Saturday, December 30, 2006

Marian Devotion: The Rosary, III

Let's examine the Ave Maria itself, that which makes it distinctively Marian:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

The first line of the Hail Mary with the addition of "Mary" is Scripture (Luke 1.28), as are the next two clauses with the addition of "Jesus."

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus (Luke 1.42).

In the first half of the Ave Maria, we are simply praying the Scriptures - what was said by St Gabriel the Archangel and by St Elizabeth, who spoke filled with the Holy Spirit.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

As I've already discussed the idea of praying to Mary, I won't reiterate our reasons here. Instead let's deal with calling Mary "holy" and calling her the "Mother of God." All of us in Christ, St Paul calls "holy ones," or saints. In Christ, there is a certain sense of this. The Church also differentiates those who have led exemplary lives as Saints. There are requirements that must be met before these men and women can be canonized as such. But, ultimately, the idea is that the Church recognizes these people as holy, standing in the presence of God. Their intercession therefore is powerful and effective (James 5.16).

Of all the Saints, Mary is our ideal - she is the prototype of what we all may be (though she is unique in other ways) and there is no question whether she is holy. If Scripture commands that we be holy (1 Peter 1.16), then certainly Mary is holy.

Mary is also called Theotokos (God-bearer, literally), or Mother of God. I've already gone into the explanation of this title. But here it is again: If Mary is not the Mother of God, then Jesus is not God. And I do not wish to go there.

(Interestingly, the title Theotokos came about at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. The debate was a christological debate and it concerned whether Mary should be called Christotokos [Christ-bearer, as the mother of merely Jesus' humanity] or Theotokos. The Council decided that to call her merely Christotokos rather than Theotokos would be to separate his inseparable natures.)

That is the Ave Maria - the heart of the Rosary. There is nothing in it that ought to offend. Let me deal next with the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), which is the prayer that normally concludes the Rosary, and which might also offend.

I do not normally pray the Salve Regina for a practical reason more than anything theological - I simply have not memorized the prayer as of yet. I'm still struggling to disentangle the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds. So be patient with me.

But let's look at it before discussing the concepts of repetitive and meditative prayers.

Salve Regina

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this exile
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

I will not spend a lot of time defending this prayer. Mainly because I see nothing offensive about it if you read "advocate" primarily as "intercessor," which I do. The only problem I see anyone having with this prayer is the title "Holy Queen" - if we set aside the whole idea of praying to someone other than God, of course.

Mary is our queen because she is the real mother of the real King. She is the queen mother, as it were. Just as Bathsheba was the queen mother of Solomon and interceded or advocated for others to her son Solomon. She is not queen in the sense that she is divine or on an equal footing with the Blessed Trinity. The Church in no way teaches or condones this belief. The Church calls such an idea or practice idolatry.

We must understand Mary properly. We do not worship her. But we respect her more highly than any other creature. The Greek words differentiate our feelings and practices quite adequately: Latria is adoration and is reserved for God alone. Dulia is respect. I show my parents dulia, I show kings and presidents dulia, I show all the Saints dulia. Hyperdulia, (or great respect) however, a universe below what we consider worship (latria), is reserved for Mary. And as the Mother of God, such respect is due her. It is because of her Yes that God became man. All others throughout history have born witness to Christ, but she actually bore him. And as His Throne, she bears Him still. It is right to call her Theotokos, or God-bearer.

I will attempt to address the repetitive and meditative aspects of prayer this prayer in the next post.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Marian Devotion: The Rosary, II

The foremost resistance to Marian prayer, or to praying to the Saints in general, is the idea of our prayers being directed to someone other than God. I understand this hesitancy since, for many, prayer is only a Godward activity. And while I agree that prayer is primarily a Godward activity, the Church correctly views prayer as entreaty. And one can entreat both God and man.

Others can and do intercede for us. Indeed, Samuel says, "far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you" (1 Sam 12.23). The Lord's Prayer is a prayer of and for community - a prayer of and for "us." And so we go to our mother and father, brother and sister, friend and neighbor, and pastor and ask them to pray for us. We ask them to intercede for us. Is their mediation on our behalf, is our request for their mediation, sinful or idolatrous? Of course not. Does our request for their intercession preclude our going also directly to Christ? Of course not.

And so it is with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and the Saints - they are not dead, but gloriously alive. They are not deaf and dumb and lame, but gloriously aware and active. We believe in the communion of saints: past and present, militant and victorious, on earth and in heaven. We believe they can and do pray for us and because of this, we ask it of them.

A common objection to prayers to Saints is our inability to figure out the How of it - How do they hear our prayers along with millions of others? How do they manage? And my answer to that question is that I don't know. But I also do not know what it means to be glorified, to be holy, to perfectly partake of the divine nature. Yet it is so. And the Church has always professed it to be so. I have no reason to doubt her authority, who also, carried along by the Holy Spirit, gave me the Scriptures.

Mary holds a special place for the Church because she is our Mother - Christ gave her to us and us to her at the cross (John 19.26,27). She is also the Mother of God, the Theotokos (God-bearer). This title does not imply that she is the Mother of the Father, but as my five year old, Anna, said, "Mary gave Jesus a birthday." The simplicity and profundity of Anna's statement is spot on. She is the Mother of God because Jesus is God the Son, and her Yes allowed Him to be born. His humanity is from her, just as mine is from my parents.

And so we pray to Mary, though, of course, not exclusively. She is not the mediator between God and Man - Christ is. But she mediates for us, in an intercessory sense, just as my earthly mother mediates for me, but more greatly and more profoundly. She acts as she acted at the wedding at Cana, bringing our needs (They have no wine) before Jesus, and instructing us, the Church (Do whatever He tells you).

I pray to God, of course - daily, hourly, moment by moment. And within the Rosary itself we praise the Trinity, pray to the Father, and cry out to Jesus.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Marian Devotion: The Rosary, I

The Rosary is a Marian prayer that is centered around Christ and is, as Pope John Paul II said, a compendium of the gospel. The Hail Mary (Ave Maria), which is the bulk of the Rosary, and the Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina), which concludes the Rosary, set the prayer apart as Marian. But what makes it a compendium of the gospel? Or Christocentric?

Let me share with you, in a series of posts, how and why I pray the Rosary. I am only a beginner, and I am still struggling with praying and learning this wonderful devotion. Indeed, there are many of you out there who could teach me a great deal about the prayer, and I pray that you do.

In this first post, let me give a brief overview of how the Rosary is prayed. There are variations, of course, but in general it is prayed as follows.

  • We sign ourselves with the cross, beginning our prayers in the name of the Blessed Trinity.

  • We then recite the Apostles' Creed. This ancient creed is a summary of our faith, our baptismal creed, and all Christians accept it, though some play with the definitions of certain words.

  • The Our Father, or The Lord's Prayer, follows the creed.

  • Following the Our Father, we pray three Ave Marias. (We pray: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among 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.") From my understanding, these three Ave Marias represent faith, hope, and love - that which makes us Christian.

  • The Glory Be follows. We pray: "Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

  • We then begin our five decades (sets of ten beads), which are true meditations on five mysteries. I'll explain in detail what these mysteries are later.

    For now, let me give a brief example of the mysteries upon which we meditate. Today is Wednesday - the Glorious Mysteries. The first glorious mystery is the resurrection of our Lord. During the first decade (set of ten) of Ave Marias, we meditate on the resurrection of Christ.

    So before each decade, we announce the mystery on which we'll be meditating - and this is where the "compendium of the gospel" truly gets rolling, as well as the Rosary being a Christocentric prayer - and begin with an Our Father.

    It is important to remember that the Rosary is a prayer of meditation: As we pray, we meditate on five mysteries surrounding the life of Christ (revealing the Mystery, Christ).

So what makes you uncomfortable about praying the Rosary and why? Most of your questions and reservations, I have probably felt for myself. I plan to try to answer them in the subsequent posts, though I will be happy to have a conversation with you about your questions or objections at any time.

For more information: How to Pray the Rosary.


Monday, December 25, 2006

O Holy Night

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night, Oh night divine, Oh night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Behold your King.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

- Adolphe Charles Adam, 1847

Friday, December 22, 2006

“I pray ... that they may all be one.”

A new article of mine, concerning unity, is up at Tyndale's New Living Translation site. I normally don't point them out to you because most of you know that an article mysteriously appears every week or so like magic. If you want to read, you read. And if you don't want to read, you don't. And that's cool.

But I wanted to point out this article that posted Wednesday because it is a big part of who I am, of where my heart lies.

I know, speak, and listen to people with a diversity of beliefs on a fairly regular basis. We, all of us, love Jesus and have orthodox beliefs about Him. But we are different in many other ways. And we are divided. We do not always see eye to eye. Still, we respect and love one another because each of us is in Christ.

It seems to me this being 'in Christ' should have more bearing on our unity than our polity, how we define justification, or whether we recite the filioque.

I know. It's more complex than that. Even so.

Check out the article.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Unlawfully Absent

Yesterday, I received two letters for each of my girls about absences. It was shocking to receive them since I was not aware that they had any absences. The shock increased, on this first notice of our girls' truancy, with its wonderful quotation from the North Carolina Compulsory Attendance Law that spoke of unlawful absences and court dates.

"Unlawful," while technically accurate, seems to be tonally extreme on the first notification that your children have had several absences - especially when their absences are due to sickness or being stranded in Michigan due to a broken vehicle. But perhaps I'm being oversensitive.

Regardless, I called the school social worker this morning - where, Did I mention?, my wife teaches - and was told that all their absences were excused. Furthermore, the second letter that said they had three 'unlawful' absences was a glitch in the computer. I can only assume they use PCs.

I suggested they work on the tone of their first contact letters, and maybe not bring up the whole "We're going to haul you off to jail and send your children to live with Jimmy Jack and Annabelle Guthry in western Appalachia" bit until at least the second letter. I mean, we barely know each other.

I was kind, of course - but when am I ever not?

Monday, December 18, 2006

This and That

I got the news from the garage concerning my pimped Mini,uh,van: Apparently I need to replace a gasket. Depending on whether we're talking about the intake or the head gasket, the repairs will run anywhere from $500 to $1200+. It's fortunate that I'm uber-wealthy. That's like maybe a quarter for me, relative to what you all make. Not to rub it in or anything, I'm just saying good for me and all.

Speaking of wealth, I need to start searching for at least one more freelance job. I'm looking primarily for a writing gig, but I suppose I'll accept editing crap. And speaking of crap, can you believe Peter Boyle is gone? Holy crap. (That's not "Catholic, XXII: Sacramentals," by the way, just an exclamation.)

Saturday was 30 weeks for the baby boy. Woo-hoo! I think he's already done, though, because Laura's belly button looks like a spent plastic pop-up turkey timer.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Catholic, XXI

The feminine within Catholicism is difficult to miss. The Church, of course, is a she: We are Christ's bride. But the feminine is present, primarily, within Mary, the Theotokos, who nourishes her children as a river nourishes the earth, re-creating and nurturing beauty. (Indeed, Advent itself is a Marian season within the life of the Church, as we wait with her for the birth of her son, our Lord.)

And we honor Him when we honor her.

One More Happy Birthday

I need to send out another Happy Birthday, this time to my favorite dad in the whole world - who's less embarassing every year. Even, dare I say it, in a Quality Dairy. Today my dad is 64 ... I believe. (It's always hard remembering my parents' age - I just know they're old.)

I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday! And many, many more.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Happy Birthday

I need to send out a Happy Birthday to my favorite sister in the whole world - even if she was born on Friday the 13th. Tania is 38 today; she is a wonderful sister and friend.

I love you, Tania. Have a great one!


Sometimes there's so much I want to say about so much that I wonder if it's best to say nothing at all. Life is ... too hard to describe at times - concurrently dark and light. It is no wonder that so many live gray lives.

"You are the light of the world," Jesus said to us.

Only empty us of our darkness, of all that is not you.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Truthiness" - Word of the Year

Congratulations, Mr. Colbert. Saw the news on CNN and had to pass it on:

"Truthiness" was credited to Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert, who defined it as "truth that comes from the gut, not books."

"We're at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people's minds, and truth has become up for grabs," said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. "'Truthiness' is a playful way for us to think about a very important issue."

. . . . .

Colbert - who once derided the folks at Springfield-based Merriam-Webster as the "word police" and a bunch of "wordinistas" - was pleased.

"Though I'm no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honor me," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Festival of Vomit

Vomit's not really my thing. Nevertheless, the boy vomited in the car today as we set out to see the Festival of Lights at Tanglewood, just west of Winston-Salem. Thank God for a wife who loves to clean up vomit. If it weren't for her, I don't know what I'd do.

Afterward: "Will, does your tummy feel better?"

"Yeh. Seesbuhr! Seesbuhr! Wah seesbuhr!"

I think the boy gets carsick. He threw up three times on our trip to Michigan, none of which made it into a bucket. (Though we weren't sure of the cause of that vomiting due to the Plague smacking down the entire family over Thanksgiving.) Regardless, I'm going to begin keeping a supply of Dramamine on hand for him.

Friday, December 08, 2006

No More Coffee for the Yellow-Haired Child

Yesterday, while she was taking a bath, the yellow-haired child commented that she thought she was growing hair on her butt.

. . . . .

Also, I just got back from Mass - today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (Boy, there's a can of worms.) It was nice - Sophie and Anna made the trip with me and we talked and sang. But they came along mostly, I think, for the ice cream afterward.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Novena to St Joseph

O St Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interest and desires.

O St Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

O St Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St Joseph, Patron of departed souls, pray for me.


Monday, December 04, 2006


Greetings from the pigpen.

More later, but for now it's enough to say that my family and I are all well. I apologize for the zero postings in the last two weeks. There was Thanksgiving, of course. Then, when we finally were able to come home (long story involving the Plague and the minivan), I plugged my Mac in and it just crackled at me darkly. It was probably pissed at being left alone for so long. Regardless, I drove down to Charlotte and picked up the repaired machine from the Apple Store tonight. The Geniuses (that's not sarcasm tonight, by the way) had to replace the logic board and the power supply. It was all covered under our Apple Protection Plan (APP), praise God. The APP is usually of no substantial help, since most of our problems with the computers are child related, but it worked in our favor this time.

I have loads of freelancing due Friday, so I won't have much of a presence posting this week either. But you'll be OK.

I'm looking forward to catching up on my blog reading, but it may take some time.

I hope your holidays were happy.