30 September 2015

St Jerome, Doctor of the Church

When I ask God for an Orthodox Western Rite parish to be founded in San Francisco, I do so under the intercession of the Four Latin Doctors of the Church, the Great Teachers of the West: Sts Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, and Jerome.  Today is the feast of the latter-most and I post here his Vita, as recorded in the Breviary Office for this day.

Antiphon: O Doctor right excellent, O light of Holy Church, O blessed Jerome, lover of the divine law, entreat for us the Son of God.

V. The Lord loved him, and adorned him.
R. He clothed him with a robe of glory.

O God, who for the exposition of thy holy Scriptures didst bestow upon thy Church the wondrous teachings of blessed Jerome thy Confessor and Doctor : grant, we beseech thee ; that by the intercession of his merits, we may of thee be enabled to perform those things which he taught in word and deed. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, who livest and reignest with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

29 September 2015

The Rosary: The Garden of Gathsemene

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

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

26 September 2015

Dolorous Mysteries - Introduction

The Dolorous or Sorrowful mysteries are the events at the End of Christ's ministry:
  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.

23 September 2015

Introduction to the Joyful Mysteries

I know, I just finished all the posts on the Joyful Mysteries. But I didn't do an intro. And I realized that each set of mysteries probably needs an intro.  So back track a bit: here's this one.

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 Candlemas

The first two can seem as if Christ is very passive, 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: 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 Orthodox 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 in to the same dance by letting you hear the same music.

20 September 2015

Rosary VI - the Finding in the Temple

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 some place 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,  and 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.

19 September 2015

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.

16 September 2015

Rosary V - The Presentation in the Temple

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 an 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.

13 September 2015

The Rosary for the Orthodox - IV

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 (such as the one below, by Giotto) show St Joseph with grey hair.  Please get all that modern political theory about a poor homeless family out of your Christmas meditations.

09 September 2015

The Rosary for the Orthodox III

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 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 (it is part of Vespers in the West) and even though in most 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.

06 September 2015

The Rosary for the Orthodox - II

The First decade of the Holy Rosary is in honour 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 introductory comment and the closing prayer on each post comes from The St Ambrose Prayerbook, available from Lancelot Andrewes Press.

03 September 2015

Intro to the Rosary for Orthodox

So, the Rosary...


When I was exploring Orthodoxy and after I 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 more jetsam. A member of 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.  This came to my mind recently - nearly 15 years later - when a member of our Parish visited the Serafimo-Diveesky Monastery where other things related to St Seraphim's devotion to Our Lady came up. So was planted the seed for this series of posts.

The Rosary has therefore been a part of my Orthodox journey, although I've not been very faithful in recitation of it. Recently this, too, has changed, for a number of reasons that I won't go into: but 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.

These posts will not go deeply into the history of this devotion, but some may note a difference between what I will describe and a the perception, at least, of the traditional Western practice. For the Orthodox of Eastern and Western Rites, there is no practice of affective piety. Meditative "visualization" is not done. The imagination and the emotions are fallen faculties and not appropriate for devotion.  It is, of course, ok to have emotions or an imagination: but these are not to be aroused as such. Such arousal is can be a vehicle for the demons to lead us deeper into human addiction to the passions and pride: confusing emotions for piety is a skill humans have honed to infinite sharpness. Since the use of mental images is spiritually dangerous, things like making mental "stage plays" of the Rosary's Fifteen Mysteries are right out.  The Rosary must be used in different way - as will be seen in these posts.

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

A Rosary I've made out of sandalwood and Tibetan yak bone.

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 for Orthodox 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 is believed to have been 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. I will try to do two posts a week, God willing, on Sunday and Wednesday: but you see this post is coming on Thursday, so forgive me as I'm already late!

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 Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The Pendant or Introductory Prayers to the Rosary 

While holding the Holy Cross in your hand, make the sign of the Cross with it on yourself saying,  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, still holding the Cross, say  The Apostles' Creed.

Holding the large bead nearest the Cross, said an Our Father.

On each of the next three small beads, say an Ave. It is traditional to offer each one, in order, as a prayer for an increase of the virtues of faith, hope, and love.  You may add a short personal prayer for each, eg:
O my God, I believe in thee and what thou hast teach me through thy Holy Church, but I am a sinner. I believe, Lord: help my unbelief.  Hail, Mary, full of grace, etc.
Lord, I hope in the and in thy promises: but I am lead astray by earthly vanities and temptations. Help me to trust fully and solely in thee.  Hail, Mary, full of grace, etc
Lord, I love thee poorly. Help me to love thee with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength, and with all my mind; Grant me to love my neighbour as thou lovest him. Hail, Mary, full of grace, etc.
Then holding the chain (or string, as the case may be) say the Glory be.

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 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.
Here's the whole series:

The Rosary Series