8 August 2007

In defence of the classic Rosary

For many Anglo-Catholics there seems to be a bit of a stickler over which set of prayer beads to use in devotion. Should we use the Anglican rosary or the Dominican rosary?

 The Anglican rosary does have its virtues. Whilst I admire it for its creativity (so I'm not dissing anyone who uses the Anglican rosary), I like stick to the tried-and-classic Dominican rosary.

My defence of the classic Dominican rosary is eight-fold: -
1.) It is an imitation of, and sometimes used as a substitute for the Daily Office, on condition you do not have a Bible and a Book of Common Prayer. One must recite the Preces ("O God, make speed to save us. O Lord, make haste to help us.") and Invitatory prior to the Rosary proper, if used as a substitute for the Daily Office.

2.) It is inseparable from (if you aren’t using the Luminous Mysteries) the 150 psalms in the Psalter.

3.) If using the mysteries of the Rosary, it is a compendium of the Gospel, a catechism in miniature, and it is useful for instruction in the faith and in the basic prayers.

4.) It is the classic devotion a myriad of saints have used for centuries. It has a vast history behind it, stretching from its early origins in the prayer stones of the Desert Fathers to the garland of roses of St. Thérèse de Lisieux, and from John Wesley (shocked?) to Padre Pio.

5.) When used privately rather than corporately, it is the most flexible of devotions. It can be augmented with psalms, canticles, scripture verses interpolated between prayers, litanies, and petitions according to custom, tradition, liturgical, and personal preference.

6.) It combines affirmation (the Sign of the Cross and the Apostles' Creed), meditation and contemplation (the mysteries), petition (the Pasternoster and Ave Maria), confession of sin and intercession (Fatima ejaculation), and praise and adoration (Gloria Patri), which are all aspects of a healthy prayer life.
7.) It places at its centre the two principal mysteries of the Christian faith: The Trinity and the Incarnation.
8.) Assuming the oft-quoted maxim of lex orandi, lex credendi, then the constant praying of the Rosary preserves us from error and heresy.
The Rosary has its origins in the Desert Fathers, who counted their prayers with prayer ropes or stones. Soon stones developed into beads strung on ropes, and the practice spread around Europe, so thus in 1075, the Lady Godiva (no relation to chocolate) refers in her will to "the circlet of precious stones which she had threaded on a cord in order that by fingering them one after another she might count her prayers exactly". However, the modern Dominican rosary developed in very much the way as stained glass windows did: To instruct the illiterate of Western Europe in the faith. It was also common substitute for the Daily Office since the illiterate could not read the Psalms. Additionally, the Marian aspect was introduced during the 12th century as it was the custom to recite the Ave Maria after each psalm and recite the Gloria Patri after every ten psalms, hence the decade of Aves ending with the Gloria Patri. (The Gloria Patri is omitted on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, replacing it with the one of two variations of the Christus factus est* at the very bottom of this post.)

One of the prime objections to the Dominican rosary is the strong Marian emphasis, given that the Pasternoster-Ave Maria ratio is 1:10. So that's one Pasternoster for every decade of Aves.  Yet this arises from the misunderstanding of how the Rosary works and how it developed. The Paternoster, preceded by the mystery (sometimes with a scriptural reading and a collect), is actually the high point of the rosary, not the Aves. After all, the prayers of the Rosary are ultimately offered to God through Jesus Christ our advocate, with the Blessed Mother standing beside us in support and agreeing with us in prayer.

Anglicans may augment the rosary thus: -
1.) After making the Sign of the Cross, and before the Apostles' Creed, Anglicans may add a seasonal scripture sentence, the Preces, the Invitatory, and the Gloria Patri:
V. O Lord, open thou our lips.
R. And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise. 
V. O God, make speed to save us.
R. O Lord, make haste to help us.
(The Venite, Jubilate, Pascha Nostrum, or the Phos Hilaron may follow here and may end with the Gloria Patri.) 
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. 
2.) Use scripture lessons for the mysteries. Announce the mystery (e.g. "The first joyful mystery is the Annunciation"), read the applicable lesson, and end with the Verbum Dei and Deo gratias. Silence may be kept, an appropriate collect said, then continue with the Pasternosterten Aves, the Gloria Patri, and the Fatima ejaculation or this antiphon from the Visitation of the Sick:
O Saviour of the world, who by thy cross and precious blood hast redeemed us, save us and help us, we humbly beseech thee, O Lord.
3.) After the Salve Regina, the suffrages found in The Book of Common Prayer may be said, along with the versicle and response. ("V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. / R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.")  The Oremus and rosary collect follow.
4.) After the rosary collect, add the collect of the day, the morning or evening collects, prayers for the Queen and the Royal Family, the Prayer for the Clergy and People, the Prayer for All Sorts and Conditions of Men (Persons), the General Thanksgiving, and if in a communal setting, the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom. These may be found in The Book of Common Prayer. Other collects and prayers may be added, such as those found in The Book of Common Prayer, or the Memorare, the Sub Tuum Praesidium, Anima Christi, Prayer before a Crucifix, and the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
As a rule, the Prayer of St. John Chrysostom is always the last prayer prior to the Grace.   
5.) End the rosary with the Grace (whilst making the Sign of the Cross).
6.) Sing a hymn before and/or after the rosary, or chant a canticle after. Use the Benedictus in the morning, the Magnificat in the evening, and the Nunc Dimittis at night. The Gloria in excelsis, the Te Deum, the Beatitudes, the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John, or the De Profundis (in rosaries for the departed) may be chanted instead. 
7.) In rosaries for the departed, the Gloria Patri after each decade of Aves is omitted, and the Requiem aeternam recited instead: 
V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord:
R. And let light perpetual shine upon them. 
May the souls of the departed,
though the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
8.) Also, a Confession of Sin or an Act of Contrition is suitable before the Preces and Invitatory. Instead of the Confession of Sin, one may use the Decalogue with the Kyrie and petition ("Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our heart to keep this law") for a full catechetical tool. Or one may use the Decalogue as a "mirror" for the sinful soul prior to the Confession of Sin.  
 On a very personal note, I like adding interpolations after each Ave Maria like "Our Lady of Walsingham (and Saint N), intercede for us", "Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us", "Ancestors of our family, united with us by baptism, pray for us", the Jesus Prayer, and such. I also like chanting the Veni, Creator Spiritus or the Veni, Sancte Spiritus before the rosary. It took the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Incarnation to happen after all.

Salve Regina!


*On Good Friday, instead of the Gloria Patri:

V. Christ became obedient unto the death,
R. Even unto the death of the cross.

On Holy Saturday, instead of the Gloria Patri:

V. Christ became obedient unto the death, even unto the death of the cross.
R. Therefore hath God also exalted him, and given him a name, which is above all names.


Claudine said...

I didn't grow up praying the rosary of either kind. How long -- how many days, weeks or years -- of regular use did it take you to memorise the sequence?

Screeching in the Angelic Choir said...

YAY! CLAUDINE!!!! *hugs*

Well, the Dominican rosary is pretty easy to remember. It's the Roman Catholic rosary. We already know the Lord's Prayer, the Gloria Patri (Glory to the Father, etc.), and the Apostles' Creed. A rosary has 3 intial Hail Marys (Ave Maria) at the beginning for faith, hope, and love, and 50 Hail Marys in the rosary proper. So by the time you are done with one rosary, you have already memorised it. The Fatima Prayer (O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls in need most of your mercy) is pretty short, so it's easy to remember too, albeit in a rosary proper there is only five. The stickler is the one Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina) and the collect after the Rosary. However, with constant praying of the Rosary, it won't be that long to memorise it.

The sequence of the mysteries can be bit of a diffie for the beginner, but it shouldn't be that hard. If you know your Bible, it follows in the chronological order of the Gospels. Also, you use a certain set of mysteries for certain days of the week. I'd say you'd have it down in one week, two weeks max, that is, if you pray it constantly. I typically like to pray the rosary before I go to bed.

Claudine said...

Thanks! I've got one Domincan and one Anglican set each. I've got pamphlets on how to use each, and found both intimidating. But maybe it's time to try again.

Eric said...

I use both :D (My Dominican rosary is fantastic - it smells like roses.) Many parishioners at my church use an Orthodox prayer rope...I'd like to eventually get one of those as well.

There's a wonderful book called The Anglican Rosary which has condensed prayers of the Daily Office from the '79 BCP as well as a bunch of Celtic/Scottish/Irish/Gaelic prayers. Even some Hebrew devotions! It was definitely worth the 12 bucks.

Screeching in the Angelic Choir said...

I'll consider buying that book when I come back to the US! It seems interesting: I'll check Amazon.

I have a Dominican rosary that smells like roses too! My first one was crushed because it was made of pressed roses, and my second one is made of rose scented wooden beads, but it's beginning to fade away from heavy use. So I place it in a pouch to preserve what scent is left and save it for special feasts. However, I'm using a wooden rosary now.

Adam said...

Anglican Rosary? What is that? :) No REAL Anglo-Catholic would touch one!

Screeching in the Angelic Choir said...

Oh Adam, I can't help but agree with you, but sometimes I like to spy on what the other side has to say. :)