Friday, 22 August 2008

Just one prayer

The rosary seems to be a complicated prayer when you first get to know it. There are lots of prayers to learn, and sometimes, when you hear it recited in public, there will be a pious old lady who knows different prayers, and different orders to say the words you have managed to learn. Obviously her words are the right words, her ways the right ways.

I took be a long time to work my way around the scary sound of the rosary being said in public. It sounds like cultic worship. If you are unsure of what is going on it can be very intimidating. I remember when I was 19 being sent to pick up a contingent of Polish priests at Heathrow Airport. All was going very well with my mission until, as I was reversing out of a particularly tight spot in the car park, they began to pray the rosary. I did not know what was going on; it worried me so much I stalled and then bunny hopped the car into a crash barrier. Classy.  

But, at its heart the rosary is simple. It is a meditation designed for people with busy minds who, in order to concentrate properly on one thing, benefit from a distraction for their hands and wandering thoughts. Ultimately, the praying of rosary is a simple exploration of the life of Christ, taking with you for your guide the most reliable witness, his mother. For me at least, it is imaginative prayer.

Recently I have been using just one line from scripture to help me think about the different events in the Gospels. Each line I choose builds up a prayer founded in the reassurance that Christ will listen.

The Joyful Mysteries would be meditated upon like this:

1. The Annunciation - 'Be it done unto me according to your word'
2. The Visitation - 'Why should I be honoured my a visit from the mother of my Lord?'
3. The Nativity - 'Emmanuel'
4. The Presentation in the Temple - 'At last all powerful master you give leave to your servant to go in peace.'
5. The Finding of the Child Jesus - 'Did you not know I would be about my Father's business?'

It might not be intellectual, but I am not able to hold a very long piece of scripture in my head. This way I can think more clearly about the scenes from the Gospel, and I can relate them to what is happening in life. It seems to me to be a simple method that means that I am not looking for a book to find a relevant piece of scripture every time I come to pray the rosary.

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