The Rosary: The Crowning with Thorns

The Crown of Thorns was of great interest to the Faithful of the Late Middle Ages.  This instrument of torture and mocking was as important as the scourging (perhaps in that it added to the number of drops of blood) and also as important as the cross: it was to house the Crown of Thorns that King Louis IX caused to be built the great Sainte Chapelle 

Although we moderns cannot enter the pious hearts of our ancestors, I think we might see something here, if we open our own hearts to Christ, who is the King of All in All Ages: he is crowned not by his own people, but rather by the Army of the then-King-of-the-World. Although the pattern had not yet started, it was the same way that future Emperors of Rome would be crowned by their legions and then brought to Rome.  But here the crowning is a mocking. The mocking is merciless bullying, but it seems odd to put it here. Why did the soldiers do this?

Recently it dawned on me that Jesus was near collapse after the scourging. Ever see someone get drunk at a college party, pass out on the sofa, and then his fraternity buddies will draw pictures on his face? That’s what I see here. Dress him like a king! Crown him with thorns! Laugh and spit! Hey, this is getting boring, slap him and wake him up… yo, prophet dude, who hit you? Bwahahahaha.

Yet in Christ is fulfilled the real meaning of the Divine Kingship that all monarchs share: not only to rule, but to be a bridge and a sacrifice. It is Gentiles at the beginning of his life who hail Christ as king. It is Gentiles at the end of his life who mock him as king again. Do we Gentiles today claim him as king as the wise men did, in sincerity with gifts and honour; or as the Romans did, in mockery, with pain and blood? When you cast your crowns before your King, does it wound him?

The State crucifies, but it is individuals who mock. The state punishes, but it is people who bully. Jesus, thus, experiences pan at the hands of “Church”, State, and individual people. This is the God of Love.

In praying this mystery, I add the embolism “the Word of God incarnate, crowned with thorns by the Romans” after the Holy Name.

In the meditation below, rather than Byzantine hymnody, I have chosen to use verses from the western hymn, O Sacred Head Sore Wounded. There are rather a few more verses than you may be familiar with! At the end of the post, there is a video to let you hear the melody.

The Third Dolorous Mystery:
The Crowning of Christ with Thorns

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how those cruel ministers of Satan plaited a crown of thorns and cruelly pressed on the sacred head of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

O sacred Head, sore wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

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.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!

How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Hail, Mary, &c.

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

Hail, Mary, &c.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Hail, Mary, &c.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

Hail, Mary, &c.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

Hail, Mary, &c.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
and take away my sorrow by virtue of Thine own!

Hail, Mary, &c.

My Shepherd, now receive me; my Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Hail, Mary, &c.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

Hail, Mary, &c.

Be Thou my consolation, my shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion when my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfolds Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.

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 our Eternal King of Glory, by those sharp thorns wherewith his sacred head was pierced, we beseech thee to obtain, by thine intercession, that we may be delivered from all temptations of pride and escape that shame which our sins deserve on the Day of Judgement. Amen.

The Rosary: The Scourging

JMJ

The Scourging of our Lord Jesus Christ by the Romans – at the command of Pilate – is a favourite visual image: it has more action than the Crucifixion and also more blood.  Movie makers love it: it’s gory and allows them to play others off Jesus as bad guys.  See how cruel the Romans are to this peaceful teacher? Since the Occupied Nation could not do such things to her own citizens, it was the Romans who did it. The scriptures say Pilate wanted to let Jesus go but had him scourged just to make a point.  Roman cruelty towards its occupied peoples. Ever see Spartacus?  Ben Hur?  Romans are often the Bad Guys.

This is the punishment of a criminal by the state and of a heretic by the religious leaders. This is, properly, persecution against a religion: Jesus made theological claims that the Romans and the Jews both rejected. For this they oppressed him.

In mediæval piety there was a great fascination with the scourging: how many times was Jesus struck with how many whips? How many tails on each whip? How many leaded hooks on each tail? The count of the wounds let to a different level: how many drops of blood from each wound? Without flippancy, my first comment is: they had no television.  Church provides all the brightest and most colorful visuals in an otherwise dull life pattern. This is not a visual, however: this is counting and calculation. This is mental play for when there is no pageantry.

When praying this mystery, I used the embolism “scourged at the pillar”:

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

The Byzantine Rite text I modified for this meditation comes from the “Akathist to the Divine Passion of Jesus Christ”, available in full at Monochos. It’s quite a vivid text.  Since approved liturgical sources rarely provide authors and dates, we’re left with guessing: my guess would be Russian and mid to late Victorian era.

The Second Dolorous Mystery:
The Scourging of Our Lord by the Romans

Let us contemplate in this Mystery how our Lord Jesus Christ was most cruelly scourged in the house of Pilate.

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

Having true power as High Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek, Thou didst stand before the criminal high priest Caiaphas. O Lord and Master of all, Who didst accept torture from Thy slaves, accept thy Mother’s prayers for us
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.

Wishing to deliver mankind from slavery to the enemy, Thou didst humble Thyself before Thine enemies, O Jesus, and like a lamb that is dumb Thou wast led to the slaughter, and didst endure wounds all over, that having healed the whole man, he might cry: Alleluia!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, Innocent Lamb, torn by cruel scourges, rescue me from mine enemies! Jesus, High Priest, Who hast entered the Holy of Holies with Thy Blood, cleanse me from fleshly impurity! Jesus bound, Who hast power to bind and to loose, absolve my grievous sins! Jesus, Son of God, remember us when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, Son of God and Son of the Virgin, tortured by the sons of iniquity! Jesus, mocked and stripped, Who givest the flowers of the field their beauty and deckest the sky with clouds! Jesus, covered with wounds, Who satisfied the hunger of five thousand men with five loaves of bread!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, King of all, who instead of a tribute of love and gratitude receivest cruel tortures! Jesus, Who art wounded all the day long for our sake, heal the wounds of our souls! Jesus, Son of God, remember us when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou wast all arrayed in Thy divine blood, O Thou Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment. I know, indeed I know with the Prophet why Thy garments are purple. I, Lord, it is I who wounded Thee with my sins. So to thee Who was wounded for my sake I thankfully cry: Alleluia!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Foreseeing Thee in spirit covered with shame and wounds, the divinely inspired Isaiah cried in horror: We have seen Him, and He had no form or beauty.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, enduring dishonour, Who hast crowned man with glory and honour! Jesus, on Whom angels cannot gaze, slapped in the face! Jesus, Who was struck on the head with a reed, bow my head in humility!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Jesus, Whose bright eyes were darkened with blood, turn away my eyes from beholding vanity! Jesus, Who from head to feet hadst not part whole, make me perfectly whole and healthy! Jesus, Son of God, remember us when Thou comest in Thy Kingdom!
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou wast a spectacle and marvel to men and angels, and to Pilate who said of Thee: Behold the Man! Come, then, let us worship Jesus Who suffered abuse for our sake.
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, Fountain of Patience, through those stripes thy only and dearly beloved Son vouchsafed to suffer for us, obtain of him for us grace to mortify our rebellious senses, to avoid the occasions of sin, and to be ready to suffer everything rather than offend God.  Amen.

The Rosary: The Garden of Gathsemene

JMJ

The Passion in the Garden is Jesus’ last “alone time” before the climax of his ministry.  He often went aside to pray, but, as it were, those might be considered “training prayers” for this one.  He experienced stress, certainly (as seen by the bloody sweat) and probably fear.  He asked his Father if there was another way – even after he had committed to doing this.  See the verses below from Byzantine Holy Week: as God, he himself was among the plotters agreeing to his own betrayal.

For the Orthodox, it is Jesus’ active participation in his own passion that is important: for us mortals, a “passion” implies (as Kallistos Ware points out) the Latin passio, something that happens to us.  For Jesus, it’s something he submits to fully and undertakes willfully.  He allows Judas to sell him to the Jews. He allows the Jews to give him to the Romans. He allows the Romans to nail him to the Cross.  He allows the demons to take him into hell. And then… O, Glorious God of All, what then! Oh, then and what more in your love for us!  Glory to Thee!

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how our Lord Jesus was so afflicted for us in the Garden of Gethsemane that his body was bathed in a bloody sweat, which rand down in great drops to the ground.

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

When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet, Judas the ungodly was darkened with the sickness of avarice; and to lawless judges he delivered the only just judge. O lover of money, look upon him who for its sake hanged himself; flee from the insatiable soul, which dared such things against the Master.

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.

Judas ran, saying to the lawless scribes, ‘What wilt thou give me and I hand him over to thee?’ As they came to their agreement thou, even the object of their agreement, standest among them invisibly agreeing. O thou who knowest the heart, spare our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Because of the raising of Lazarus, O Lord, who lovest mankind, the children of the Hebrews cried out to thee, ‘Hosanna’. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At thy Supper, O Christ our God, thou foretellest thy Disciples, ‘One of you will betray me’. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

For thirty silver pieces, O Lord, and a deceitful kiss, the Jews sought to slay thee, the only lover of Mankind. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

‘Watch and pray that ye may not be tested’, thou saidst to thy Disciples, O our God. But Judas the transgressor did not want to understand.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At the Supper thou nourished thy Disciples and, knowing the plan of the betrayal, thou exposed Judas during it, wishing all to know that it was by thine own will that thou wast handed over, that you might snatch the world from the Stranger.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Today the Creator of heaven and earth saith his own Disciples: The hour has drawn near and Judas who betrays me is at hand; let none deny me when they see me on the Cross, between two thieves; for as man I suffer, and as lover of mankind I save those who believe in me.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Today the Jews send to the Cross the Lord who parted the sea with a staff and led them through the desert. Today with a lance the Romans pierced the side of the One who scourged Egypt with plagues for their sake, and they gave vinegar as drink to the One who rained down the manna as nourishment.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Lord, as thou went to thy voluntary passion, thous saidst to thy Disciples, ‘If ye did not even have strength to keep vigil with me for one hour, how promised thee to die for me? Seest thou how Judas does not sleep, but hurries to betray me to sinner? Rouse thyselves to pray, let none deny me when they see me on the Cross’.
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 Holy Virgin, more than martyr, by that ardent prayer which our beloved Saviour poured forth to his heavenly Father, vouchsafe to intercede for us, that our passions being under the yoke of reason and faith, we may always, and in all things conform and subject ourselves to the holy will of God.  Amen.

The Rosary: Introduction to the Dolorous Mysteries

JMJ

The Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world” was also conceived before the foundation of the world, raise by Joseph, potty trained by Mary, educated in the synagogue of Nazareth, raised from the dead, and crowned in glory from before the foundation of the world. Jesus is God’s eternity participating in our time, but to God things are not sequential. A thing either is or is not. Things come into being, yes: but for God they are not a process. The Dolorous or Sorrowful mysteries are the events at the End of Christ’s ministry. But to God – like all the other events of the life of Christ, they are always present. By his grace (his energy), as we contemplate them, we may enter into them:

  1. The Passion in the Garden
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar
  3. The Crowning with Thorns
  4. The Carrying of the Cross
  5. The Crucifixion, Death, and Burial of Our Lord

Perhaps these are what many people think about when they think of “meditating on the Rosary”.  Any sort of “Affective Piety” or “Pious Visualization” may give one a very stereotyped idea of someone conjuring up a mental image of the Crucifixion or the Scourging and, working themselves into an emotional state, having a good, cathartic cry.

One of the most emotionally moving, “religious feeling” experiences of my life was hearing a sermon on the medical aspects of the Passion of Christ: what one feels when one is so stressed out as to sweat blood, how the purple robe would have soaked up the blood from the scourging and then dried, like a large woolen bandage – which was ripped of Jesus’ back later, opening all the wounds again, tearing off more flesh. I was on a crying jag for about 30 mins after that sermon – which I heard in 1980 on Passion Sunday at the Methodist Church in Acworth, GA. It was one of those things that sticks with you.  The Anglican and later, Byzantine hymns of Holy Week can still leave me an emotional mess because they call to mind, 30+ years later, the image in that sermon. But feelings ain’t faith and no one was ever saved by feeling something.  Faith is a walk, not a breakdown.

We are no more try and feel sadness here than we are supposed to feel or to try and feel sentimental Christmassy thoughts in the Joyous Mysteries or giddy, triumphalism in the Glorious Mysteries. Feelings may, of course, arise: but that’s not the point. We are not here to feel something, but to grow in Christ and to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. So what are we doing here?  We are thanking God for these events – as we do in the other Mysteries – and we are calling them to mind to make their reality present in our lives. We are, in a real sense, participating in them as we are in the other mysteries.

Sequebatur autem illum multa turba populi et mulierum, quae plangebant et lamentabantur eum. Conversus autem ad illas Jesus, dixit: Filiae Jerusalem, nolite flere super me, sed super vos ipsas flete et super filios vestros. Quoniam ecce venient dies in quibus dicent: Beatae steriles, et ventres qui non genuerunt, et ubera quae non lactaverunt. Tunc incipient dicere montibus: Cadite super nos; et collibus: Operite nos. Quia si in viridi ligno haec faciunt, in arido quid fiet?

And there followed him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?

Jesus said, “if they do this to me, imagine what they will do to you when I’m not around!”  We echo our modern, whiny, and self-pitying culture if we are too fast to cry “Horrible Persecution!” when all that’s happening is a change in the tax laws.  We need to be strengthened in our faith by realizing what our God has done for us.  An Anglican priest, well-beloved of me, used to say (in nearly every sermon) that “…God, whose holy name is love, was so willing to share his love with us that he accepted steel in his hands and feet and side…” and then he would charge us in the name of love to do the same.  We need to be mindful of what happened so that we can have it happen to us.

As we enter into meditation on the Dolorous Mysteries, let us remember: this is not the Passion Theater of the Mind (or Heart). This is basic training.

The Rosary: The Transfiguration

In the Mystery of the Transfiguration, God is revealed as he really is: a human man, fully divine, enfleshed, and loving us so dearly. In the Transfiguration, the Son of God is revealed as God the Son. There are some religions that insist the divine has no body. They are wrong. Full stop. They speak after the incarnation after the divine has been revealed to us in flesh. They actively deny Christ who is God and Man and are rejecting God.

The Transfiguration also reveals man as he really is: fully participating in the divine dance, as was intended to be our place before the Fall. Through Christ, the human and divine united, we are made one with God’s divine energies but not his essence: Christ alone bears both humanity and divinity in full without loss or commingling. The only thing he doesn’t carry is sin.

In that both of these unveilings are “new” this is a Transfiguration. But these new things are, actually, things as they really are.

The Transfiguration reveals to his disciples, as the hymns show, that this is God and all that he does he does of his own will.

In praying this Mystery, I add “… who was Transfigured on Tabor” after the Holy Name.

The Fourth Luminous Mystery:
The Transfiguration of Christ on the Mountain

Let us contemplate in this mystery how Jesus is Transfigured on Mount Tabor; speaking with Moses and Elijah, Our Lord appears in radiance, and then the other two – symbolizing the Law and the Prophets – fade away. Christ is Lord of the Living and the Dead, of the Law and the Prophets.

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

When Thou wast transfigured before Thy Crucifixion, O Lord, the mount resembled heaven, and a cloud spread out like a canopy, and the Father bore witness unto Thee. And there were present with Peter, James and John, since they were to be with Thee at Thy Betrayal; so that seeing Thy wonders they might not be dismayed at Thy sufferings.
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.

When Thou wast transfigured, O Savior, on a high mountain, in the presence of Thy chief Disciples, Thou didst shine forth in glory, symbolizing that they who are recognized for the sublimity of virtue, shall also be made worthy of divine glory.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The mountain which was thick with smoke of old hath become now honorable and holy; for that Thy feet did rest on it, O Lord, for the mystery hidden before the ages, Thy Transfiguration before Peter, James and John hath made manifest.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Moses and Elijah, when they conversed with Christ, made manifest that He was the Lord of the living and the dead, and that He was the God Who spake of old in the law and the Prophets, the same to Whom the voice of the Father did bear witness from a radiant cloud, saying, Him do ye hear; for He it is Who by the Cross hath taken captive Hades bestowed life eternal to the dead.
Hail, Mary, &c.

When Thou didst prefigure Thy Resurrection, O Christ God, Thou didst take Thy three Disciples, Peter, James and John, and with them didst ascend Mount Tabor. And at Thy Transfiguration, O Savior, Mount Tabor was covered with light.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Peter, James, and John, not being able to bear the radiance of Thy face and the splendor of Thy raiment, did fall down on their faces kneeling, and being overcome with astonishment, wondered at the sight of Moses and Elijah conferring with Thee on things that were to befall Thee, while a voice from the Father bore witness, saying, This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thy Disciples, they threw themselves on the ground, unable to bear the sight of Thy figure that may not be looked upon, O Word. And the angels did minister in fear and awe, while the heavens were affrighted and the earth trembled when they beheld on earth the Lord of Glory.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The servants of the Word, beholding new and wondrous things, and hearing the fatherly voice on Tabor, cried out rejoicing: This is our Savior, the Element of the ancient covenant.
Hail, Mary, &c.

O Thou Holy One Who hast sanctified the whole universe by Thy light, Thou hast been transfigured on a high mountain, and hast shown Thy Disciples Thy might and that Thou shalt deliver the world from transgression. Wherefore, do we cry out to Thee, O compassionate Lord, save our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

When, O Christ our God, Thou wast transfigured on the mountain, Thou didst reveal Thy glory to Thy Disciples in proportion as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light also enlighten us sinners, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. O Thou Bestower of light, glory to Thee.
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.

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, as thy Son was Transfigured, revealing his glory and the glory of thy maternity, so by thy prayers, help us to be transformed by his divine Passion. Beg him to burn our sins by an immaterial fire, and make us worthy to be filled with his bliss, so that, rejoicing with thee, we may magnify him eternally.

The Rosary: the Preaching of the Kingdom

JMJ

The Proclamation of the Kingdom is a special mystery because it involves not only Christ and it is not limited in time or space. Anywhere the preaching of Christ is embodied in the world the Kingdom is taking place. Of course, the Kingdom here is a Mystery, not fully present outside the presence of a Sacrament: an outward and invisible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.  The Church is most assuredly the Kingdom of God on earth just as the Eucharist is really his Flesh and Blood, but it is only the eyes of Faith that can see it and, sometimes, humans can desecrate it, be it a thief stealing hosts or a gunman “claiming God’s will” in violence; a priest giving communion and not watching to see if the host is consumed, or a bishop bringing his boyfriend to Church: there is sin on earth. And yet the Kingdom of God is proclaimed not as coming, but as here, now.

Sleeper agents, covert operatives.

When you’re at the Post Office and you interact with the Postmistress using God’s grace, when you stand in humility before some perceived “injustice” knowing that you’re working out your salvation, when you reach out in love to some stranger around you – even when “sharing food” is illegal, you’re proclaiming the Kingdom to those around you, you are living in it and holding open a door to invite others in.

Ancient Romans thought Christians were violent revolutionaries, trying to destroy the state, refusing to participate in a Nationalist religion and thus subverting the blessings bestowed on Rome by the heavens. For this they killed Christians. At one time, Americans were afraid of Catholics holding political office because they claimed that Catholics owe allegiance first to the Vatican. I wish that were true, even partially. I pray for the day when such suspicion is raised about any Christian acting in our society and I pray for the day when it really is true for me. Because we’re nowhere near that now. We are, in the words of Douglas Adams, “Mostly Harmless”.  We’ve caved into being nice instead of proclaiming the Kingdom.

The verses I’ve chosen are the clearest proclamation of the Kingdom in the Scriptures: the Beatitudes which are sung nearly every Sunday in the Byzantine Liturgy.

The embolism I use in praying this Mystery is “…proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the world…”

The Third Luminous Mystery:
The Preaching of the Kingdom by Christ and the Apostles

Let us contemplate in this mystery how Jesus proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom, and his invitation to repent over our sins, and our need to grow in faith.

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

In thy Kingdom remember us, O Lord, when thou comest in thy Kingdom.
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.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called the sons of God.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
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.

Most Blessed Mother, by thy intercession grant we heed thy Son’s call to repentance and to follow him. Send the grace of the Proclamation of the Kingdom, into our souls, helping us to obey Christ and to live in His kingdom.

The Rosary: The Wedding At Cana

JMJ

It is true that it is from Christ’s presence at Cana that the Church develops a sacramental idea of marriage.  It is also true that for the longest time marriage was seen as a secular issue with which devout Christians could work out their salvation.  First it was a state of life, governed by the state, which is blessed by the Church – giving it a sacramental grace.  Later it became an action wholly governed by the Church in which the State has always held so many of the cards in hand, that this state of life has always had risks: when the Byzantine Emperors and the English Kings wanted divorces, churches complied.

As St Paul says, the Union of a Husband and Wife is a Mystery of Christ and his Church.  This union of opposites, the merger of the two poles of human nature into one flesh, is how God becomes Man to save Man.  At every wedding, inside every measure, God takes our human water – used for washing dishes – and turns it into Divine Wine.

It is exactly in washing dishes that we find salvation with our spouse.

There is no liturgical commemoration (east or west) of the Wedding at Cana outside of every Wedding Ceremony, so I have take parts of the Byzantine Rite of crowning and marriage.  It’s important to know: in the ER there is no vow. It is the blessing of the priest  – more correctly, God’s response to that blessing – that makes the marriage happen, just as it is his blessing that makes the Eucharist.

Mary’s place here is important for she prays her son to do something.  And he listens to his mother.  From this we draw the idea that she is our Intercessor and Mediatrix before the Divine Throne.

The embolism I use for this:

...blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who heard thy prayers at the Wedding in Cana, changing water into wine. Holy Mary…

The Second Luminous Mystery:
Christ at the Wedding in Cana

Let us contemplate in this mystery the presence of Mary and Jesus in the Wedding Feast at Cana and how Jesus through the intercession of Mary, performed his first miracle and changed water into wine.

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 Eternal God, brought into unity what had been separated and establish an unbreakable bond of agreement; blessing Isaac and Rebecca, and declared them to be the heirs of thy promise.
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 Lord our God betrothed himself to the Church from the nations as a pure virgin.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Lord our God in the beginning created male and female, and it is by you that woman is linked to man as a helper and for the continuation of the human race.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Our God most pure transformed the rib of our forefather Adam into a woman and blessed them saying, “Increase and multiply and have dominion over the earth”.
Hail, Mary, &c.

God declared them both to be one through wedlock, “for because of this a man will abandon his father and mother and be attached to his own wife, and the two shall become one flesh” and “those whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Lord blessed Abraham and opened Sara’s womb, making him the father of many nations. God gave Isaac to Rebecca and blessed her offspring. He joined Jacob with Rachel and from him revealed the Twelve Patriarchs.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Lord accepted Zachary and Elisabeth and declared their offspring to be the Forerunner and God made the Ever-Virgin spring from the root of Jesse according to the flesh, and from her he became incarnate and was born for the salvation of the race of man.
Hail, Mary, &c.

By his ineffable gift and great goodness God was present in Cana of Galilee and blessed the marriage there, to show that lawful wedlock and the begetting of children that comes from it is his divine will.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Lord our God is the sacred Celebrant of the mystical and most pure marriage, Lawgiver of bodily marriage, Guardian of incorruption, loving Steward of our livelihood.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Holy Martyrs, who fought the good fight and were crowned, intercede with the Lord to have mercy on our souls. Glory to thee, Christ God, boast of Apostles, joy of Martyrs whose preaching was the consubstantial Trinity.
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.

Most holy Virgin Mother of God and our mother, as thou wert present with thy divine Son at the wedding of Cana where he heard thy prayers for the young couple, so pray for all thy children united in the sacrament of matrimony that they may be preserved in peace and concord who have been joined to each another. Pray that their marriage be honourable; keep their marriage bed undefiled; and that their life together to be without spot; ask your Son that they may reach a ripe old age, carrying out his commandments with a pure heart.

The Rosary: The Baptism of Christ

JMJ

In the East this event is commemorated on 6 January, which feast is called the Theophany, or manifestation of God.  In the West, the Baptism of Our Lord is commemorated on 13 January: the Octave Day of Epiphany, which feast commemorates the coming of the Magi and the manifestation of the Messiah to the Gentiles. The Byzantine texts celebrate this feast not just as the manifestation of the Messiah but as a full manifestation of the Trinity: with the voice of the Father and the descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of the dove.  This feast then – not just to the Gentiles – but to everyone – is the first full revelation of the One God as a Trinity of Love, the passing of the old covenant, the beginning of the new.

In praying this Mystery, I use the embolism, “Who was baptized in the Jordan by John.

The First Luminous Mystery:
The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan

Let us contemplate in this mystery the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the descending of the Holy Ghost upon him and the Father’s voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, in him I am well pleased”.

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

Make ready, O Zebulon, and prepare, O Nephtali: River Jordan, cease thy flow and receive with joy the Master coming to be baptized. Adam rejoice with our first mother, Eve; hide not as ye did of old in Paradise. 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.

When the Forerunner saw Him Who is our Illumination, Who doth illuminate every man, coming, to be baptized, his soul rejoiced, and his hand trembled.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Behold the Rescuer of Israel, Who delivereth us from corruption. Wherefore, O Christ our God, Who art sinless, glory to Thee.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The hosts of the angels trembled when they beheld our Redeemer being baptized by a servant, and testified to by the presence of the Spirit, while a heavenly voice from the Father cried,saying, Verily, this One on whom the Forerunner placeth his hands, is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The courses of the Jordan received Thee, O Fountain; and the Comforter descended in the likeness of a dove.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Yea, He Who bowed the heavens, boweth His own head; and the clay crieth unto the potter, saying, How dost thou command me to do what is more exalted than my station? It is I who need to be baptized by Thee.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou didst bow Thy head to the Forerunner, thereby crushing the heads of the dragons. And having stood in the streams, Thou didst illuminate the whole creation. Wherefore, let it glorify Thee, O Savior, Thou Illumination of our souls.
Hail, Mary, &c.

When Thou didst choose to save lost man, Thou didst not disdain to put on the likeness of a servant; for it was meet for Thee, O Lord God, to accept what is ours for our sakes; for when Thou wast baptized in the flesh, O Redeemer, Thou didst make us worthy of forgiveness.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou didst appear, O our Savior, to sinners and tax-gatherers out of the multitude of Thy mercy; for where else would Thy light shine but to those who sit in darkness? Wherefore, glory to Thee.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Today the nature of water is sanctified, and the Jordan is cloven, and its waters shall be withheld from flowing; the Master being shown washed therein.
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.

Most Blessed Mother, by thy prayers, beg thy Son to bury us with him in death that we may be raised to walk with him in newness of life; pour upon us the Holy Ghost so that we may be strengthened and guided ever to him and to you, turning away from our sins and running the race set before us.

The Rosary: Introduction to the Luminous Mysteries

JMJ

To the traditional 15 Decades of the Rosary, Pope St John Paul II suggested another 5, the Mysteries of Light or the Luminous Mysteries. He did this in his letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae on 16 October 2002.  Whilst these have been accepted by most Roman Catholics, they are not in very common use by other Christians who prefer to stick with the “traditional Rosary”.  (Some TradCaths also reject them.) These five “new” mysteries are:

  1. The Baptism of Christ
  2. The Wedding of Cana
  3. The Preaching of the Kingdom of God
  4. The Transfiguration
  5. The Mystical Supper

It may surprise some Orthodox – even those Byzantine Rite folks generally supportive of the Western Rite and also Western Rite folks in general – but I advocate the use of John Paul the Second’s “innovation”.  I do so for three reasons:

  1. It does (as the Pope said) expand this devotion to encompass the whole life of Christ.
  2. It expands the meditation to the Holy Sacraments.
  3. It makes (by both 1 & 2 together) the entire meditation more Orthodox.

1. The Whole Life of Christ

The existing 15 Mysteries focus our attention on the Birth and the Death and Resurrection of Christ, but it is the entire presence of God with us that is salvific. The Catechism underscores this:


516
 Christ’s whole earthly life – his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking – is Revelation of the Father. Jesus can say: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and the Father can say: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Because our Lord became man in order to do his Father’s will, even the least characteristics of his mysteries manifest “God’s love. . . among us”.

517 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:

– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
– in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
– in his word which purifies its hearers;
– in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
– and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.184

518 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation: When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a “short cut” to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus. For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.

These five new mysteries then widen out the scope of the prayer to teach that every action of God from the Annunciation (and before) to the Glorification (and beyond) was part of our salvation.

2. The Holy Sacraments

Each one of the Luminous mysteries seems, to me, to point to one of five Sacraments:

  1. The Baptism of Christ – Our Baptism
  2. The Wedding of Cana – Holy Matrimony
  3. The Preaching of the Kingdom of God – Holy Orders
  4. The Transfiguration – Confirmation/Chrismation
  5. The Mystical Supper – The Holy Eucharist

I recognize that #4 is a stretch, but we’re talking poetic meditation here, not doctrinal teaching.

3. More Orthodox

I realize that for some Catholics and also Orthodox (as I mentioned at the top of the post) these things are too new. They are “modernism” because the Pope dared to change something. But he changed a devotion not a doctrine. The Rosary – long beloved in the West – is not part of the universal deposit of the faith, it’s not a teaching of the church. In fact, if considered in this way at all, it falls into the realm of “private revelation” to St Dominic. It cannot be made compulsory. But it is rich in grace, tradition, and piety. There’s no reason not to address the contemporary needs of the Church with this wholly salutary way.

If the main objection that the Orthodox have to the Rosary (as I have heard) is not “it’s Roman Catholic” but rather “too Western” (whatever that means), I think the addition of the Mysteries of Light fixes that. They remove the focus from all the “sad stuff”, widening it out to “all the stuffs”. It makes it a more holistic discussion of the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of the God-Man, or, to use a mid-century modern phrase, the Christ Event.

Those of you who didn’t drop your reading device at the end of the last paragraph are begged to pray for me.  I will wrap up this intro now and on continue the five posts in this series.

The Rosary: The Finding in the Temple

JMJ

The Fifth Joyous Mystery contemplates the time when, as a child, Christ lingered in Jerusalem after his parents had departed for home. The Gospel text relates that they were traveling with a party so large they assumed he was someplace out of sight and didn’t discover he was gone until three days into their homeward journey.  When they got back to Jerusalem they found him teaching in the Temple and he said: “Didn’t you know I would be about my father’s business?” (“Wist ye not,” it says in the Authorized Version.) This event in the childhood of Christ is not commemorated liturgically at all in the West. It only comes up here in the Rosary.

There is, however, a feast in the East called “Midpentecost”. It is celebrated at the half-way point between Pascha and Pentecost, the 4th Wednesday after Pascha. It has no real scriptural warrant: the Gospel used is of Christ crying out “in the middle of the feast” which, of course, would be only the one-week long feast of Passover. But the icon used is “Christ Among the Doctors” which is of the youth Christ – in other words, it’s an icon of the Mystery of the Finding of Christ in the Temple. The liturgical hymns for this feast – such as I’ve used below – are taken from various events in the scriptures as you will see from the texts I used below.

The feast itself is made up: a conflation of events to make a point. That’s not a bad thing; the West does it as well with feasts for the Motherhood of Mary, the Holy Eucharist, and even Trinity Sunday.  The feasts of the Church’s Calendar are not all tied to an historical event that happened on that specific day. The entire Calendar is a teaching tool, an icon, if you will. The Truth of Christ revealed in the Calendar is the reason for the Calendar.

When praying this mystery the embolism I use is:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, teaching the Elders in the Temple. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

The Fifth Joyous Mystery:
The Finding of Christ in the Temple

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how the Blessed Virgin Mary, after having lost her beloved son in Jerusalem, sought him for the space of three days; and at length found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the Doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions.

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 Wisdom of God stands teaching and refuting the unbelieving Pharisees and Scribes, crying out to them with boldness.
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.

Jesus was in the Temple teaching, saying to the doubting Jews, One who thirsts, let them come to me and drink living, eternal water, and they will not thirst for ever.
Hail, Mary, &c.

At thy teaching, O Saviour, the Jews asked, ‘How does this man know letters, never having learned?’ They knew not that thou art the Wisdom ordering the world.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Sending out the rays of thy Godhead, O Christ, thou art a feast of joy for the saved and the cause of our salvation.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Judge not according to appearance, O Scribes and Elders, said the Master, as he stood teaching in the temple, as it is written, at the mid-point of the feast according to the law.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Judge not according to appearance, O Elders and Pharisees: Christ has come, whom the Prophets declared would come from Sion, and call back the world.
Hail, Mary, &c.

If ye believe not my, O Jews, I will show you my Works: why dost thou err, rejecting the Holy One of whom Moses wrote in the Law?
Hail, Mary, &c.

Messiah must surely come, O Jews, and now Messiah has come! So why dost thou err, ejecting the Just One, of whom Moses wrote in the Law?
Hail, Mary, &c.

Standing in the Temple, O Christ, thou spakest with the Jewish people, revealing thy glory, and showing that thou are consubstantial with the Father.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Opening thy lips, O Master, thou proclaimest thine immaculate Father together with the all-holy Spirit, being with them of one nature even after the incarnation. Completing thy Father’s plan, thine own words were confirmed by thy works, O Saviour.
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 blessed Virgin, more than martyr in thy sufferings, and yet the comfort of such as are afflicted: by that unspeakable joy wherewith thy soul was filled when at length thou didst find thy dearly beloved son in the Temple, teaching in the midst of the Doctors, obtain of him that we may so seek him and find him in his Holy Orthodox Catholic Church as never more to be separated from him. Amen.