Tuesday, September 8, 2009

To Jesus through Mary

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. It is one of the 10 High Feast Days in the Eastern Church, while (like the Transfiguration) a little less emphasized in the Western Church. Nevertheless, it is one of the feasts in honor of our Lady, coming nine month after her Immaculate Conception (just as the Nativity of Jesus, Christmas, is celebrated nine months after the Solemnity of the Annunciation).

Given the particularly Marian character of this day (or what's left of it -- I'm writing this at about 11:00 pm), it seemed best to present the first part of the project of the prayer book under construction. The first part of the prayer book (or at least the first part of the prayer book which I am writing) contains four different settings of the Rosary.

One might wonder why there might need to be four different settings of the Rosary. Typically, I assume that when someone prays the Rosary, it is based upon the bare minimum Rosary card they might receive when first introduced to this prayer (especially in the case of converts, or those of us who grew up in an environment where "Catholics just don't do that anymore"). Sometimes, they might have a prayer book or small Rosary devotion book which contains brief meditations such as "Consider how the apostles were over-joyed to see the Risen Lord." Sometimes the meditations can be quite elaborate.

John Paul II, in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, proposed that we use Scripture as the primary meditation text for the Rosary itself. Thus, after one begins the Rosary with the Apostles' Creed, Our Father and Three Hail Marys, they proceed to announce the first mystery. After announcing the first mystery, it is proper to present the text from Scripture relating to the Mystery then announced. Thereafter, one continues to meditate on the Mystery of Our Lord with Mary, praying the Lord's Prayer and the ten Hail Marys. Moreover, that this prayer may be more intimately tied to the Sacred Liturgy, it was proposed that Collects (the prayers said after the Kyrie and Gloria in the Mass, and before the Readings) conclude the prayer. This is an excellent idea, as there are suitable Collects from our Tradition for each of the Mysteries.

When John Paul II's death was announced to the world, a priest who was a spokesperson for the Vatican, after announcing the death, began to lead the people gathered in St. Peter's Square in prayer. The prayer chosen was the Rosary. During this particular Rosary, after the announcement of the Mystery, the priest read a passage from Scripture, followed by a passage from the Catechism. Given that they were in Rome, the Rosary was, of course, in Italian. For much of the last five and more years since this event, I have often looked for an arrangement of the Rosary such as this, to no avail.

I have also had the blessed opportunity to become acquainted with the Blog What Does the Prayer Really Say?, wherein Fr. Z, the author, began a Patristic Rosary project. For those who do not know. Patristic Literature refers to those writings lasting from the end of the New Testament writings (beginning with the Apostolic Fathers) through to the the sixth or seventh century (generally ending with St. Gregory the Great in the West and St. John Damascene in the East). As ressourcement was a goal of Vatican II, i.e., going back to the ancient sources, it is understandable that anyone seeking to implement devotions in the "Spirit of Vatican II" would certainly want to include such a measure in the life of their parishes and families.

There have been some publications which have sought to include readings from Scripture alongside Collects. In particular, I can mention A Prayer Book of Catholic Devotions: Praying the Seasons and Feasts of the Church Year, by William G. Storey and published by Loyola Press. This prayer book gives short Scripture verses for each Mystery of the Rosary, as well as Collects for each. Additionally, citations of longer passages are provided. Unforunately, the longer passages are not themselves included within the text, meaning that one would need to thumb through one's own Bible while trying to pray the Rosary, or else type out their own devotional text. In addition, the prayers concluding the reading are not, as far as I can tell, from the Liturgy (although some are certainly inspired by liturgical prayers).

Another publication worth mentioning is the booklet The Rosary with the Luminous Mysteries: Scripture Meditations and Prayers from the Liturgy. I admit that I have used this much more frequently in my own personal prayer life. It is small and easily portable. It also provides images of each of the Mysteries of the Rosary as well. Unfortunately, the Scripture Meditations are often Paraphrases. Moreover, after a brief verse from Scripture for the Third Luminous Mystery, we are met with a non-Scriptural commentary of the need to go to Confession (not a bad thing in itself, and something intimately tied to the Mystery; nevertheless, the meditation should consistently be from Scripture).

Despite what I see as shortcomings of these two publications, I do not want to seem ungrateful for the inspiration they have provided. Without having access to them, I do not believe that I would have been inspired to make this prayer book. Moreover, the variety of forms of Scripture Meditations, especially combined with other texts for meditation, have inspired me to make four settings of the Rosary in my prayer book. Those settings may be found as follows:

  • The First Setting consists of short readings from Scripture, largely inspired by the work of A Prayer Book of Catholic Devotions. I have not yet decided (mostly because I do not know the costs that will be associated with the endeavor) whether to include images with this first setting or not.
  • The Second Setting will have a medium-sized reading from Scripture followed by a reading from the Catechism for each mystery, with a Collect from the Liturgy to conclude each decade.
  • The Third Setting will contain identical medium-sized readings from Scripture as those of the Second Setting, but followed by relevant readings from the Fathers of the Church. The Collects concluding the decade are also identical to those of the Second Setting.
  • The Fourth Setting will include long readings from Scripture. The same collects as found in the Second and Third Settings will similarly be used in this setting.
Thus far, I have been able to set the First, Second, and Fourth Settings. I will take some time in finding appropriate Patristic readings. I hope to be finished with this section within the next couple of days. Thereafter, we should be approaching the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. That would be a perfect time to mention the plans for the Stations of the Cross, and perhaps the Seven Sorrows.

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