The Rosary: The Coronation of the Blessed Virigin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Thee, the Champion Leader, we Thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos: but as Thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do Thou deliver us, that we may cry to Thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is the final mystery of the traditional 15 Decade Rosary. On Sunday I will be posting the “Concluding prayers” together with an  essay on the manner of using this devotion.  But after that, I will do a series on the Luminous Mysteries recommended for use by the late Pope John Paul II.  

The Rosary: Our Lady’s Death and Assumption

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

This is, essentially, also the Orthodox story of the Life, Death, and Assumption of the Virgin. It is painted in many icons and many western painting (see below for an image by Giotto).

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was fitting for the eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word to see the Dormition of his Mother according to the flesh, the final mystery concerning her, that they might not only see the Ascension of the Saviour from the earth, but also be witnesses to the Translation from earth of her who bore him.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rosary: Pentecost

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

This is my own parish’s feast day and why I answer anyone asking “What should we pray for?” with “Revival”. This is what my parish should be doing: holding the heavenly doors open for the continued outpouring of the Holy Ghost on us, on San Francisco, and on the world around us. But it is also what all of us should be doing as Christians.  As we are the Body of Christ and as Christ prays for the Father to send the Spirit so should we be likewise doing.  Not for some sort of Benny Hinnesque back-falling of moaning with our mouths flecked with foam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marvelous things have all the nations seen this day in the City of David, when the Holy Ghost came down in tongues of fire, as Luke, God’s mouthpiece, declared, saying: When Christ’s Disciples were assembled, there came a sound as of a mighty wind, filling the whole house where they were sitting; and all began to speak with strange words, new doctrines, wondrous teachings of the holy Trinity.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rosary: The Ascension

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction to the Glorious Mysteries

The Glorious Mysteries are the key to the entire Rosary:

  1. The Resurrection of Our Lord
  2. The Ascension of our Lord
  3. The Coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost
  4. The Assumption of Our Lady
  5. The Coronation of Our Lady

The rest of the Rosary is meaningless without these Mysteries.  Our Lord’s life and death are in vain without his Resurrection. St Paul, in fact, says the entirety of the Christian teaching is meaningless without this.

The story is told of the filming of the T.V. miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth, that after filming the crucifixion, the cast felt they were finished because that was so powerful a moment. Someone said, “Hey, shouldn’t there be a Resurrection somewhere?”  I think this is apocryphal because most works are not film in a chronological sequence, but rather based on outdoor and indoor shoot schedules and the availability of studio space and special effects resources.  But the story does point out the modern error that the crucifixion, itself, is the focus of the story.

Neither, point of fact, is the resurrection: but rather the Entirety of the Life of Christ from his action in the creation of the world to the the prophetic foreknowledge of the prophets, from his incarnation in the Virgin’s womb to his institution of the Holy Eucharist, from his Crucifixion to the Descent of the Holy Ghost, and finally to his action in the life of the Church, his Body, today. This is the ongoing action of salvation: we can no more point at one point in time as “the event of salvation” than we can point to magical words in the Eucharistic Canon as “the exact moment of consecration.”  As the late canon Edward West once said of the Eucharist, so it is for the life of the world: “We do not know when Christ enters in and we can not reach in and pull him out again.”

Christ is saving you right now, if you are willing to participate in the on-going action of your salvation.

The Glorious Mysteries show us what should be the crowning glories of our life as Christians: as our Lord Rises, so do we. As our Lord prays the holy Spirit down on the world from his Father, so do the saints continue to pray God’s grace into the world. As the Blessed Virgin is crowned, so are will we, by God’s grace, reign with her in Heaven.

But as with Christ, so with us: it is the entirety of the action of our life that becomes the actualization of Salvation.  We cannot be crowned without being conceived, we cannot rise without dying.  The Rosary of Our Blessed Lady shows us that the entirety of life has been sanctified: and that we are called to live in that on-going sanctification.  The Natural Order of life can be broken by us, yes: but we can also live into it and offer it to God in a great Eucharistic action.

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.

Custodia Oculorum

The Latin Phrase which was employed as the title of this article is translated as “Custody of the Eyes”.  It’s a quaint, perhaps Victorian-sounding, phrase to which I was introduced by a Priest in NYC who had once been an Benedictine at the Great House of Nashdom in the UK. He noticed me, please forgive me, of a Sunday after Mass, ogling someone on the street.  Leaning to me he said, “Custodia, Frater!” Custody, brother. Since I’d no idea what he meant, he explained: training to remove the eyes from gazing upon the vanities of the world.


One modern Orthodox writer compared thoughts tending towards sin as rocks thrown through the windows of our minds with messages tied on them. We are startled and we read the messages… we engage the thoughts. To the Medieval theologians and philosophers, it was the eyes  that were the largest of these windows, the ones easiest, if you will, for the rocks to be thrown at. When they were inventing the notion of “romantic love”, the troubadours of Europe encouraged these rocks to be thrown – in fact, if you wanted to “fall in love” you had to be looking around…

The eyes go reconnoitering for what the heart would possess…

Yeah, that’s one way to put it. Jesus was commenting on the same thing when he said:

Audistis quia dictum est antiquis: Non moechaberis. Ego autem dico vobis: quia omnis qui viderit mulierem ad concupiscendum eam, jam moechatus est eam in corde suo.
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew V xxvii-xxviii

It’s not a modern issue. Jesus was well aware of not just a male’s tendency to have wandering eyes, but all people, and not just sexually speaking. Coveting in the sense of keeping up with the Jones is essentially allowing the eyes to wander and then the soul following. Gluttony can begin with “your eyes being bigger than your stomach”. Jesus offered a clue to ending this issue as well:

Quod si oculus tuus dexter scandalizat te, erue eum, et projice abs te: expedit enim tibi ut pereat unum membrorum tuorum, quam totus corpus tuum mittatur in gehennam.
And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.
Idid. xxix

Plucking out your eye may be a bit extreme: but there is a clue to the Church’s understanding of this text in the Office hymn for Prime (the First Hour in the Western Rite):

Sint pura cordis íntima,
Absístat et vecórdia :
Carnis terat supérbiam
Potus cibíque párcitas.

Which in the Anglican tradition is translated thus:

[God] keep our hearts and conscience pure
Our Souls from folly would secure
And bid us check the pride of sense
with due and holy abstinence.

I think a better translation is:

Oh, may our hearts be pure within,
No cherish’d madness vex the soul;
May abstinence the flesh restrain,
And its rebellious pride control.

The point is well sung: it is all of our senses that are thus at issue. Custodiat Oculorum is short hand for an abstinence that is needed for all our senses. Our senses can be tuned to God, but when they are “tweaked” by the world, aroused, if you will, they are short circuited. We cannot do what we are out to do: work out our salvation in fear and trembling. This story (from the teaching of Francis of Assisi) makes clear how our tempting distractions can throw us off course:

A certain pious King sent two messengers successively to the Queen with a communication from himself. The first messenger returned and brought an answer from the Queen, which he delivered exactly. But of the Queen herself he said nothing because he had always kept his eyes modestly cast down and had not raised them to look at her.

The second messenger also returned. But after delivering in a few words the answer of the Queen, he began to speak warmly of her beauty. “Truly, my lord,” he said, “the Queen is the most fair and lovely woman I have ever seen, and thou art indeed happy and blessed to have her for thy spouse.”

At this the King was angry and said: “Wicked servant, how did you dare to cast your eyes upon my royal spouse? I believe that you may covet what you have so curiously gazed upon.”

Then he commanded the other messenger to be recalled, and said to him: “What do you think of the Queen?”

He replied, “She listened very willingly and humbly to the message of the King and replied most prudently.”

But the Monarch again asked him, “But what do you think of her countenance? Did she not seem to you very fair and beautiful, more so than any other woman?”

The servant replied, “My lord, I know nothing of the Queen’s beauty. Whether she be fair or not, it is for thee alone to know and judge. My duty was only to convey thy message to her.”

The King rejoined, “You have answered well and wisely. You who have such chaste and modest eyes shall be my chamberlain. From the purity of your eyes I see the chastity of your soul. You are worthy to have the care of the royal apartments confided to you.”

Then, turning to the other messenger, he said: “But you, who have such unmortified eyes, depart from the palace. You shall not remain in my house, for I have no confidence in your virtue.

The Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi,
London: R. Washbourne, 1882, pp. 254-255
This text as quoted was found here

When the rocks are thrown into our windows our duty to the Heavenly King is disrupted. How many times, walking down Polk Street from my apartment on my way to Church can my gaze be distracted by human beauty, by shops displaying their wares in the windows, by flashing signs, by my own nosiness (as when hearing someone talking loudly or near me), or by smells of tasty food coming out of shops and restaurants. Oh, my mouth can water just walking by the butcher shop or the pizza stand. If you follow my Instagram you have an idea for how easily I can be distracted. Even just sitting as I type my eyes wander. In this case, contra Tolkien, those who wander are lost.

God wants us to move in his peace, to keep our hearts and consciences pure, secured in his light. Our culture, however, needs us to live in a state of Ambient Arousal: just on the edge of shopping, just on the edge of consuming things or people. It’s too easy to say “Satan made the culture” but it is clear he uses this culture to his advantage. And it is so easy to forget that God didn’t build it this way, nor did Christians at all: Our culture is predicated on making us stumble at all cost into lust, into envy, into emotional states, into consumption of our souls.

So Custody of the Eyes – and in a real way, of all the senses – is a way to achieve Custodia Mentis and Custodia Cordis: Custody of the Mind and of the Heart. In our culture we think a lot. Our minds wander: we imagine, we cogitate, we ruminate. We do not, however, often pray. St Paul says to pray constantly and we all know that means pulling our mind away from the TV, from the radio, from the internet, from other enjoyments. But it also means pulling all of our senses away from the enticements of the world whenever possible. This doesn’t mean stopping our participation in daily life: it means changing it.

One of the Desert Fathers tells of an Angel that promised to show him a woman who was much more adept at prayer than he. The Angel took him into the great city of Alexandria where he saw an old woman washing dishes. As she washed she prayed. Today we find more dangerous things to do mindlessly than washing dishes: driving cars comes to mind.  We do it with a minimal focus, and think about random things, or chat with our companions. We are quite willing to free our mind fully by whatever mindless task we are doing. And we thus miss the chance to pray. Whenever we are being mindless… the rocks come through the window.

Thus far I can bring you in my meditation. I understand the situation. The Rosary has been a great help to me in this regard. I find that I can pray the Rosary whilst walking – in fact it is a great prayer for that! The feet go on their way, the eyes are downcast, the brain is occupied. Prayer! It is easy to glance about, to notice the surroundings, to be safe, to go about our duties. But prayer is happening. This is a new thing! Hours of the day open up for prayer! On the way to lunch, walking to the office, getting on the bus. Training the brain to crave prayer – automatically as soon as the front door opens. This is not a time to worry about the shopping list, or to evolve a shopping list for the future, or to plan a meal, or to lust after your neighbor: this is a time for Communion with God!

Custody, brother! Custody, sister! Not only of the eyes, but of all the senses and then of the mind and then of the heart!  When you get home at the end of the day, will you able to sing the final stanza of the hymn?

Ut cum dies abscésserit,
Noctémque sors redúxerit,
Mundi per abstinéntiam
Ipsi canámus glóriam.
So when the evening stars appear,
And in their train the darkness bring;
May we, O Lord, with conscience clear,
Our praise to thy pure glory sing.

The Orthodox Western Rite in San Francisco

I’m a member of the OCA. We don’t have a Western Rite. In point of fact, we’ve been kinda opposed to it.  But I love it.  I’m so pleased with it that were a parish to form in San Francisco, I’d be hella supportive. The why of that is complex. I was Chrismated into the ER, I love Russian style chanting and I think our ER Holy Week is head-over-heels awesome.  I can chant our services well, I enjoy serving and I can  – with the help of our expert choir director and his “idiot books” as they are called – navigate our complex services.  
I miss, however, the simplicity of Low Mass, the starkness of Stations of the Cross, the richness of the daily office.  In the light of that last item, I am also a Novice Oblate of the Order of St Benedict, and I use a WR Daily Office as posted on a domain ironically called “Eastern Rite”.   I admit I’d like a WR parish with no pews… but the organ doesn’t scare me if it’s done right.  A “concert mass” isn’t a bad thing if it furthers devotion. The Rosary doesn’t need “Creative visualization” in order to “work”.  
As St John of San Francisco pointed out, the West was orthodox a long time before it wasn’t – and, unlike the East, the West never fell into heresy: which is why Maximus the Confessor took refuge with the Pope when the entire eastern Church fell away from the Faith.  The Western Liturgy is missing some of the “Correctives” added to the ER, because we never needed them in the West. Additionally, the “didactic hymnody” of the East is missing in the West because preaching the full faith was never outlawed here (at least not yet).
I’m not one of these people who imagines that the Western Rite is “better suited” to evangelizing Westerners. Most of the people I know couldn’t tell High Mass from Divine Liturgy or Deviled Eggs.  The unchurched, however, need missionaries and need priests.  There are enough ER communities in SF – some ROCOR Parishes are only blocks from each other.  What there are not: more than only and exactly one traditionalist WR anything.  What could hurt?
Let us pray to Pope St Gregory the great that someone will send us a new Augustine or a new Patrick. Let us pray that someone will send a new Cyril and Methodius.  Let us beg for a new St Innocent.  Let someone learn the language and reach out to us.
So if anyone is in SF and wants to pray the daily office, get with me: I do it almost daily.
And if any missionaries out there want to evangelize in SF, you should let me know. I’d love to help.

O God, who carest for Thy people with mercy and rulest them in love, through the intercession of Pope Saint Gregory, call, we pray thee, more labourers to the fields of San Francisco, white for harvest, that the flourishing of a holy flock may become the eternal joy of the shepherds; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, ever, world without end. Amen