Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fielding Questions

I spent most of the morning talking about praying (praying the Liturgy of the Hours, that is). (I am giving myself two days to relax and then move into preparing the next talk--for the Archdiocese of Detroit Youth Ministry team.)
After my presentation today, a young man came over to me with his shiny leather Volume IV of Christian Prayer. He was eager to use it, but was wondering about something I had said. Evidently, he had been told that the Rosary is the highest form of prayer, after the celebration of the Eucharist. But here I was saying that the Liturgy of the Hours, as Liturgy, was the prayer of the whole Body of Christ, Head and members, and that it was Christ praying "for us and with us" while we prayed "to" him (as Augustine said). So what does that do to the Rosary?
Since the Rosary came into existence as a kind of substitute for the Liturgy of the Hours (150 Hail Mary's replacing the 150 Psalms for those unable to read), you can see that for generations, the Rosary would have been the next best thing for the vast majority of believers. They just didn't have access to the Psalter! But the Christian ideal, pretty much since those ragged Desert Fathers and Mothers in Egypt, has been to pray the entire book of Psalms as frequently and consistently as possible. The Psalms were composed to be sung in prayer, so the book of Psalms is the ultimate hymnal for worship, inspired by God himself. (St. Augustine said that in the book of Psalms, "God praised himself, so that we would know how to offer him praise.")
Not only are the Psalms the way Jesus learned to pray, the Church realized very early on that in a mysterious way, the Psalms were about Jesus. That "man" the psalms keep praising is not just anybody: in a Christological reading of the psalms, it is Jesus. The poor man crying out to God from the "depths"? Jesus in the depths of his suffering (in Gethsemane, for instance, or even in the Descent into Hell). The one who was made "for a little while lower than the angels"? Jesus again (that interpretation is as early as the letter to the Hebrews). It's all about Jesus.
So while you shouldn't just put your Rosary beads away forever (the Rosary is a wonderful and helpful way to contemplate Jesus in the mysteries of his earthly life and our redemption), you might think of plugging into the prayer of the Church in a little way, adapting some aspect of the Liturgy of the Hours and its way of praying the Psalms. (Here's a little something from the Benedictines to get you started.)


Anonymous said...

Sister Anne--wonderful talk this morning! As someone who knew next to nothing about the Liturgy of the Hours before, I learned quite a bit. You've given me a lot to think about.


sjdemoor said...

Thank you Sr. for your information on the rosary. That was really awesome, especially the 150 psalms with 150 beads part. Makes total sense now how important the rosary was for those who could not read. Kind of like how stained glass and gothic architecture was actually designed and built to tell a story for the illiterate who could not read.

Blessings to you and your ministry. Also, I am a young Catholic from Colorado who is just starting up a Catholic blog, I would love it if you could help me spread the word about it for others to read. I am on twitter too, that's how I found your blog.
Blessings to you.
Seth J. DeMoor

Sr Anne said...

Here's a great and timely thought from the Pope: "The Rosary is not an obstacle to meditiation on the Word of God and liturgical prayer, indeed, it reperesents a natural and ideal complement to it, especially as a preparation and thanksgiving for the Eucharistic celebration."

Sr Anne said...

Here's a Mommy blogger's take on the Liturgy of the Hours...