each.  I don’t know about that… but the point is made that the Rosary went through an evolution before Dominic de Guzman and his Preachers made it popular in a standard form.  It survived that way for nearly 775 years, until Pop John Paul suggested five more mysteries. With these it is the practice to pray this way:

Monday: the Joyous Mysteries
Tuesday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Wednesday: the Glorious Mysteries
Thursday: The Luminous Mysteries
Friday: The Dolorous Mysteries
Saturday: The Joyous Mysteries
Sunday: The Glorious Mysteries

The older format (which I like, I admit) is to use Sundays as sort of a “Seasonal Flavor”:

Monday: the Joyous Mysteries
Tuesday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Wednesday: the Glorious Mysteries
Thursday: The Joyous Mysteries
Friday: The Dolorous Mysteries
Saturday: The Glorious Mysteries
Sunday: The Joyous Mysteries (From Advent until Lent), or the Dolorous Mysteries (in Lent), or the Glorious Mysteries (the rest of the year until Advent).

For me… leaning on both traditions, I like the following:

Monday: the Joyous Mysteries
Tuesday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Wednesday: the Glorious Mysteries
Thursday: the Joyous Mysteries
Friday: the Dolorous Mysteries
Saturday: the Glorious Mysteries
Sunday: The Joyous Mysteries (From Advent until Lent), or the Dolorous Mysteries (in Lent), or the Glorious Mysteries (In Easter), and the Luminous Mysteries during Ordinary Time.

This allows me to add all four traditional Marian Antiphons:
Joyous Mysteries – Alma Redemptoris Mater
Luminous Mysteries – Salve Regina
Dolorous Mysteries – Ave Regina Caelorum
Glorious Mysteries – Regina Coeli

And that’s it. I hope this is useful. Byzantine text is so rich, so meditative. This series was a good thing 5 years ago and seems a good thing now. Do not hesitate to let me know of any feedback.

The Rosary: The Coronation of the Blessed Virigin

JMJ

Our Lady’s coronation by her divine Son as Queen of Heaven is, in fact, the second coronation in the Rosary: the first being that of her Son, himself, by the Romans; but where the Virgin receives a crown of twelve stars from Jesus, he, at the hand of his fellow men, received a crown of thorns.  Jesus entire ministry was taking man into divinity.  Our nature, the stuff of which we are made – each of us, born of woman, born in pain between blood and feces – is raised up to God that we might follow and, here, Mary is the first.

She was the first to carry within her body the God-Man in the flesh: as we do now, after communion, also carry his flesh and blood.  She was the first to open fully her life to the Holy Ghost, as we do (or try to do) daily. She was the first to know the Incarnation, to dance in the new gavotte that God was calling for Adam’s Children.  And so she is the first to be fully divinized, fully en-theosed, to be crowned in heaven.

We too, if we dare, can be filled with the Holy Ghost, bear Christ in our bodies to the world, only fall asleep, never die, and be crowned in heaven. But only if we dare to take God by the hand and dance.  Yet, more than just a prophetic sign for us, Mary is Queen of Heaven and of each of us if we will let her reign.  Her coronation is her confirmation: she is mother of the Church, the untilled field from when sprang the divine wheat, she is the fount of wisdom, the unhewn mountain, the multiplier of wheat, the way-shower, the gate through which the king has passed.  The titles continue for pages and pages.

I’ve taken the verses from the Akathist to the Blessed Virgin which would be a bit long-winded if one were reading these texts as part of a full, five- or fifteen-decade devotional, but as a meditation on this one mystery, they make perfect sense.

The embolism I use for walking or private prayer is: and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, crowning thee Queen of heaven and Queen of my heart.

The Fifth Glorious Mystery:
The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven.

LET us contemplate, in this Mystery how the glorious Virgin Mary was, to the great jubilee and exultation of the whole court of heaven, and particular glory of all the Saints, crowned by Her Son with the brightest diadem of glory.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

To Thee, the Champion Leader, we Thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos: but as Thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do Thou deliver us, that we may cry to Thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst 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.

Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth: Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease! Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam: Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve! Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thoughts: Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels! Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King: Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him Who beareth all! Rejoice, star that causest the Sun to appear: Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation! Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed: Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, initiate of God’s ineffable will: Rejoice, assurance of those who pray in silence! Rejoice, beginning of Christ’s miracles: Rejoice, crown of His dogmas! Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which God came down: Rejoice, bridge that conveyest us from earth to Heaven! Rejoice, wonder of angels sounded abroad: Rejoice, wound of demons bewailed afar! Rejoice, Thou Who ineffably gavest birth to the Light: Rejoice, Thou Who didst reveal Thy secret to none! Rejoice, Thou Who surpassest the knowledge of the wise: Rejoice, Thou Who givest light to the minds of the faithful! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout: Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit! Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind: Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life! Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies: Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness! Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight: Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls! Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession: Rejoice, propitiation of all the world! Rejoice, good will of God to men: Rejoice, boldness of men before God! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, Mother of the Lamb and the Shepherd: Rejoice, fold of rational sheep! Rejoice, torment of invisible enemies: Rejoice, opening of the gates of Paradise! Rejoice, for the things of Heaven rejoice with the earth: Rejoice, for the things of earth join chorus with the heavens! Rejoice, never-silent mouth of the Apostles: Rejoice, invincible courage of the passion-bearers! Rejoice, firm support of faith: Rejoice, radiant token of Grace! Rejoice, Thou through whom hades was stripped bare:Rejoice, Thou through whom we are clothed with glory! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, Mother of the Unsetting Star: Rejoice, dawn of the mystic day! Rejoice, Thou Who didst extinguish the furnace of error: Rejoice, Thou Who didst enlighten the initiates of the Trinity! Rejoice, Thou Who didst banish from power the inhuman tyrant: Rejoice, Thou Who didst show us Christ the Lord, the Lover of mankind! Rejoice, Thou Who redeemest from pagan worship: Rejoice, Thou Who dost drag us from the works of mire! Rejoice, Thou Who didst quench the worship of fire: Rejoice, Thou Who rescuest from the flame of the passions! Rejoice, guide of the faithful to chastity: Rejoice, gladness of all generations! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, uplifting of men: Rejoice, downfall of demons! Rejoice, Thou who didst trample down the dominion of delusion: Rejoice, Thou who didst unmask the fraud of idols! Rejoice, sea that didst drown the Pharaoh of the mind: Rejoice, rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life! Rejoice, pillar of fire that guideth those in darkness: Rejoice, shelter of the world broader than a cloud! Rejoice, sustenance replacing manna: Rejoice, minister of holy delight! Rejoice, land of promise: Rejoice, Thou from whom floweth milk and honey! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, flower of incorruptibility: Rejoice, crown of continence! Rejoice, Thou from whom shineth the Archetype of the Resurrection: Rejoice, Thou Who revealest the life of the angels! Rejoice, tree of shining fruit, whereby the faithful are nourished: Rejoice, tree of goodly shade by which many are sheltered! Rejoice, Thou that has carried in Thy womb the Redeemer of captivesRejoice, Thou that gavest birth to the Guide of those astray! Rejoice, supplication before the Righteous Judge: Rejoice, forgiveness of many sins! Rejoice, robe of boldness for the naked: Rejoice, love that doth vanquish all desire! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride! Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, container of the Uncontainable God: Rejoice, door of solemn mystery! Rejoice, report doubtful to unbelievers: Rejoice, undoubted boast of the faithful! Rejoice, all-holy chariot of Him Who sitteth upon the Cherubim: Rejoice, all-glorious temple of Him Who is above the Seraphim! Rejoice, Thou Who hast united opposites:Rejoice, Thou Who hast joined virginity and motherhood! Rejoice, Thou through whom transgression hath been absolved: Rejoice, Thou through whom Paradise is opened! Rejoice, key to the kingdom of Christ: Rejoice, hope of eternal good things! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Rejoice, receptacle of the Wisdom of God: Rejoice, treasury of His Providence! Rejoice, Thou Who showest philosophers to be fools: Rejoice, Thou Who exposest the learned as irrational! Rejoice, for the clever critics have become foolish: Rejoice, for the writers of myths have faded away! Rejoice, Thou Who didst rend the webs of the Athenians:Rejoice, Thou Who didst fill the nets of the fishermen! Rejoice, Thou Who drawest us from the depths of ignorance: Rejoice, Thou Who enlightenest many with knowledge! Rejoice, ship for those who wish to be saved: Rejoice, harbor for sailors on the sea of life! Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O GLORIOUS Queen of the heavenly host, we beseech you accept this rosary, which, as a crown of roses, we offer at your feet; and grant, most gracious Lady, that, by your intercession, our souls may be inflamed with so ardent a desire of seeing you so gloriously crowned, that it may never die within us, until it shall be changed into the happy fruition of your blessed sight. Amen.

The Rosary: Our Lady’s Death and Assumption

JMJ

Here, at last, is one place where the Romans and the Orthodox might differ in the Rosary – although as recently as the middle of the last century this was not so. When I was a freshman in High School I found at a used bookstore, a book on the Apparitions of Our Lady. It was certainly Roman Catholic, including the stories of Knock, the Miraculous Medal, Lourdes, etc.  It started with a Vita, a Life of the Blessed Virgin and included the stories of her birth and the Presentation in the Temple, of Joseph’s miraculous rod and the like. And in the end, it told of her death: how the Apostles had been drawn from all the ends of the world to witness her death, and how Thomas was not there. How when he arrived, three days later, John took him to the tomb and it was empty: filled with the scent of roses.

This is, essentially, also the Orthodox story of the Life, Death, and Assumption of the Virgin. The death of the Virgin is painted in many icons and many western paintings including Giotto and others.

For some Romans, today, however, Mary did not die. How could she? Since she had never sinned and was free of “original sin” (not an Orthodox teaching per se) how could she be subject to death? Death is the punishment for sin! This is not the case with all Catholics. The New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia makes that clear in the articles on Mary and on her Assumption. Both articles refer to her death. So, again, I’m only talking about some Roman Catholics. I’ve even heard one Catholic Priest use the Orthodox Title for this feast (“Dormition” or “Falling Asleep”) as proof that the East doesn’t believe she died either: it’s a “process so unlike death”, he said, that the Orthodox “call it a falling asleep”. Of course, Orthodox Teaching is that for all Christians death is now only Falling Asleep in the Lord. We will all do it: Just as Mary did.

This Mystery is, thus, a meditation on our own death and a realization that the fear of death is needless as death is but a gateway to victory. In his death, Jesus has turned death into only more life. And so for us, if we die in Christ, we are more alive. As the Mass for the Dead says, “Tuis enim fidelibus, Domine, vita mutatur, non tollitur: et dissoluta terrestris hujus incolatus domo, aeterna in coelis habitatio comparatur.” For to thy faithful people, Lord, life is changed, not taken away; and when the home of this earthly sojourn is dissolved, an eternal dwelling is made ready in heaven.

I have chosen verses from the Feast of the Dormition. For an embolism I usually say, “Fruit of thy womb, Jesus assuming thee, body and soul, into heaven.

The Fourth Glorious Mystery:
The Death and Assumption of Our Lady

LET us contemplate, in this Mystery, how the glorious Virgin, twelve years after the resurrection of Her Son, passed out of this world unto Him, and was by Him assumed into heaven, accompanied by the holy Angels.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

It was fitting for the eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word to see the Dormition of his Mother according to the flesh, the final mystery concerning her, that they might not only see the Ascension of the Saviour from the earth, but also be witnesses to the Translation from earth of her who bore him.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst 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.

She who is higher than the heavens, more glorious than Cherubim and greater in honour than creation, who through her surpassing purity became the vessel of the eternal one, today places in the hands of her Son her all-holy soul. With her the universe is filled with joy and to us is given his great mercy.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The all-blameless Bride and Mother of the Father’s Good Pleasure, who was foreordained by God as his dwelling in a dwelling in a union without confusion, today delivers her immaculate soul to her Maker and God. The angelic powers receive her in a manner fitting God, and she, who is indeed Mother of life, passes over to life, the lamp of the unapproachable Light, the salvation of the faithful, the hope of our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Come, all the ends of the earth, let us call blessed the Dormition of the Theotokos. She has placed her unblemished soul in the hands of her Son. Therefore the world, restored to life by her holy Falling Asleep, celebrates the feast with the angelic hosts and the Apostles.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Come now, on Zion, the holy and living mountain of the living God, let us be glad as gazing on the Theotokos.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Come, you faithful, let us approach the tomb of the Theotokos, and let us embrace it, touching it sincerely with the lips, eyes and brows of the heart; and let us draw abundant gifts of healing, which flow from an ever-owing fount.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Receive from us this burial hymn, O Theotokos; and overshadow us with thy light-bearing and divine grace. Grant victories and peace to the people that love Christ, and to us who sing in thy honour forgiveness and salvation of our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At thy glorious Dormition the heavens rejoice and the Angels exult; the whole earth is glad uttering its funeral hymn to thee, Mother of the Master of all things, all-holy Virgin, who knew not wedlock, who have delivered the human race from the ancestral curse.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At a divine command the chief Apostles hastened from the ends of the earth to bury thee, and when they saw thee taken from the earth to heaven they cried out with joy in Gabriel’s words: Hail, chariot of the whole Godhead; hail, who alone by thy childbirth have joined together things on earth with those on high.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Virgin Mother, Bride of God, who gave birth to life, thou hast passed over to immortal life by thy holy Dormition. Angels, Rulers and Powers, Apostles, Prophets and all creation escorted thee, and thy Son received in his immaculate hands thine unblemished soul.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O MOST prudent Virgin who, entering the heavenly palaces, did fill the angels with joy and man with hope; vouchsafe to intercede for us at the hour of our death, that, being delivered from the illusions and temptations of the devil, we may joyfully and securely pass out of this temporal state, to enjoy the happiness of eternal life. Amen.

The Rosary: Pentecost

JMJ

The Mystery of Pentecost, the Out-Pouring of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles and all of Creation, is the beginning of the fruits of Christ’s actions among us. The Holy Ghost makes all of us divine if we will but let Him into our lives and reform, reshape, heal, cleanse, make whole what is shattered, make up what is lost, and in our weakness to fill us with strength.

Anyone asking “What should we pray for?” should be responded to with one word: “Revival!” This is what every parish, every Christian everywhere should be doing: holding the heavenly doors open for the continued outpouring of the Holy Ghost on us, on San Francisco, on every city, and on the world around us. It is also what all of us should be doing as Christians.  As we are the Body of Christ and as Christ prays for the Father to send the Spirit so should we be likewise doing.  Not for some sort of Benny Hinnesque back-falling of moaning with our mouths flecked with foam.

But for salvation. Peace. Joy. Holiness. Love.  Against these, the only thing standing is our refusal to pray.

The embolism I use is “sending us the Holy Ghost with his father.

The texts I’ve woven in below come from the Vespers and Matins for Pentecost.

The Third Glorious Mystery:
The Coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost

LET us Contemplate in this Mystery, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, being seated on the right hand of God, sent, as He had promised, the Holy Ghost upon His Apostles, who, after He was ascended, returning to Jerusalem, continued in prayer and supplication with the blessed Virgin Mary, expecting the performance of His promise.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

Marvelous things have all the nations seen this day in the City of David, when the Holy Ghost came down in tongues of fire, as Luke, God’s mouthpiece, declared, saying: When Christ’s Disciples were assembled, there came a sound as of a mighty wind, filling the whole house where they were sitting; and all began to speak with strange words, new doctrines, wondrous teachings of the holy Trinity.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst 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.

The Holy Ghost always was, and is, and ever will be, with neither beginning nor end, but always together with the Father and the Son; life and giver of life; light and bestower of light; goodness itself and source of goodness; through whom the Father is known and the Son glorified and by all is known, one power, one order, one worship of the holy Trinity.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Holy Ghost is light and life a living and spiritual fountain to all. Spirit of wisdom, Spirit of understanding; good, right, spiritual, ruling all, and cleansing faults. God who makest us Divine; fire from fire, speaking, working, distributing the gifts of grace; through whom all the prophets and Apostles of God with the Martyrs have been crowned. Strange tidings, wondrous sight: fire divided in the distribution of gifts.
Hail, Mary, &c.

In sending down thy Spirit, Lord, to the Apostles as they were sitting, then the children of the Hebrews saw it and were beside themselves with amazement; for they were hearing them speaking in other, strange tongues, as the Holy Ghost gave utterance; for though simple, they were made wise; and having caught the nations in thy net, the Apostles preached things divine. We also cry out to thee in joy: Thou hast appeared on earth saving us; Glory to thee, O Lord!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Once tongues were darkened because of the presumption of building the tower; but now tongues are enlightened through the glory of the knowledge of God. There God condemned the impious for their offence; here Christ has enlightened the fishermen with the Holy Ghost. Then discord was wrought as punishment; now concord is renewed for the salvation of our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed art thou, Christ our God, who hast revealed the fishermen to be most wise by sending down to them the Holy Ghost, and through them thou hast drawn the world in thy net: Lover of mankind, glory to thee!
Hail, Mary, &c.

When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, he parted the nations; when he divided out the tongues of fire, he called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the All-holy Spirit.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Holy Ghost gives all things: making prophecies flow, perfecting priests, teaching the unlettered wisdom, revealing the fishermen to be theologians, welding together the whole body of the Church. Consubstantial and equal in majesty with the Father and the Son, our Advocate, glory to thee!
Hail, Mary, &c.

We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, who hast saved us.
Hail, Mary, &c.

O Heavenly King, the Comforter and Spirit of Truth! Who art everywhere present and fillest all things. Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, O Good One!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O SACRED Virgin, Tabernacle of the Holy Ghost ! we beseech you obtain, by yours intercession, that this most sweet Comforter, whom your beloved Son sent down upon His Apostles, filling them thereby with spiritual joy, may teach us in this world the true way of salvation, and make us to walk in the path of virtue and good works. Amen.

The Rosary: The Ascension

JMJ

Our Lord’s Ascension is the first evidence that the “key has changed” as I noted in the last mystery: the Eastern liturgical texts speak of how amazed the Angels are at seeing one of our race of men entering into the Heavens.  The Psalm text, “Who is this king of glory?” is read as the angels asking each other (like the guests in Tevye’s dream) “Look! Who is this? Who comes here? Who?”

It’s a mortal man now immortal and a divine being now dead and alive again.

The King of All the Ages, by gift of his Father, is one of us.

And there is no “one of us” there is only “All of Us”.  As in Adam, all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The embolism I use is “the incarnate Word of God ascending to His Father’s throne.”

The Second Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Christ

LET us contemplate, in this Mystery, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, forty days after His resurrection, ascended into heaven, attended by angels, in the sight, and to the great admiration of His most holy Mother, and His holy Apostles and Disciples.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

The choirs of Angels were astounded when they saw Christ, the mediator between God and mankind in the highest with his flesh, while with one voice they sang a hymn of victory. To God, who appeared on mount Sinai and gave the law to Moses, who saw God, and who was taken up in the flesh from the mount of Olives, let us all sing; for gloriously he has been glorified.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst 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.

O Christ, Giver of life, lover of humankind, thou wentest up to the Father and exalted our race in thine ineffable compassion. The ranks of Angels, as they saw thy mortal nature going up, O Saviour, were astounded and without ceasing sang thy praise.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The choirs of Angels were amazed, O Christ, as they saw thee being taken up with thy body, and they sang the praise of your holy Ascension. Human nature, which had fallen by corruption, thou didst raise, O Christ, and by thine ascension thou hast exalted and glorified us with thyself.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Lift up the heavenly gates, for see, Christ the King and Lord, wearing his earthly body, is at hand, said the powers below to those above. When thou soughtest Adam, who had been led astray by the deceit of the serpent, O Christ, as thou hadst clothed thyself in him, thou ascendedst and took thy seat as equal sovereign on the Father’s right hand, while the Angels sang thy praise.
Hail, Mary, &c.

As the Saviour had ascended to the Father with his flesh, the hosts of Angels were struck with amazement, and cried out: Glory, O Christ, to thine ascension! The angelic Powers cried out to those above: Lift up the gates for Christ, our King; whose praise we sing, together with the Father and the Spirit.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus the Giver of life, taking those he loved, ascended the mount of Olives and blessed them and, riding on a cloud, he came to the Father’s bosom, which he had never left. The whole world, visible and invisible, keeps the feast with gladness; Angels and humans leap for joy as they glorify without ceasing the Ascension of the One who by his goodness was united to us in the flesh.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou didst fill the universe with gladness, merciful Lord, taking thy place in mortal flesh among the powers on high. The angelic powers, seeing thee thus lifted up, cried out: Lift up the gates for our King!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Strange was thy Birth, strange thy Resurrection, strange and fearful thy divine Ascension from the mount, O Giver of life, of which Elias was an icon when he went up in a four-horse chariot, singing thy praise, O Lover of Mankind.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Angels came and cried out, O Christ, to thy Disciples: In the same way ye have seen Christ going up, he will come in the flesh as just Judge of all.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Appearing in the flesh, thou didst join in one things that were formerly separated, O Lover of mankind; and as thy Disciples watched, O Merciful, thou wert taken up to the heavenly places. Why are the garments red of the One who was united to the solidity of flesh? said the holy Angels, as they saw Christ bearing the divine marks of his precious passion.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O MOTHER Of God, comforter of the afflicted as your beloved Son, when He ascended into heaven, lifted up His hands and blessed His Apostles as He was parted from them; so vouchsafe, most holy Mother, to lift up your pure hands to Him on our behalf, that we may enjoy the benefits of His blessing, and of yours, here on earth, and hereafter in heaven Amen.

The Rosary: The Resurrection

JMJ

As the Funeral Mass says, “For thy faithful people, O Lord, life is not ended, but changed.” This Mystery changes the key signature of the entire work. What went before – both joy and sorrow – now has meaning. What comes after now is possible – for it wasn’t at all possible before. I ascend to my Father and your Father. He wasn’t our Father before: save in the law. Now, if we are in Christ, in the Resurrection, we are a New Creature. The Old Man is passing away: God is our Father. Now we are the very Sons of God in Christ, “buried with him in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life”.

My own words fail me here. So I will resort, in this mystery, to the Paschal Homily of St John Chrysostom. If these seem wordy, remember: the little extra verses are for reading while you pray. For “on the go” praying (I love the Rosary for walking), just use an embolism.

The embolism I use is the Paschal Troparian:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Recently I found another collection of embolisms for the Rosary on this page.

The First Glorious Mystery:
The Resurrection of Christ

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how Our Lord Jesus Christ, triumphing gloriously over death rose again the third day, immortal and impassible.

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival. If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord. If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst 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.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!
Hail, Mary, &c.

You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
Hail, Mary, &c.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into Hades and took Hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted His flesh!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Hell was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains! It took a body and came upon God! It took earth and encountered Ηeaven! It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!
Hail, Mary, &c.

O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
Hail, Mary, &c.

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept. To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

GLORIOUS Virgin Mary, by that unspeakable joy which you did receive in the resurrection of your Divine Son, we beseech you obtain for us of Him, that our hearts may never go astray after the false joys of this world, but may be for ever wholly employed in the pursuit of the only true and solid joys of heaven. Amen.