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.

The Rosary: The Presentation

JMJ

Candlemas is one of my favourite feasts. The following from the Catholic Encyclopedia shares a little bit of the history of the feast:

According to the Roman Missal the celebrant after Terce, in stole and cope of purple colour, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which must be of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity, whilst the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, “Nunc dimittis”. The antiphon “Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel” is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons. During the procession which now follows, and at which all the partakers carry lighted candles in their hands, the choir sings the antiphon “Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion”, composed by St. John of Damascus, one of the few pieces which, text and music, have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin. The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem. It forms an essential part of the liturgical services of the day, and must be held in every parochial church where the required ministers can be had. The procession is always kept on 2 February even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to 3 February. Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St. Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The “Adorna” was preceded by the antiphon “Ave Maria”. While now the procession is held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, “Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel”. At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory, “Gaude Maria Virgo” or the prose, “Inviolata” or some other antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin.

The mention of the pagan feast of the Lupercalia is because of the lamentable German Protestant “scholars” and their anti-Catholicism attempting to show that every Christian tradition handed down was really a pagan custom.

The Blessing of Candles has found its way into the Slavonic (at least) Orthodox practice. One source indicates that the Ukrainians may have brought it into the Orthodox Church (from Rome) and thence to the other Slav churches.  I remember being quite surprised at seeing the blessing of Candles in my OCA parish, but the west got the Feast from the East – at least some backwash is seen to happen as well.  The Russians also took bells and their blessings from the West.

Below I have woven in texts from the services of February 2nd in the Byzantine Rite – mostly from Vespers the night before.  When contemplating this Mystery while walking, I add an embolism like this:

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

The Fourth Joyous Mystery:
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the day of her Purification, presented the Child Jesus in the Temple, where holy Simeon, giving thanks to God, with great devotion received him into his arms.

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

Now let the heavenly gate be opened. God the Word, begotten beyond time from the Father, has been born from a Virgin, taking flesh, for as he is good he wishes to call back mortal nature and set it at the Father’s right hand.
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 Word uncircumscribed, above all being, who rides in glory on the heavenly thrones, Simeon takes into his arms and cries, ‘Now release me, according to thy word, my Saviour, the salvation and delight of the faithful’.
Hail, Mary, &c.

When he saw thee, the Word begotten from the Father before the ages, as an infant, wondrous Simeon cried out, ‘I quake and tremble to hold thee in my hands, my Master. But, I beg thee, now release thy servant in peace, for thou art compassionate’.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Today the holy Mother, who is higher than the Holy Place, has come to the Holy Place, revealing to the world the Maker of the world and the Giver of the law. Simeon the Elder took him in his arms and cried with veneration, ‘Now release thy servant. For I have seen thee, the Saviour of our souls’.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Hail, full of grace, Virgin Mother of God, for from thee there dawned the Sun of righteousness, Christ our God, who enlightens those in darkness. Be glad too, righteous Elder, for thou receivest in thy embrace the Liberator of our souls, who grants us also resurrection.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Say, Simeon, whom dost thou carry in thy arms, as thou rejoicest in the temple? To whom dost thou cry and shout aloud, ‘Now I have been set free. For I have seen my Saviour’? ‘This is he who was born from a Virgin. This is the Word, God from God, incarnate for our sake and who saves mankind. Hail, Mary, &c.

Receive, Simeon, the One whom Moses in the dark cloud saw of old giving the Law on Sinai, now become a babe and subject to the Law. This is he who spoke through the Law. This is he who was told of in the Prophets, incarnate for our sake and who saves mankind.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Come, let us too, with songs inspired, go to meet Christ. Let us receive him, whose salvation Simeon saw. This is he whom David proclaimed, and who spoke through the Prophets, was incarnate for our sake and who proclaims by the Law.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Let heaven’s gate be opened today. For he who is without beginning, the Word of the Father, taking a beginning in time, yet not abandoning his godhead, is being willingly brought into the temple of the law as a babe of forty days by a Virgin Mother, and the Elder receives him in his arms.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The servant cries to the Master, ‘Release me, for my eyes have seen thy salvation’. Thou hast come into the world to save the human race. Lord, glory be 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.

O Holy Virgin, most admirable example and pattern of obedience, who didst present the Lord of the Temple in the Temple of God, obtain for us, of thy Blessed Son, that, with holy Simeon and devout Anna, we may praise and glorify Him forever. Amen.

The Rosary: The Nativity

By way of introduction to the Third Joyous Mystery of the Rosary, please remember the scripture: Jesus was born in to a family that owned its own business. Jesus was born in a manger not because no inn would house a poor pregnant woman, but rather because the inns were full. Church tradition tells us that Joseph was chosen by Mary’s family because he was wealthy enough to care for her. He was much older than she, having at least one fully grown son already. Some traditional images of the holy family show St Joseph with grey hair. Please get all that modern political theory about a poor homeless family out of your Christmas meditations.

The Third Joyous Mystery: The Nativity

Let us contemplate, in the Mystery, how the Blessed Virgin Mary, when the time for her delivery was come, brought forth our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, at midnight, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the inns of Bethlehem.

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

Christ is born, glorify him! Christ comes from heaven, meet him! Christ is upon earth, rejoice! Sing to the Lord all the earth; and let all raise the hymn with joy, for 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.

Shepherds abiding in the fields had a vision of light which filled them with fear; for the glory of the Lord shone round them and an Angel crying aloud: Sing praises, for Christ is born.
Hail, Mary &c.

At the word of the Angel the armies of heaven cried out: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.
Hail, Mary &c.

To the Son begotten of the Father without change before the ages, and in these latter times without seed incarnate of a Virgin, to Christ God let us cry out: Holy art thou O Lord!
Hail, Mary &c.

The Magi, called by a star, are the first fruits of the gentiles brought to thee as an infant in a manger; sceptres and thrones did not astonish them, but utter poverty; for what is meaner than a cave, what is more humble than swaddling clothes?
Hail, Mary &c.

Let heaven rejoice and let earth be glad the Lamb of God is born on earth, granting redemption to the world. The Word who is in the bosom of the Father comes forth from the Virgin without seed.
Hail, Mary &c.

Rod of the stem of Jesse’s and it’s blossom forth, O Christ, thou springest from the Virgin, the shadowed covered mountain; thou art incarnate from her who knewest not wedlock, and are yet God not formed of matter!
Hail, Mary &c.

As thou art God of peace and Father of mercies, thou hast sent us thine Angel of great counsel, who granting us peace; so guided by the knowledge of God, watching before dawn we glorify thee, only lover of mankind’.
Hail, Mary &c.

Christ our God, whom the Father begot from the womb before the morning star and who holds the reins of the immaculate Powers, is laid in a manger of dumb beasts; he is swaddled in rags, but looses the tangled cords of our sins.
Hail, Mary &c.

A young child has been born from Adam’s race: a Son given to believers; this is the Father and Ruler of the world to come, the Angel of great counsel; the mighty God who holds by his authority all creation.
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 pure Mother of God, through thy virginal and most joyful delivery, whereby thou gavest to the world thine only Son, our Saviour, obtain for us, we beseech thee, through thine intercession, the grace to lead such pure and holy lives in this world that we may become worthy to sing, without ceasing, the mercies of thy Son, and His benefits to us given by thee. Amen.

The Rosary: The Visitation

JMJ

The second of the five Joyous Mysteries is known as the Visitation and commemorates the visit of our Blessed Lady to St Elizabeth, the mother of the Forerunner, John Baptist.  The Visitation is a later-comer to the Calendar and devotional life of the Western Church, having been introduced by St Bonaventure in 1263. The Franciscans, in their devotions to the Ever-Virgin, spread the feast throughout the Church. It was extended to the entire Western Church by Pope Urban VI. The feast, with a vigil and an octave, was assigned to 2 July, the day after the octave of St. John, about the time when Mary returned to Nazareth. It did not arrive in the liturgical East until the mid-19th Century, and it is not, even now, widely celebrated. It is reported to have a service approved for use in the Orthodox Church, but no amount of Googling could find the text of the service, just copies of the same report over and over.

As is related in the Gospel text, when Mary said “Shalom!” the infant prophet, still in the womb of his mother, leapt for joy. Hearing of the baby’s action in utero the Blessed Virgin Mary uttered her poem in praise of God, the Magnificat. In the Byzantine rite, this is the Matins Gospel for nearly all the feasts of the Theotokos. The Magnificat is sung as the 9th Ode of the Canon in every Matins service as it also is part of every Vespers in the West. Even though in most Byzantine parochial practice all the other parts of the Canon get skipped for expediency, the 9 Ode is still sung in full.  Since this form is familiar to most users of the Byzantine rite, I will use it for the meditation on this mystery.

When away from a prayerbook and praying this mystery, I use the embolism as below.

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

As before, the introductory comment and the closing prayer comes from The St Ambrose Prayerbook, available from Lancelot Andrewes Press.

The Second Joyous Mystery: The Visitation

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how the Blessed Virgin Mary, understanding from the Angel that her cousin St Elizabeth, had conceived, went in haste into the mountains of Judea to visit her, and remained with her three months.

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 

My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
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.

For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Hail, Mary, &c. 

For he that is mighty hath magnified me; and holy is his Name. And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
Hail, Mary, &c.

He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
Hail, Mary, &c. 

He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek;.He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
Hail, Mary, &c. 

He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
Hail, Mary, &c. 

O thou who from thy virginal loins ineffably lentest a body unto the Luminary that was before the sun, even God, Who hath dawned upon us, and dwelt among us in the body: O blessed and all-pure Theotokos, thee do we magnify.
Hail, Mary, &c. 

He that made the water to gush from the cloven rock for the disobedient people, to our joy granteth thee to the obedient nations as the fruit of barren loins.
Hail, Mary, &c. 

O abrogation of the harsh ancient sentence, uprighting of our first mother, cause of God’s kinship with our race, and bridge unto the Creator: O Theotokos, thee do we magnify.
Hail, Mary, &c. 

Thou art the mystical paradise, O Theotokos; for that thou, being untilled, didst bud forth Christ, by Whom was planted on earth the life-giving tree of 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, spotless Mother of humility, by that exceeding love which moved thee to visit thy holy cousin St Elizabeth, obtain for us, through thine intercession, that our hearts being visited by thy divine Son, and freed from all sin we may praise and thank Him for ever. Amen.

The Rosary: The Annunciation

JMJ

The first decade of the Holy Rosary is in honor of the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel came to Blessed Mary, the Ever-Virgin, and, greeting her, offered her the chance to become the mother of her Creator. Her acceptance of this greeting is the beginning of our salvation. One traditional way of meditation on the mysteries is to add a verse of scripture.  In these posts I will be added a liturgical verse from the Byzantine Rite, to borrow from Ghostbusters, I will be “Crossing the Streams”.

Another way to add to the meditation is to add a short phrase, called an embolism, to indicate the mystery after the words, “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…”  For example, in this mystery, you might say the Hail, Mary like this:

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

I find this method very useful when I am walking and praying the Rosary, as on my way to work.

The First Joyous Mystery: The Annunciation

Let us contemplate, in this Mystery, how the Archangel Gabriel saluted our Blessed Lady with the title, Full of  Grace, and declared unto her the Incarnation of our Lord, God, and Saviour 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

In the sixth month the archangel was sent to the pure Virgin. And as he opened his mouth and said to her: Rejoice! And he announced to her that from her will come the Redeemer. And having accepted the greeting with faith, she conceived God.
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. 

Having flown down from the vaults of Heaven to Nazareth, Gabriel cried the greeting unto Mary the Virgin: Rejoice, O all-pure Maid; thou shalt bring forth a Son Who existed ere Adam was: He is the Maker of all, and the Ransomer of all them that cry Rejoice to thee.
Hail, Mary, &c.

From Heaven Gabriel brought the good tidings full of joy unto the holy Virgin, crying out Rejoice to her. In thy womb shalt thou both conceive and contain Him Whom all things cannot contain, and shalt be seen as the Mother of Him that shone from the Father ere the morning star.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The Theotokos, being the living tabernacle of God, shall never be touched by an unclean hand. But the lips of believers shall sing unto her ceaselessly with the voice of angels, crying joyfully:
Hail, Mary, &c.

How dost thou overflow with milk, O undefiled Virgin? Verily, thou hast appeared as a strange manifestation, unutterable by human tongue, transcending nature and the bounds of the laws of birth.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The God-inspired Scriptures, O Mother of the Highest, have spoken of thee mystically; for Jacob, when he saw the ladder of old, which was a foresign of thee, cried: This is the ascent of God.
Hail, Mary, &c.

The bush and the fire did reveal to God-beholding Moses a wonderful miracle. And seeking the fulfillment thereof with the passing of time, he cried, saying, I shall behold her who is a spotless Maiden, who shall be addressed with rejoicing as the Theotokos.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Thou hast transcended the bounds of nature, O Maiden, having conceived God in an ineffable manner; for being of a perishable nature, thou was exempted in thy birth-giving from that which pertaineth to mothers. Wherefore, as is meet we say:
Hail, Mary, &c.

Now the beginningless Father’s own co-eternal Word, in His extreme compassion and immeasurable mercy, parting not from things above, cometh below, to take pity on us who fell; and having taken a form that is not His own, He assumeth Adam’s poverty.
Hail, Mary, &c.

Behold, now is our recall made manifest; for God is united with mankind in an ineffable manner. And at the voice of the archangel error hath vanished; for the Virgin hath received joy and earthly things have become heavenly, and the world is free from the ancient curse.
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 Mary, Queen of Virgins, through the most high Mystery of the Incarnation of thy beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, wherein our salvation was begun, obtain for us, through thy most holy intercession, light to understand the greatness of the benefit He hath bestowed upon us, in vouchsafing to become our Brother, and in giving thee, His own beloved Mother, to be our Mother also.  Amen.

The Rosary: Introduction to the Joyful Mysteries


JMJ

The Joyful Mysteries are those events at the beginning of the life of Christ:

  1. The Annunciation of the Archangel to Mary
  2. The Visitation of Our Lady to St Elizabeth
  3. The Nativity of Our Lord
  4. The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple
  5. The Finding of Christ teaching among the Elders in the Temple

Each one of these represents a direct interplay between Our Lady and Our Lord.  These are called Joyful because of the deep joy they signified to Mary, but also to us! The joys of Lady Day in March and Christmas in December, of Circumcision and Candlemas.

The first two can seem as if Christ is very passive – even missing – but it should never be forgotten that Christ is God in the Flesh: he is never passive, no matter how it may seem to us. But he is never over-ruling either. Mary was asked if she would partake of this joy and she consented. Likewise in the Visitation, it was Christ who made the Forerunner leap for joy, but it was at his Mother’s actions and words.

His actions for our salvation have been the divine plan of the ages.  Fr John Behr says that Protestantism can make it sound like God made the world, man messed it up, and Christ’s Life, Death, and Resurrection are a sort of “Plan B”.  But God knew from the beginning, from before the beginning how Man’s freedom would take him away: As the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world so was he incarnate, born, fed on his mother’s milk, bounced on Joseph’s knee, and lost and found in the temple, all from the foundation of the world. The Mysteries of the Incarnation were always there, waiting for Man’s freedom to be ready to participate in the Divine Dance: that’s the Doctrine of Synergy.  We are saved in a dance with God, not by “following your bliss” or by “submission” to a divine override, but by participation.

The Joyous Mysteries are the revelation of the Dance.  All of Creation from “let us make…” to “it is finished” were the opening measures of it. Praying the Rosary will draw you into the same dance by letting you hear the same music.

Rosary with Byzantine Meditations

JMJ

Introduction

When I was exploring Orthodoxy (2000-2001) and after I had converted, there was a massive jettisoning of anything Western. Any of my friends or long-time readers of the several incarnations of this blog can confirm this. Bye bye Mr. Francis; bye bye Mass; bye bye Mass Cards, bye bye Advent and Advent Wreaths; bye bye novenas; bye bye almost all western saints (even pre-schism ones); bye bye only-blessed-but-not-Saint Augustine, etc, etc. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! The Rosary was not, however, only just more jetsam. A member of what was then called “The Convert Mailing List” responding to yet another “Flush-The-West” rant, pointed out that “the Little Psalter of Our Lady” was a favourite of St Seraphim of Sarov. So was planted the seed for this series of posts, even all these years later.

The Rosary has therefore been a part of my Orthodox journey, although I’ve not been very faithful in recitation of it. Let me commend the Rosary to you in this series of posts, as a portal to Paradise and a bit of it here on Earth, and as sure guard against temptation: a handrail, if you will allow the image, strung by Our Lady along the Ladder of Divine Ascent to make the assay easier for those of us who are weakest in our Spiritual Strength.

You will, perhaps, be familiar with this form of the beads used for counting the prayers:

A circle of beads is divided into five sets of ten, with single, larger beads interspersed. From the “bottom” of the Rosary hangs a pendant of a cross, a larger bead, and three smaller ones in a single strand.  Each section of ten beads is called a decade.  The traditional prayer counted on the smaller beads is the Hail Mary, or the Ave from the Latin Ave Maria. The larger beads mark an Our Father. One complete decade, then, is an Our Father and ten Aves. At the end is added a “Glory be to the Father” before continuing on to the next decade. One other prayer is used, the Apostle’s Creed, which is said on the Cross itself. There are some prayers used by tradition at the ending of a recitation: we’ll get to those by the end of this series of posts. In writing about the Rosary we will begin with the Holy Cross and proceed, in a series of posts, through the 15 Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, dedicating one post to each Mystery. There is, in Roman Catholic tradition, one other prayer used, called the Fatima Prayer, because it was given by Mary to the visionaries in Fatima. We will discuss this prayer in a later post, along with the five mysteries added to the Rosary by the Sainted Pope John Paul II.

These posts were originally publised in 2015. Fun to see them 5 years later: I think they’ve aged well.

Text of the Prayers Used in the Rosary

Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, ‘Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen. 

The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)
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 Angelic Salutation (Hail Mary) 
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 Minor Doxology (Glory Be)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Pendant or Introductory Prayers to the Rosary

There are different ways to begin the Rosary. Since the Rosary was begun by Dominicans (and is still the special devotion of the Order), and this is my blog, it seems good to use the Dominican way of beginning. First the Original form of the Hail Mary is still used, without the second half that was added during the Black Death. Then the double opening to the morning office is used. In fact, the Hail Mary in this form was the Invitatory for the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary so this three-fold opening underscores the Rosary as the daily office of the Laity.

(In what follows, if the Rosary is said in a group, the italic text is the response.)

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

O Lord open my lips.
And my mouth shall declare thy praise.

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

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

(Not in Lent, add: Alleluia)

At this point I find it helpful, by way of reminder to the aged, to announce to myself, which Mysteries I’m about to pray and to recite them as a list.

The Joyous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary:
The Annunciation
The Visitation
The Nativity
The Presentation of our Lord
The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple 

The Luminous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary
The Baptism of Jesus
The Wedding at Cana
The Preaching of the Gospel
The Transfiguration
The Institution of the Eucharist

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary:
The Agony in Gethsemane
The Scourging at the Pillar
The Crowning with Thorns
The  Carrying of the Cross
The Death and Burial of Jesus

The Glorious Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary:
– The Resurrection of Jesus
– The Ascension of Jesus
– The Coming of the Holy Ghost
– The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
– The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin.

200 Mysteries

JMJ

Rosary Sunday (Our Lady of Victory)

This is a special feast for the Dominicans: it even trumps Sunday. That said, I don’t know the readings for today. The Rosary is a compendium of the entire Gospel. In prayer it unites us with Christ, it unites us with his mother, the first of the Praying members of the Church. It unites the Church in petition to God the Father and it defeats the hosts of the heathen in our hearts, in our actions, in Lepanto, and anywhere else they may be.

The Mysteries of Joy

I. The Annunciation.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … betrothed of Joseph…
  2. … in the house of Nazareth…
  3. … greeted by the Archangel Gabriel…
  4. … pondering his words of greeting…
  5. … hearing that you might have a child…
  6. … asking how this shall be…
  7. … hearing the Holy Spirit will overshadow you…
  8. … hearing of your cousin Elizabeth…
  9. … consenting to cooperate in God’s plan…
  10. … conceiving God in your womb…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

II The Visitation.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving the house in Nazareth…
  2. … going into the hill country to visit your cousin…
  3. … greeted by Elizabeth…
  4. … pondering her words of greeting…
  5. … seeing she who was too old now great with child…
  6. … from whose womb God greeted his forerunner…
  7. … filled with the Holy Spirit…
  8. … moved to magnify God in song…
  9. … helping Elizabeth to bear her son John…
  10. … carrying God in your womb…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

III The Nativity.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving Nazareth with your betrothed…
  2. … traveling through the country to Bethlehem…
  3. … rejected by all in Bethlehem…
  4. … taking shelter in a cave with a manger…
  5. … whose birthgiving made a cave a shrine…
  6. … whose birthgiving made a trough a throne…
  7. … whose birthgiving was hymned by angels…
  8. … whose birthgiving was adored by shepherds…
  9. … whose birthgiving was worshiped by kings…
  10. … who bore for us God the word…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

IV The Presentation.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving Bethlehem with your child…
  2. … traveling to Jerusalem with your family…
  3. … the ark bringing God to his Temple…
  4. … obeying with God the covenant he made…
  5. … greeted by Simeon…
  6. … hearing your Son would be a sign of contradiction…
  7. … hearing your Son would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel…
  8. … hearing a sword would pierce your heart…
  9. … greeted by the Prophetess, Anna…
  10. … pondering all this in your heart…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

V The Finding in the Temple.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … leaving Nazareth with your family…
  2. … traveling to Jerusalem to keep the Passover…
  3. … obeying with God the covenant he made…
  4. … leaving Jerusalem with your husband…
  5. … finding the Child Jesus is not with you…
  6. … searching for him everywhere…
  7. … finding him after three days…
  8. … asking him why he has treated you thus…
  9. … hearing he was about his Father’s business …
  10. … to whom God was subject as an obedient child…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

The Mysteries of Light

VI. The Baptism.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … leaving home in Nazareth…
  2. … traveling to the trans-Jordan…
  3. … entering the water…
  4. … hearing John ask for baptism…
  5. … telling John “we must fulfill all righteousness”…
  6. … God, baptized by the servant he had made…
  7. … on whom the Holy Spirit descended like a dove…
  8. … of whom a voice from heaven said “this is my beloved son”…
  9. … whom John named the Lamb of God…
  10. … led of the Spirit into the Desert…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

VII. The Wedding at Cana.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, leaving home in Nazareth…
  2. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, invited to a wedding at Cana in Galilee…
  3. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, coming with your Son and his Disciples…
  4. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, concerned because your friends had run out of wine…
  5. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, telling Jesus…
  6. … Holy Mary, Mother of God, hearing your son ask what is this to us? …
  7. … Holy Mary, Mother of God saying “do what ever he tells you”…
  8. … telling the servants to fill jugs with water. Holy Mary, Mother of God…
  9. … changing the water into wine for the feast. Holy Mary, Mother of God…
  10. … the best wine, brought to Israel when all wine has run out. Holy Mary, Mother of God…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

VIII. Preaching the Kingdom.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God…
  2. … feasting with sinners…
  3. … healing the sick…
  4. … casting out demons…
  5. … making the blind to see…
  6. … making the deaf to hear …
  7. … making the dumb to speak…
  8. … raising the dead…
  9. … forgiving sins…
  10. … restoring communion…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

IX. The Transfiguration.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … calling to himself Peter, James, and John…
  2. … going to Mt Tabor in Galilee…
  3. … transfigured before them…
  4. … his face shining with light…
  5. … his clothes more white than any fuller could make…
  6. … speaking with Moses and Elijah …
  7. … whose apostles were terrified…
  8. … overshadowed by a cloud…
  9. … of whom a voice said, this is my beloved son, hear him…
  10. … telling Peter, James, and John not to say anything until after the Resurrection…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

X. The Eucharist.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … going to Jerusalem for the Passover…
  2. … sending his disciples ahead to prepare a place…
  3. … coming to the upper room…
  4. … washing the feet of his apostles…
  5. … taking bread, blessing, and breaking it…
  6. … giving his body to his disciples and through them to us…
  7. … taking the cup and blessing it…
  8. … giving his blood to his disciples and through them to us…
  9. … commanding us to do this in memory of him…
  10. … sending Judas out into the night…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

The Mysteries of Sorrow

XI. The Garden.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … coming to a garden with his disciples…
  2. … calling Peter, James, and John to come with him further in…
  3. … withdrawing a bit from them to pray…
  4. … finding them asleep and gently rebuking them…
  5. … begging that this cup might pass from him…
  6. … finding them asleep and gently rebuking them…
  7. … sweating blood…
  8. … praying not my will, Father, but thine…
  9. … waking his disciples…
  10. … betrayed by a kiss from Judas and arrested…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XII. The Pillory.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … tried by Pilate and sentenced to scourging…
  2. … led away by soldiers…
  3. … stripped of all his garments…
  4. … bound to the pillar…
  5. … lashed with leaded whips…
  6. … lashed with leaded whips until he was ripped open…
  7. … lashed with leaded whips until he was ripped open and the blood freely flowed…
  8. … wounded on all parts of his flesh…
  9. … cut down from the pillar…
  10. … collapsing wounded onto the dirt…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XIII. The Crowning.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … passed out on the ground…
  2. … kicked by soldiers…
  3. … slapped by soldiers…
  4. … spit upon by soldiers…
  5. … dressed by soldiers in a purple robe…
  6. … crowned with a plaited, thorny crown…
  7. … mockingly hailed as King of the Jews by soldiers…
  8. … returned to Pilate…
  9. … whom Pilate condemned to death at the request of the mob…
  10. … whom condemning, Pilate released Barabbas…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XIV. The Carrying.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … Given his cross to bear…
  2. … falling to the ground…
  3. … carrying his cross…
  4. … consoling the women of Jerusalem…
  5. … falling to the ground…
  6. … whose face was wiped by Veronica…
  7. … whose cross was shared by Simon…
  8. … greeting you, his mother…
  9. … falling a final time…
  10. … coming to the hill of Golgatha…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XV. The Cross.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … arriving at Calvary…
  2. … stripped of his garments, ripping open his wounds…
  3. … stretched onto the hard wood of the Cross…
  4. … his hands and feet were pierced…
  5. … whose cross was raised…
  6. … mocked by one thief, hailed by the other…
  7. … seeing you and his beloved friend…
  8. … commending you to his disciple and all of us to you as our mother…
  9. … who cried out, “It is finished”…
  10. … who died upon the cross…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

The Mysteries of Glory

XVI. The Resurrection.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … trampling down death by death…
  2. … harrowing hell, raising our first parents together with all the righteous…
  3. … greeting Joseph in Hades and taking him to Heaven…
  4. … greeting the women in the garden…
  5. … greeting Mary Magdalene in peace…
  6. … greeting you in love and joy…
  7. … greeting Peter in forgiveness…
  8. … greeting the Disciples in teaching and the breaking of bread…
  9. … greeting the Apostles in surprise…
  10. … greeting Thomas in truth…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XVII. The Ascension.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … calling his Disciples to Galilee…
  2. … worshiped by his Disciples even though some doubted…
  3. … to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given…
  4. … sending his Apostles out into all the world…
  5. … sending his Apostles out into all the world to preach the Gospel…
  6. … sending his Apostles out into all the world to baptize all nations…
  7. … sending his Apostles out into all the world to make disciples of all…
  8. … promising to be with us until the end of all ages…
  9. … ascending to heaven to sit at the Father’s right…
  10. … who will return in the same way to us…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XVIII. The Descent of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…

  1. … commanding all his people to gather in prayer…
  2. … present whenever two are three are gathered in his name…
  3. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit…
  4. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit from the bosom of the Father…
  5. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit resting in him…
  6. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire…
  7. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit with the power of speech…
  8. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit uniting all tongues divided at Babel…
  9. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit to fill us with Life…
  10. … sending to his Church the Holy Spirit uniting us as his Body in the world…
…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XIX. The Death of Mary.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … coming to the end to your life…
  2. … asking to be buried in Gethsemane…
  3. … asking your Son to bring the Disciples, your sons, to you…
  4. … receiving ten Apostles in joy…
  5. … parting to your Son…
  6. … leaving the Church in sadness…
  7. … born to your tomb in Gethsemane…
  8. … whom Thomas, arriving late, begged to see one last time…
  9. … when they opened the tomb you were gone, leaving only roses…
  10. … sitting at the right hand of your Son, full of grace in body and soul…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

XX. The Coronation of Mary.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God…

  1. … Queen of Angels…
  2. … Queen of Patriarchs…
  3. … Queen of Prophets…
  4. … Queen of Apostles…
  5. … Queen of Martyrs…
  6. … Queen of Confessors…
  7. … Queen of Virgins…
  8. … Queen of All the Saints…
  9. … Queen of the Family…
  10. … Queen of Peace…
…pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.

Dolorous Mysteries: Quem enim diligit Dominus, castigat.

+JMJ+

Friday is the day on which we traditionally meditate on the Dolorous or Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Although I’ve written elsewhere about these as a discussion of addiction – including sexual addiction – I have been struggling with these in light of the Troubles, as we might call them. They are on-going: the Late Unpleasantness might seem a tad dismissive since it’s not late. Yet, if you know the history of the American South to realize that I’m referring in that phrase to a massively huge social disruption costing many souls and much sadness. The parallel is apt.Very apt. The Dolorous Mysteries lead us on the way to something… we know not what. Yes: they point towards hope, in a way; still, as a story arc, they are self contained. And they end in death.

Praying in the Garden
This is the Church now. Yes, there are those fools who are ignoring the possibilities, and there are those who are gleefully jumping up and down, but the Church is just now praying, “If this cup might pass… but still not my will, but Thine.” We might pray that that might not be needed. We might beg God that it not come…

But we must submit to God’s will in the end. If God wants a spotless bride, he will have one.

The Scourging
I’m of the opinion that, among his many mercies, God let the Soviet scourge fall upon the Church because she was corrupt. There are stories that back this up: if nothing, she was so wed to the Czarist structures that she even allowed the Czar to take away the Patriarchate… which was restored only under the Bolsheviks. So she let the Czar destroy the power of the Church… and then let the Soviets restore it – as if she had to have the state standing with her to do anything. The Church was corrupt. God used the state to purge her. From the book, Everyday Saints comes this story of a Monastery in a small town:

It was said that its monks were all idlers and drunkards. During the Civil War [in Russia] the Bolsheviks arrived in the town that was closest to the monastery. They gathered together its inhabitants in the market square, and then they dragged the monastery’s monks out in a convoy.

The commissar loudly yelled at the people as he pointed to those men in black:

“Citizens! Townsfolk! You know these drunkards, gluttons, and idlers better than I do! Now their power has come to an end. But so that you will understand more fully how these vagabonds have fooled the workers and peasants for centuries, we will throw their cross and their Scriptures into the dust before them. Now, before your very eyes, you will see how each of them will stamp upon these tools of deceit and enslavement of the people! And then we will let them go, and let the four winds scatter them!”

The crowd roared. And as the people cheered, up walked the monastery’s Abbot, a stout man with a meaty face and a nose all red from drinking. And he said as he turned to his fellow monks: “Well, my brothers, we have lived like pigs, but let us at least die like Christians!”

And not a single one of those monks budged. That very day all their heads were chopped off by the sabers of the Bolsheviks.

This sex scandal is a perfect storm for it sets the Church up for lawsuits in ways that laws about “hate speech” and “marriage initiatives” never could. Who wants to defend sexual predators? Not I – as much as I would argue for prayer, absolution, forgiveness, I would also ask for reparation and justice. The Church – which at one time had her own courts – gave all that up to the state. So… God can use the state for this.
And it might result in some of us becoming saints – as in the story above – in spite of ourselves.
The Crowning with Thorns
What does this mean, through, for the Body of Christ, the Church herself? What will become of those who did not rape and pillage, who did not cover up, who did not find themselves paying Bishops to run an hide, or advising aging clerics to make simoniac appointments? The mocking of our friends, the crowning with thorns,the spitting, the slapping, the cruel exposure of all of us to social weakness: this will be all our lot.
This will be more of the same: for the Church must be cleansed. Out will go the lukewarm. Out will go the folks who think this will pass and their personal compromises with the world will stay in place. Out will go those who think the sexual teachings of the Church (aside from predation) are outdated. For even as the church doubles down on her teachings, she will need to let go of those who would use this crisis as an excuse to actually change it all. And as this crisis has become a division between the Church and the world – for the purpose of the latter beating up the former – so it must also become a division between those who would allow such acts “between consenting adults” even in the clergy and those who would adhere to the Church’s traditional teaching. This leads directly to:
The Carrying the Cross
This is not going to be easy. We have to be in this for the long haul. And what happened in Pennsylvania with the Grand Jury will probably have to happen in every diocese around the country before people say, OK, This is over. I would only adjure that someone needs to point out PA seems to have done somethings right since 2002, and so it will be in other places.

I would rather see the Church pick up her cross and walk than to have it laid upon her. Read up on the South African Truth and Reconciliation process. This would be the Church coming clean on her own. It’s ok if there has to be justice done after… but if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive them. We can confess our sins before they ever come out. This will be carrying the cross rather than having it laid on our shoulders.

But this process has to go deeper than just public confession of our sins: we have to tear down the entire structure that made this possible. The failure to preach the Gospel for fear of losing one’s Parochial Financial Powerhouses, one’s artists, ones friends… this must stop. Everywhere a don’t ask don’t tell stands athwart some Church teaching – no matter what it is – has to be seen as a place where we are avoiding our cross. And while coming clean on our own may avoid civil asset forfeiture, this final cross of truth may, in fact, result in closure and loss as well.

The Crucifixion and Death
The words of Joseph Ratzinger (as he then was) have made the rounds recently. I first read them in La Stampa, although I’m sure they are in other places. He was writing in the 60s, but 60 years later they seem prophetic:

Today’s Church could be faced with a similar situation, undermined, according to Ratzinger, by the temptation to reduce priests to “social workers” and it and all its work reduced to a mere political presence. “From today’s crisis, will emerge a Church that has lost a great deal,” he affirmed.

“It will become small and will have to start pretty much all over again. It will no longer have use of the structures it built in its years of prosperity. The reduction in the number of faithful will lead to it losing an important part of its social privileges.” It will start off with small groups and movements and a minority that will make faith central to experience again. “It will be a more spiritual Church, and will not claim a political mandate flirting with the Right one minute and the Left the next. It will be poor and will become the Church of the destitute.”

The process outlined by Ratzinger was a “long” one “but when all the suffering is past, a great power will emerge from a more spiritual and simple Church,” at which point humans will realise that they live in a world of “indescribable solitude” and having lost sight of God “they will perceive the horror of their poverty.”

Then and only then, Ratzinger concluded, will they see “that small flock of faithful as something completely new: they will see it as a source of hope for themselves, the answer they had always secretly been searching for.

And the prophecy of Tolkien (may his Memory be a blessing), at the last council have also been making the rounds. It comes from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter, with Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, 1981).

You speak of ‘sagging faith’, however. That is quite another matter. In the last resort faith is an act of will, inspired by love. Our love may be chilled and our will eroded by the spectacle of the shortcomings, folly, and even sins of the Church and its ministers, but I do not think that one who has once had faith goes back over the line for these reasons (least of all anyone with any historical knowledge). ‘Scandal’ at most is an occasion of temptation – as indecency is to lust, which it does not make but arouses. It is convenient because it tends to turn our eyes away from ourselves and our own faults to find a scapegoat. But the act of will of faith is not a single moment of final decision: it is a permanent indefinitely repeated act or state which must go on – so we pray for ‘final perseverance’. The temptation to ‘unbelief’ (which really means rejection of Our Lord and His claims) is always there within us. Part of us longs to find an excuse for it outside us. The stronger the inner temptation the more readily and severely shall we be ‘scandalized’ by others. 

We are all – as the Memes have warned us – in danger of leaving Jesus because of Judas. That is exactly what Satan wants. Stay with the Church for she is Christ on Earth. She is the Visible inbreaking of the Kingdom of God – even as she has sinners in her midst who are doing just what humans have always done: trying to be a replica of God’s kingdom on their own terms. The Church must struggle and even be purged, but we – ourselves – must stand with the Church, must bear the scourging, must wear the crown of thorns, must carry the cross. Dying because of the sins of others is what the Church, the Body of Christ, is born to do. These are not my sins, yes, but when one of us suffers, we all suffer. When one of us sins, we have all sinned. In the end, Christ will have a bride who is as pure and spotless as he is.

I pray that I will be part of that bride, that you will be part of that bride. Tolkien’s answer, and mine for I know no other even though I am an “evil liver” and a “miserable sinner” as the Prayer Book sayeth: Go to Mass. Go to Mass. Go to Mass. A thousand times go to Mass.

The only cure for sagging of fainting faith is Communion. Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals. Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children – from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn – open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a Mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people (it could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the 5000 – after which [Our] Lord propounding feeding that was to come.)

I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and a rearising. But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honor, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place. ‘Feed my sheep’ was his last charge to St. Peter; and since his words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life. It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched – the ‘blasphemous fable of the Mass’ – and faith/works a mere red herring. I suppose the greatest reform of our time was that carried out by St. Pius X: surpassing anything, however needed, that the Council will achieve. I wonder what state the church would now be but for it.

Say a rosary. Say fifty. I find them best said walking. Pray for the Church that like her Groom whose body she is, she may die and rise again. Go to Mass and pure and spotless let her be.

A Different Rosary

Watching the Song of Bernadette or the Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima I was often moved by crowds reciting the Rosary. Their whispered earnestness and the passion was carried through the screen: the prayer of the church through the ages. Holy Mary, Mother of God… I know these mid-20th Century religious melodramas are poor by today’s standards. But they pull at the heartstrings of one who loves our Lady.

When I became Catholic it was so wonderful to find myself as part of this prayer. Kneeling before God and adding my whisper to the thunder of the ages. So I would find myself overcome with tears kneeling with “the old ladies” on Saturday mornings or with the Novena Folks before the Evening Mass. And sometimes, bending my mind so, I could close my eyes and hear the continued prayers from the past blending with ours. So it has been for the last couple of years. I have also encountered quiet Rosaries said at 6AM and I’ve been awed by the joyful Rosaries of newlyweds praying in quite corners of the church in the evening.

A new thing happened recently, when the guys sat on old sofas pulled up in a circle near a grill in the parish parking lot. We began by polling intentions: my wife and my children; people we love or will come to love; the idea that finding one’s vocation was learning to love the folks God have each of us to love; for each other and our struggles for purity; for work; for courage.  Then we began the Apostles’ Creed and the rest of the Rosary. This bass pedaled sonorous rumble was a new prayer experience for me. The focused intensity of men joined in Christ to ask God for help, asking God’s Mother – our Mother as well – for her prayers was entirely different than the whispered experience I knew.

At the Rosary’s close, we sang the the Salve Regina. The surprise was in the singing of this hymn that normally wraps up the prayers. Suddenly all our voices united in singing the Latin text to the traditional plainchant setting. Where before there were bass pedals, now there was baritone warmth and glory. This prayer of brothers in arms, united in Spiritual Warfare, was the most exhilarating meditation! Far from navel gazing, as one might (wrongly) imagine a meditation to be, this was more like a shared pep-talk before the second half kickoff.

It seems these two Rosaries are important: both the whispered rumble and the rolling thunder. The Church survives on the former, but she needs the latter as well. I don’t know what it might feel like to others gathered in groups, but I know that, as far as some visionaries go, men report experiencing the Rosary as a weapon, a sword. St Dominic has his friars imitate knights by wearing the Rosary hanging on their left hand side not in place of but rather as a sword. I felt that for the first time the other night.

Maria, auxiliam Christianorum, ora pro nobis!