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Posts Tagged ‘rosary’

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This week I had the privilege of joining with members of our parish bible study group on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady by the Sea at Manorville NY.

Besides time in dialogue on the origins of the rosary and its many forms, the highlight for me was strolling on the sites’s “Rosary Walk”. This circular path begins at a statue of Our Lady and circles back around to the statue thus mirroring the structure of the traditional 5-decade configuration. Beads are physically simulated with bushes: larger ones for the cruciform beads at which we announce the mysteries, and smaller ones denoting the 10 Ave Marias between each.

The way the mysteries were laid out at the mystery stops that separate the sets of 10 was striking. Bronze markers presented each of 4 mysteries: one joyful, one sorrowful, one glorious and one luminous. This accommodates whichever set of mysteries any given pilgrim is reciting on a particular day. The traditional expectation is that one set of mysteries is in mind per round.

With 4 possible mysteries confronting me at each station, however, I found myself reflecting across all of those presented without regard for staying within any given set.

This had an interesting effect on me. I felt moved to see the intersections and interdependencies among them in a fresh way.

Much of our spiritual lives is paradox. In fact, Christianity is full of irony and paradox: a crucified god, a messiah born to poor circumstances, a soter focused on the laity and forgotten of society, and teachings that collide constantly with usual thinking. My walk became a meditation on living at the intersection of the mysteries and not appreciating them singularly.

In great art, the play of light and dark is what renders images striking. In like fashion, the sorrowful moments deepen our receptivity to light, the rare luminous epiphanies when we see so very clearly. The joyful mysteries ( Mary’s “yes” to God) foreshadows the deep sorrows to come in accepting what is unthinkable for any mother: the death of a son. Likewise, the glorious mysteries point to the way of seeing into and beyond the time of sorrows:

” Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” ( Jn 16:20)

Carl Jung spoke of”shadow work” as crucial: examining our inner darkness, facing it, and working through it. Making conscious what is unconscious is spiritually essential or our spirituality remains at the surface and we miss the deeper dive.

In future, I will once again allow the full spectrum of mysteries to parade across my mind as I enter into the paradox filled mystical heart of the Rosary.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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With a rich and diverse history dating back to around 800 AD, the practice of saying the rosary (or a  place where roses grow) blossomed rapidly.

Over the centuries, many forms  emerged. It was St. Dominic who first referred to the practice of reciting  three bouquets of  fifty prayers each (prayers tracing back to the lay Medieval practice of prayer after  monastic chanting of each of the 150 Psalms of David).

The symbolism is deeply rooted in Western consciousness.

As most species of roses have five petals each, it came to represent the five wounds of Christ and became quickly associated with the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven. The rose is the national flower of England and the U.S. state flowers of New York, Georgia, North Dakota, and Iowa. It is the recognized flower of Valentine’s Day and is often associated with love. It’s fragrance too has come to connote transcendent self offering, humility, grace and peace.

A walk in a rose garden with a set of rosary beads in hand is a wonderful way to invite all of one’s senses to open to the sacred mysteries.

It is the very essence of simplicity: walk slowly through the garden, slow down your breathing. Stop on each bead and breath peace. Bathe in the silence. No need to use a lot of words or any in fact.

Simple, easy, open and thankful.

© The Harried Mystic, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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On a visit last week to Fort Lauderdale, I visited the Butterfly Garden with my wife and daughter. The weather was on the warmer side, the sun shone brightly, and the butterfly aviaries were a delight. We spent a few hours walking through the extensive property made up of a small bridge over a well manicured pond, colorful plant life and trees, and, of course, quite a few separate aviaries dedicated to diverse species of butterflies and one set aside for hummingbirds.

The best part of the experience was to sit quietly on a bench surrounded by tens of butterflies and letting them settle on my arms and clothing. Fortunately, the aviaries were not crowded with people so it was easy to sit for a while and appreciate the amazingly rich array of color and patterns. These are among the most fragile of life forms but few are as inspiring. Just before Easter, they served as a marvelous metaphor for resurrection and rebirth given the metamorphosis from caterpillar to taking flight on breathtaking wings ranging from pure white to spotted, turquoise, various pastels, full yellow, and a striking red and black variety ( see the picture above).

It is hard to imagine  being anxious (barring phobias) in such spaces. A sense arises of the inter-connection of all things. What a privilege it is to be conscious and able to savor for days weeks and months to come the experience of a quiet afternoon in the Florida sunshine with creatures such as these.

As I walked and took my many pictures using my cellphone camera (which, surprisingly, captured some wonderful shots), I came upon a white butterfly that sat on the ground in harm’s way already clearly having suffered wing damage. I became immediately saddened at the sight and then pensive at the scene as one tries to reconcile the tragedies of life with its glories. What came swiftly to mind is the rosary and the important juxtaposition of the Sorrowful, Glorious, and Luminous Mysteries. Almost without a thought, I felt compelled to pick up the butterfly and return it to a nearby leaf. It was clear that it was dying, and it felt right that it should do so on a leaf and not against the cold, unnatural pavement.

I am a panentheist and this moment brought that home to me once again. The Spirit runs through all the created. Each natural form is a face of the mind of Ein Sof, the otherwise unknowable. Once again, as creatures with personhood, we know the Divine Presence personally. We feel the Presence more so than we can adequately think the Presence. This is the Gnosis Kardia, the Knowledge of the Heart.

So, on a quiet March day, just a week ago, I was visited by a butterfly who stopped me in my tracks to consider my own mortality, the mortality of others, life’s mysterious transits, and the power of regeneration, resurrection, renewal and the true heaven that emerges in every moment illuminated by authentic compassion.

This is Holy Week in the Western calendar. May this week be a time for you of profound revelatory moments, of transformative experiences, and a deeper dive into the Heart of the Cosmos.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Western church. The “Immaculata” emerged early in the history of the Church.

Among certain ancient Christian sects, the “Mother of God” was, from the outset, given a very high spiritual station, as there are arguably none more intimate with a son’s soul than his mother.

So great was the Spirit of Christ, that she who bore the Anointed One would naturally be set apart as especially blessed. The universe brought forth a soter (or savior) from the womb of a common woman of Jewish faith.

She bore him, bathed him with unconditional regard and support, and, in the end, bore the unimaginable pain of his passing.

In the Orthodox tradition, they refer to her Ascension as “the Dormition of the Virgin,” or the “Going to Sleep”. The Divine Mother archetype is the soft blue image of infinite patience, attention, and conscious silence. She is eternally alive within us.

Lutheran theologian Rudolf Bultmann revealed that the sacred mysteries documented in the Gospels are in no way diminished when we cut away the mythic story-telling appended by later writers.

He insisted that instead of the super-naturalizing that was grafted onto the texts,  an existential reading, in the way of philosopher Martin Heidegger, was truer to the essential kernel of the teaching.

In doing so, the intersections of the teachings with those of other Eastern religious systems become more visible. In both Buddhism and Christianity, at a mystical level, there is an androgynous quality in experiencing the Divine Presence.

There is an implicit marriage of male and female forming a new alchemical union (e.g., the trinity and the rise of Mariology, yin and yang, Buddha & Kwan Yin).

(more…)

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Russian Orthodoxy was a nursery for remarkable and controversial mystical practices. One sect, later declared heretical by the Russian Orthodox Church, is known as the “Name Worshippers”.

Their adherents, with early prominent members also making significant contributions to the mathematics of infinity and set theory, held to a discipline of continuously repeating aloud, or inwardly, the name of Jesus. This has connections to the Hesychast tradition and the “Prayer of the Heart” of the Philokalia: ” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

The Western manifestation of such a practice is the Rosary, albeit the prayers recited are greater in number and the process more involved. Hesychasm was bound to run afoul of the Orthodox Church.

Many mystical movements and the mystics themselves have historically been punished or censored in one fashion or another. Meister Eckhart, and extraordinary mystical preacher, was misunderstood and found himself in trouble with the Church. The list is fairly lengthy and includes teachers and adepts among us today.

The rejection is, however, understandable, as the mystic speaks a transcendent language that goes underneath and beyond canonical interpretations, formalisms, and dogma. They speak from a direct lived experience of the scared. Their language is consequentially more often richly metaphorical and visual, sensual, and appears to cut through the many distinctions and debates of exotericism.

There is great value in Hesychasm fro us today in the practice of continuous repetition of simple mantra. It is also a matter of spiritual taste whether this approach will bear fruit for you, but I, for one, find it remarkable in its effects.

Having practiced the “Prayer of the Heart” for many years, I find myself reciting it automatically as a centering prayer, and especially in times of great trouble or stress. In undergoing medical procedures, I catch myself reciting it, or, more correctly, I find it being recited within me.

Some object to the prayer as it appears to place emphasis on one’s identity as a sinner. It’s important to discriminate between the Eastern Orthodox and western meanings of “sin.” In the west, sin is all about mistakes for which one needs to seek forgiveness and attached to which there is a piper to pay. The attributions of sin are more judgmental, and punitive in character.

Here, again the East excels in seeing farther and in more nuanced ways. Sin, for Orthodoxy, is illness. It is recognition that one is in need of re-balancing, healing, and the restoration of a wholesome spirit by the Grace of the Beloved.

How wonderful is that?

It doesn’t surprise me that the Russian mystics of the Name Worshippers would also be tied to the mathematics of the Infinite. The two speak to each other in intimate ways. In these instances, their math was an outer sign of an inner spiritual grace.

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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In my first entry today, I offered five starting personal mysteries with the promise of returning before day’s end with 5 more. I jot these now with focus on what I am calling, the Cosmic Mysteries:

  1. That the universe is infinite and yet had a first moment.
  2. That this universe may just be one of many.
  3. That the infinite universe is expanding.
  4. That time’s arrow is relative.
  5. That the universe became aware of itself!

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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The “rosarium,” or garland of roses, has been a favorite Catholic prayer for centuries. Centering on the christian mysteries ( sorrowful, joyful, glorious and luminous) the fingering of the beads is accompanied by a repeated recitation of prayers. In time, as the practice is frequently used, the penitent reaches a dimension of prayer in which the recitation assumes a life of its own and a deep contemplative peace is achieved. This has long been a part of my own meditations. and archetypally is suffused with the mystical feminine made manifest in the Marian character of the recitation and punctuated by the repetition of 10 Hail Marys between each announced mystery. Variations on the Rosary are plentiful and, with deep respect for the Rosary itself and in the spirit of creative liturgics and spontaneity of prayer, I offer today another variation. My intent is to reach around the World into many traditions in meditating on mysteries using diverse prayers interspersed with some of my own as they occur to me.

I make use of the standard 5 decade Rosary beads in sharing the architecture of the contemplation as follows:

I. At the crucifix: A dedication

For the wounds and rifts that separate people on the basis of their beliefs that they may instead find room in themselves to embrace true diversity of thought, image, and possibilities.

II. At the first bead:

May I be a protector to those without protection,
A leader for those who journey,
And a boat, a bridge, a passage
For those desiring the further shore.

May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.
Just like space
And the great elements such as earth,
May I always support the life
Of all the boundless creatures.
And until they pass away from pain
May I also be the source of life
For all the realms of varied beings
That reach unto the ends of space.
—–  Shantideva – 8th Century

II. Next 3 Beads:

O Birther! Father- Mother of the Cosmos
Focus your light within us – make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now-
through our fiery hearts and willing hands

Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.
Animate the earth within us: we then
feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.

Untangle the knots within
so that we can mend our hearts’ simple ties to each other.
Don’t let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.

Out of you, the astonishing fire,
Returning light and sound to the cosmos.

Amen.

[Lords Prayer, from the original Aramaic
Translation by Neil Douglas-Klotz in Prayers of the Cosmos]

IV. At the Next Single Bead:

Look deeply; I arrive in every second

To be a bud on a spring branch, to be a

tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest

To be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up

And so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.

– Thich Naht Hahn

V. Announce the 1st Mystery [ The 1st five proposed mysteries for my own meditations today will be listed at the end of this description. In this context, the whole idea is to generate the mysteries that you are inspired by and that fill your lives. Perhaps you’ll find some of those I am using as a reasonable starter list.]

VI. Next 10 Beads ( in repetition)

Praise be to Thee, All-pervading Beloved. Open our hearts towards Thy Beauty, Illuminate our souls with Divine Light. O Thou, the Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty! Lord God of the East and of the West, of the worlds above and below, And of the seen and unseen beings. Pour upon us Thy Love and Thy Light,  And guide us on the path of Thine Own Goodness. Draw us closer to Thee every moment of our life, Until in us be reflected Thy Grace, Thy Glory, Thy Wisdom, Thy Joy and Thy Peace. Amen.”

— from a prayer written by Hazrat Inayat Khan of the Universal Sufi Order with small adaptations by Br. Anthony for the sake of brevity in this context

VII. A Summative Prayer:

Glory be to you, O Father.

Glory be to you, O Word.

Glory be to  you, O Grace.

Glory be to you, O Mother.

Glory be to you, O Most Holy.

I give thanks to you, O Light,

In whom darkness does not dwell.

VIII. Announce the Next Mystery & Repeat the 10 bead set of recitations and the closing Gloria.

IX. After the last decade, a final meditation:

In beauty may I walk.
All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

– The Navaho Blessing Way Prayer

In closing today’s entry, I do so with a starting list of mysteries that come to my mind as things on which I find myself thinking and meditating often. Late today, I will return with another five and so completing the recitation of 10 decades of the Rosary:

5 Personal Mysteries

  1. That I am
  2. That I live to love, to think, to act
  3. That I will return to where it is I came from
  4. That there is suffering and ignorance, hatred and fear
  5. That there is a way beyond suffering, ignorance, hatred and fear

© Brother Anthony Thomas and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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