15 June 2020

The Rosary: alternative Mysteries??

When S John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the Holy Rosary, some people with traditionalist instincts were not altogether full of approval. In fact, the history of the Rosary is not as neat and uniform as one might expect. My own unease arose simply from the fact that, by raising the tally of Aves above 150, he spoilt the original notion of the Rosary as a lay 'Psalter'.

But, rather than going into all that, I would like to point out three minor, but suggestive, facts about the 'Method' of saying the Rosary devised by S Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716).

(1) In the First Mystery; we are given
We offer thee, O Lord Jesus, this first decade in honour of thy Incarnation in Mary's womb ...

In other words, it is not precisely the external Lucan picture of Gabriel Annuntiant that is in the forefront here; but the Reality of what has happened within Mary's body. Of course, these are two sides of the same coin; there is a fantastic pair of Tiepolos in the possession of the Duchess of Villahermosa (they went to the Met in 1996) showing Abraham prostrate before the theophanic 'Angels' of Genesis 18; and Gabriel himself prostrate in adoration before Whatever is within the womb of Mary Annuntiate.

(2) In the Second Mystery, the text reads
We offer thee, O Lord Jesus, this second decade in honour of the Visitation of thy holy Mother to her cousin Saint Elizabeth and of the Sanctification of Saint John the Baptist ....

The italics are mine, to draw your attention to the inclusion of the Mystery of S John's Sanctification before his birth, which is the reason why, alone of Saints except for our Lady, he is assigned a liturgical celebration of his Nativity. Without in any way undercutting the cultus of S Joseph, the Mighty Patriarch, I think we have lost something because the Mighty Prophet, S John Baptist, has been un peu side-lined. And, if you query my claim that he has been somewhat side-lined, try doing a statistical survey of how many males were named John in Medieval England; and how many were baptised Joseph in Victorian Ireland!

[So three cheers ... again! ... for the people in the CDF, fine fellows, who have given us a Preface of S John Baptist! Even if it has taken Rome 101 years so to honour S John after S Joseph's Preface was added to the Missal (done, like the Preface for the Departed, under Benedict XV).]

(3) In the Fourteenth Mystery, S Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort gives us
We offer thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, this fourteenth decade in honour of the Resurrection and triumphant Assumption of thy holy Mother into heaven ...

This time, my italics remind you of the common tradition of East and West that the Theotokos died and was raised before her Assumption. This has been rather overlooked in the West; my feeling is that the reductive nature of Pius XII's 'definition' may be to blame here.

I love a picture by Rubens (circa 1611, in the Hermitage; it once paid a visit to the Hermitage Rooms in Somerset House) which in its lower register shows the stone being rolled away from her tomb and the discovery being made that her body is absent; while some of the crowd are having their attention drawn upwards to the heavenly spectacle of Mary being raised to her Divine Redeemer, who waits to crown her. The entire Eschaton of the great Mother of God Mary most Holy on a single canvas!

In these details, S Louis-Marie shows us an earlier and (dare I say it) slightly less tight version of the Western Rosary tradition.

I hope, by the way, that he is declared a Doctor of the Church on the same day as S John Henry Newman!

16 comments:

fitzhamilton said...

I did not know that the Theotokos is held to have died then *risen* - I'm again astonished, that after all these decades, and all my reading (far more than most laymen, and probably many priests) that I am still learning essential, what should be commonly known things about the faith.

I was once told by one Orthodox priest that the Assumption and Dormition are different doctrinally, because in the doctrine of the Assumption Rome teaches that the Blessed Mother did not die due to the fact that she was preserved from all sin by grace of the Immaculate Conception, that according to Rome she could not die because death is a curse and punishment due to Adam's sin from which she had been preserved, and that all this is heretical Western teaching based in "Blessed Augustine's" incorrect conception of sexually inherited original sin.. The Orthodox teaching of the Dormition, however, correctly has her dying.. Why, I did not understand. The Orthodox seem vague to me on how their position on Adam's curse is different than Augustine's, as well as on the question of the Blessed Virgin's absolute sinlessness, not to mention on how these two issues interrelate..

I did not know Rome holds that she did indeed die.. Why she should die is an interesting question though, isn't it? The wage of sin is death, and if she is sinless why would she have died? She did not earn the penalty, and she was not subject to the ancestral curse.. Or was she? Is there something here that I am missing?

Eric said...

Dear Father Hunwicke,

Have you ever come across this method?
http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/BVM/HortulusRosarium.html
It's from a popular 16th century prayerbook. Each Ave gets a distinct clausula instead of each decade.

Cheers,
Eric Leveque

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Now THAT (your last paragraph) would be a glory for Holy Mother Church!

Todd said...

In terms of "methods" suggested by St. Louis de Monfort, a fruitful one for me has been his suggestion of adding a "clause" referencing the particular mystery after the name of Jesus in the first part of each Hail Mary (ex. The Ascension; "Jesus ascending to heaven"). You could also add a similar clause after "Mother of God" referencing one of her titles appropriate for the broader class of Mystery (ex. Sorrowful Mysteries; "Our Lady of Sorrows").

Unknown said...

My copy of The Secret of the Rosary published by TAN has some differences. The Second Mystery lacks the line about Saint John the Baptist, and the Fourteenth Mystery reads "We offer thee, O Lord Jesus, this fourteenth decade in honor of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Thy holy and Blessed Mother, body and soul, into Heaven, and we ask of Thee, through these two mysteries and through her intercession, the gift of true devotion to her to help us live and die holily."

Calvin Engime said...

As late as 1577, St Peter Canisius says that the Coronation of the Virgin is "usually" the fifteenth meditation—evidently it had then very nearly completed its supplantation of the last judgement. (Anne Winston-Allen, Stories of the Rose, Pennsylvania State University Press 1997, p. 60, citing Franz Willam, Die Geschichte und Gebetsschule des Rosenkranzes, Herder 1948, p. 79) Older sets of rosary meditations also often had the adoration of the magi in place of one of the other events of Christ's childhood, as the Franciscan Crown does, and some lack the Visitation but include the raising of Lazarus.

frjustin said...

Dear Rashad bin Abu Rashad,

The Blessed Virgin's death is not a matter of faith. The dogma, as Pius XII defined it, leaves open the question of whether the Theotokos died. What Catholics must believe is
that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary

"when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No.966)

"[W]hen the course of her earthly life was finished" is ambiguous; it allows for the possibility that Mary may not have died before her Assumption. In other words, while tradition has always indicated that Mary did die, Catholics are not bound, at least by the definition of the dogma, to believe it.

Eastern-rite Churches in communion with Rome speak of the Dormition in the same sense that the Catechism speaks of the Assumption. The Catechism even concludes this article by quoting the Troparion of the Dormition which it cites by that name in footnote 507:

"In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death."

stephen cooper said...

I am one of those people who pray for the suppression of the Jesuit Order, for obvious reasons (all of them well-meaning towards individual Jesuits), but that being said, while I do not have it in my heart to pray for the suppression of the Dominican Order, I feel so sad for the Dominican Order, with their faithless doctrines regarding the Mother of their Lord.

How foolish does one have to be to subscribe to the silly idea that the Theotokos underwent death, even for a moment? Seriously, if you have love in your heart for the Mother of your Lord, how can you ascribe to that ignorant idea? Do you have any idea how frightened Death was of the Mother of our Lord?

Wake up, my friends, and abandon the foolish ideas of your youth.

PM said...

'Faithless'? The faith we professs in the creeds is in the resurrection, is it not? Was Pius XII also 'faithless' for leaving the question open?

Bernonensis said...

Is it foolish to think that Christ underwent death? Why not the woman who, of all mankind, comes closest to him in every way?

John Patrick said...

I am not a theologian but it seems to me that death in this context refers to spiritual death. For example in John 6:49-50 Jesus says "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die" (RSV-CE). We do not cease to die when we receive the Eucharist; instead we get eternal life and are raised up on the last day. Seems that the same could apply to the Theotokos except that she was raised immediately after death rather than waiting as we must do.

ccc said...

I think my biggest problem with the proffer of the "Luminous Mysteries" is not that Pope JP II proposed them himself, but people now act as if they are somehow mandatory. For decades, during Lent, I have prayed the 5 decades in honor of the Sacred Wounds and meditated upon those, though I would never push it on others.

It's pushed on my children at school, it's pushed by the Diocese, and when I was in Rome last August, half of the "full" rosaries had 20 decades on them.

Banshee said...

Not to diss Joseph, but the prevalence of various saints' names as Baptismal names in Ireland, from the 1600's on, has a direct correlation to entirely different Irish saints' names.

Because if you could get baptized, post-Trent priests were reluctant to use saints' names that weren't on the Roman calendar. So the Irish used similar-sounding "functional equivalents," like Cornelius for Conn or Conor, and Jeremiah for Diarmuid, and so on.

Joseph (Seosamh) was a popular name, but it also stood for several other names I can't remember at the moment.

Banshee said...

Stephen Cooper -- I had a lot of trouble with this too, as my school went a little too far down the road of the late medieval poets. But then I did research.

It's probably a permissible theological opinion that Mary didn't die -- in the West. But in the East, it's pretty clear that she did. That's why there's a Feast of the Dormition.

All the older and earliest Eastern and Western sources for the Assumption and Coronation of Mary are also pretty clear that Mary died (like her Son), before being brought back to life and carried off to Heaven, body and soul. I don't see how it could actually be true, therefore, that Mary didn't die; but if you want to keep the opinion, you're okay to do so.

Banshee said...

ccc - Lots of people act like the Rosary is mandatory, and the Dominican Rosary at that. And boy, you should have seen some of the people who wrote to me, when I translated an early 1800's Irish prayerbook, and let them know the particular older Irish format for the "Rosary for the Dead" was totally different than the ones currently used.

Some people are very worried if things aren't all the same as they were taught, in the same prayer culture they were taught. The Church herself is okay with all kinds of devotions, but Susan on the Parish Council is not so generous.

The other one that gets flak is the Hispanic custom of wearing rosaries around the neck. I did research and found out it used to be almost everybody in Europe, and that it was an indulgenced practice. Hispanic people still follow it because it was one of the first prayer and sacramental customs taught to them by the Franciscan and other missionaries who came to places like Mexico and the Philippines.

But since the practice was discouraged in North America for various reasons, by 19th century Irish and German nuns, obviously it must be totally pagan! For everyone!

frjustin said...

Banshee, on this feast of the Irish martyrs (bumped by the Immaculate Heart of Mary, not that they would mind), I think you may have solved a "mystery" for me.

I've always wondered why many Irish and Jews bear the same first name: Daniel, Michael, Jeremiah, Joseph, and so on. Israelis even have a "functional equivalent" of Joseph in the name Yossi, just as the Irish had Seosamh (and also, perhaps, Senan).

The reason would seem to be that post-Trent priests used saints' names that were either in the Roman calendar (Michael, Joseph) or in biblical readings that would have been heard in the Roman Mass (Daniel, Jeremiah).

There's no causation, of course, but it's an interesting correlation!