It takes me about twenty minutes to pray my rosary.
I don’t pray it the traditional way. I’ve substituted the Hail Mary’s with a combination of the Trisagion and hosanna. Even though I’m walking the Anglican path, I guess I’m still more protestant than Catholic at heart. So, I pray, “Holy, holy, holy is the lord god almighty. Hosanna; blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord.”
I know god’s not a “he,” but Jesus is. My prayer about blessing the one who comes in the name of the lord is about Jesus. In fact, the whole rosary I pray is about Jesus. He is the center, the focus, the web of being that holds my prayers together.
So, I pray these five decades, these five sets of ten wooden spheres tied together by glory be’s and Our Father’s – again knowing god isn’t male, but also acknowledging, as Bishop Kallistos Ware says, Jesus gave us this prayer for a reason. It’s complicated, but still, it’s the prayer I pray on the single beads in the rosary chain.
Decades, “Our Father” beads, and a crucifix. Not a cross; a crucifix. There’s a reason I purchased a rosary which carries a crucifix with it. It’s a rough crucifix, feeling very sharp and tactile under my fingers. On the crucifix – with my thumb rubbing Christ’s form nailed to a tree – I state what I believe. The Apostles Creed is my confession.
I believe in god, the father almighty, maker of heaven, and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, god’s only begotten son.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell,
And on the third day, he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
Where he sits at god’s mighty right hand.
From there he will return to judge the quick and the dead,
And his kingdom will be without end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
One holy catholic and apostolic church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
And the resurrection of the body unto life everlasting.
So, I confess these beliefs, say an Our Father, and climb the next three beads. O god the father, maker of heaven and earth; O god the son, Jesus Christ, savior of the world; O god the Holy Spirit, sanctifier of the faithful; O holy and glorious trinity, one god now and forever – I invoke these names, titles, and persons, asking for mercy on me, a sinner.
It’s a variation of the Jesus prayer (Jesus Christ, son of David, have mercy on me a sinner) that is often used in contemplation and meditation. My variation is my beseechment to the triune god – creator, savior, and sanctifier – for mercy.
I confess, ask for mercy, take three breaths, and begin to climb the rope of prayer. I pray my Trisagion hosanna, and I watch my mind wander. Traditionally, rosaries are prayed while focusing on the mysteries of Christ (joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and luminous) as a meditative and devotional practice. I, however, can’t remember all the mysteries (there are five mysteries in each category), so my method is a bit different.
Mindfulness is something I have learned over the past few years in therapy. Basically, it’s learning to be fully present at the moment, acknowledging feelings, physical sensations, and thoughts in a non-judgmental manner. Mindfulness has helped me explore my feelings, understanding why I feel the way I do in some situations, as well as helped me not latch on and fixate on thoughts (especially self-harm and suicidal ideation).
I practice mindfulness as I pray my rosary. I feel the crucifix, wooden beads, and leather knots under my fingers, hear the words I am whispering under my tongue, and let all other thoughts come and go, drifting on the currents of my mind. I don’t berate myself when my focus wanders away from my prayers. I’m not here for a mental self-flagellation. I simply guide my attention back to the practice of the rosary.
So, I pray and my mind wanders. Crossing myself with a “Glory Be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was, is now, and ever will be, world without end” over every connecting knot – the sinews of my rosary – helps pull my mind back to my body, back to the act of prayer.
Why though? I don’t even know if I believe in prayer in any recognizable way these days. I don’t believe in magic rituals to set intentions. I don’t operate under the assumption that I can gain hidden spiritual power or unlock spiritual secrets by praying the right prayers in the right way. I don’t even believe that praying this way inherently make the divine happy. So, why say these words and move my fingers over these beads?
First, I need quiet.
My life is kinda chaotic much of the time. There is a lot of noise and fire and fury outside my head. In my head is constant noise. I’m continually thinking about several things, moving from topic to topic, fleeting from through to thought, worry to worry. I have a tendency to look at problems and send myself into a panic attack over a solution that I can’t seem to make happen. Life is not calm, nor is it quiet.
I need to be centered, to be stilled, to be quiet. Mindfulness helps me get out of the past and the future, and be present int eh there and now. I need space to practice this mindfulness so that I know how to use it when life gets loud. Or when someone in my family needs my attention. Or when I’m out with a friend. I want to be present with the people I love. I can’t do that if I don’t learn how to be quiet.
The second reason is a bit esoteric.
I pray my rosary because I believe Jesus is present. Not just in a ghostly, spiritual sense. I’m talking real presence stuff, just like he is in the Eucharist. It’s not that my rosary is magic, or even particularly blessed or holy. It’s not that the prayers are abracadabra or a shofar to call forth the Christ. After all, he’s not a tame lion.
In this good and wild lion, we live and move and have our being. Jesus is god, and god is the dharma we walk in, the inherently true nature of the world around us. God isn’t a true doctrine, correct reasoning, or genuine intellectual accent. Rather – instead is perhaps a better word, but even with these words, we are speaking about an ineffable divinity – god is all truth.
I, you, we are made in the image of this divinity. As filled with cosmos and guts as we are, the shape we take is the shape of god, the shape of truth. Jesus once told people, “I am the truth.” So, genuinely, I am made in Jesus’s image.
There is a Catholic practice – even though I’m protestant walking the Anglican way, I still stray (and play) in Catholic mysticism – called adoration. Adoration is a contemplative practice where a person or persons will gather before the blessed bread of the Eucharist, knowing that it is become the body of Christ himself, and will simply be before the presence of Jesus.
If we can adore Christ in the bread of the Eucharist, why can’t I adore Christ in me, Christ in you?
I believe Jesus has a real presence in the physical world around us, and specifically in our flesh and blood images of god. So, I pray my rosary as an act of adoration of the Christ of god whose image I am made in.
So, I pray my rosary for peace and for adoration. I pray it around Jesus, believing he is present with me, in me, through me. I take twenty minutes and pray my way up, around, and down a rope, offering myself to the divine in a way that no other spiritual practice does for me. I may not traditionally pray the rosary, but I still pray it for, on, and with a purpose.
That purpose is Jesus.