Friday, July 18, 2008

ANGLICAN ROSARIES

Before my bishop, Bishop Bruce MacPherson of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, left for Lambeth, he sent a generous donation for the work of the Water Purification Project in Haiti which I’ve mentioned on several blogs – a project to develop clean water in a Port Au Prince orphanage. The project is sponsored by three of the Sisters of the Community of St. Mary, Sewanee, and is a service long-needed in the Third World country of Haiti. The thank you I sent to Bishop Bruce was in the form of an Anglican Rosary made, “with prayer” by Sister Miriam of the Community of St. Mary who designs and makes beautiful rosaries. Of Celtic design, with pale green stone insets, the Rosary accompanied the Bishop to Lambeth.

I have several rosaries that I left behind in New Iberia, one of which was given to me by David Henton, soon-to-be a brother in the Order of St. Gregory. David gave it to me as a thank you for ministering to his father, Bishop Henton and his mother, Martha, during the last three years of their lives. The rosary, along with Bishop Henton’s Communion kit, was put into my hands when David sorted through old vestments, books, and memorabilia in the Bishop’s study the day after I delivered the funeral homily for this wonderful friend. Bishop Henton’s rosary is strung with black beads, and I have no knowledge about its history, but it couldn’t have pre-dated the 1980’s as the Anglican Rosary is new to the Anglican world of prayer and wasn’t developed until at least the year 1980.

The Anglican Rosary has 33 beads after the number of years in Christ’s life and is comprised of four sets of seven beads called weeks. The number seven symbolizes wholeness and the seven days of Creation, the seven days of our week, seven seasons of the Anglican Church year, and the seven sacraments. Additionally, there are four cruciform beads that divide the weeks, and they represent four points of the cross, four seasons of our year, and four compass points. Prayers on the rosary can range from the Jesus Prayer to ancient Celtic prayers or prayers from the Offices for Morning and Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer.

A rosary, some Episcopalians exclaim -- why? Well, the rosary isn’t just a device for rote recitations of prayer. The object of using a string of beads is to keep you focused and still while you’re praying and moving the beads – a mental and physical action that produces heightened spirituality. The repetition of prayers (we Anglicans know about those prayers from reading the Book of Common Prayer) helps center us and sustain that focus which brings us into communion with God.

I once read a book about increasing learning power and critical thinking that emphasized the learner should engage as many of the senses as possible when attempting to learn something – listening to a tape of the same material you are holding in your hands and reading, or writing the material while listening, or viewing a video about the material while listening to the narration and making notes. This multiple engagement of the senses increases learning capacity. When reciting prayers or mantras aloud, using the voice, while touching the beads of a rosary is the kind of engagement that carries us to a level beyond knowing, and puts us in a realm where we become aware of the Source and purpose for our lives. I like what is imprinted on the masthead for Inner Light Anglican Rosaries: “If we pray, we will believe, if we believe, we will love; if we love, we will serve.”

Here’s one of my abbreviated snippets about prayer or meditation from A MOMENT SEIZED, published by Border Press:

MUSING

How can a meditation matter?
Every saint must wonder,

so, too, the poet
whose heart defends

a moment seized for Divine goods.
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