News & Views
The Sign of the Cross – Pope Innocent III explained how the sign of the cross should be properly traced: “The sign of the Cross is made with three fingers, because the signing is done together with the invocation of the Trinity. This how it is done: from above to below, and from the right to the left, because Christ descended from the heavens to the earth, and from the Jews (right) He passed to the Gentiles (left). Others, however, make the sign of the cross from the left to the right, because from misery (left) we must cross over to glory (right), just as Christ crossed over from death to life, and from Hades to Paradise. (Some Priests) do it this way so that they and the people will be signing themselves in the same way. You can easily verify this – picture the priest facing the people for the blessing – when we make the sign of the cross over the people. it is from left to right.” The West, introduced an additional change, applied after the decision of the three-finger placement of the left-to-right horizontal bar. The sign of the three fingers gave way to the new sign of the open hand, or five fingers outstretched, with which most Western Christians are familiar today.The change to the open hand imitates the blessing of the priest, which in the West is performed, similarly with the entire hand. The East maintained the three – finger gesture for the sign of the cross.
After the schism between the Orthodox and the Latin Churches, the relations between East and West were often clouded with mistrust. Many of the cultural differences between the two churches were seen under a suspicious light, and the currently differing ways the sign of the cross is performed in the East and the West were also seen with distrust. It is often the case, unfortunately, that people cling to practices that are known to them and do not appreciate the historical circumstances that played a role in the development of these practices. Despite the different symbolic meanings occasionally attached to it the sign of the cross is a blessing, a prayer, a proclamation of the Christian identity, a living mystery, and an acceptance of the role that God has given us (Andreopoulos, The Sign of the Cross).
Rosary History – A Summary For hundreds of years it was believed that the Rosary was revealed to Spanish-born St. Dominic in the early 13th century when he appealed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist him in fighting the Albigensian heresy. The Albigensians believed that the spiritual world was essentially good and the material world (including the Human body) was essentially evil. The austerity of the inner circle of the Albigensians compared to the easy going and even moral laxity of the clergy caused the people to be attracted to this heresy. The Dominicans believe that Dominic’s lack of success against the heresy prompted him to implore our Holy Mother’s assistance who then gave him the Marian Psalter. The dispute as to whether this occurred has been going on for centuries. Whether it can be proven historically that St. Dominic received this revelation is not as important as that the Dominicans have zealously spread the Rosary prayer throughout the world for centuries. This certainly suggests that there must have been some basis in truth which led the Order of Preachers to treasure and teach this devotion for so long.
The use of string beads, knotted cords, and similar devices for aiding the memory and keeping count is pre-Christian. Monks of the Eastern Church use beads and knotted cords with a different organization for assistance in prayer. The Jesus Prayer is the manta prayer of the East comparable to the Hail Mary in the West. The Rosary has developed over the centuries and has had a singular role in providing for spiritual cohesiveness for eight hundred years.
The Hail Mary did not exist as we pray it today. Only the first half was initially used. The word “Jesus” was not added until the 14th century, and the second half of the prayer came later. Around the year 800 Irish monks reportedly taught the people, most of whom could not read, to pray 150 Our Fathers in place of the 150 Psalms. The people would carry a pouch with 150 pebbles in it. Each time an Our Father was completed a pebble would be discarded until all 150 pebbles were gone. Later strings with wooden beads came into use. Each of the 150 Psalms was interpreted with reference to Jesus and “Psalters of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” were composed.
In the 13th century and throughout the Middle Ages such articles were called Paternosters (“Our Father” in Latin). Those who made them were called paternosterers. In London they worked on a street which is still called Paternoster Row. The clergy and lay people in other parts of Europe began to recite the first half of the Angelic Salutation, “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you blessed are you among women.” St. Peter Damian, who died in 1072, was the first to mention this prayer form. It was a natural development that 150 praises of Mary were soon composed as well. A shorter psalter of 50 Marian praises was called a Rosarium. This is how the name “Rosary” came about. There were a number of psalters in use during the 13th century including: the 150 Our Fathers, the 150 Angelic Salutations, the 150 praises of Jesus, and the 150 praises of Mary. When the Rosary, if we use that term to cover such devotions, waned the Dominican, Blessed Alan de la Roche, revived devotion by preaching the Rosary of St. Dominic. He developed a special thought for each of the 150 beads. He also established the first Rosary Confraternity.
As the Christian world moved out of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance period, the Rosary form with a thought for each Angelic Salutation was gradually abandoned because it was possible around 1500 to reproduce woodcut picture prints. Since it was expensive to print 150 pictures, one picture was produced for every group of ten beads, which was called a “decade.” When Rosary interest waned, lovers of Mary renewed interest in its use. Examples include, Blessed Alan de la Roche in the 15th century, St. Louis de Montfort in the 18th century, Fr. Patrick Payton, Pope Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II have been the Rosary’s great promoters in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Dynamic Rosary – Pope John Paul II made a radical change in the traditional recitation of the Rosary by adding the Mysteries of Light as a five decade addition. The Rosary will continue to develop further meeting the needs of the particular times. Catholics are much more knowledgeable about scripture than they have been in the past. The richness and beauty of the Old and New Testaments can be melded into Rosary prayers and meditations. Blessed John Paul II called the Rosary his “favorite prayer.” As we develop new insights on the scriptures and the dogmatic teachings of the Church our meditations can be adapted to work these into our Rosary Prayer.
The devout Christian is a dynamic individual, filled with the Holy Spirit, he grows in his dedication to Christ.The Rosary prayer grows along with the growth of the Christian. This is not to say that the Rosary prayer of today or tomorrow is better than the Rosary prayer of yesterday. One’s Rosary prayer of today meets the needs of today just as the Rosary prayers of the past met the needs of those times. In any case, the great value of the Rosary is that since it is Mary’s special prayer it is taken by her and given to God. A prayer from Mary’s lips increases its value not seven times but seventy times seven times. In other words we cannot measure its value.
With the approval of Bishop John Scanlan, the Dominican Order canonically approved the establishment of The Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary at Star of the Sea in 1972. As far as is known, it is the only such Dominican designated Confraternity in the Islands. The Confraternity meets every first Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and prays all 20 mysteries (decades) of the Rosary, followed by the Chaplet of Mercy, before the exposed Holy Eucharist.
The Love of Husband and Wife – Catechism of the Catholic Church – We have been reviewing “spousal love” in Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. It is well to pause and look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the “Love of Husband and Wife:”
2360 “Sexuality is ordered for the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.”
2361 “Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.”
2362 “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enrich the spouses in joy and gratitude. Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure…”
2363 “The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.
The conjugal love of a man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.”
All the best through the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Dcn. Andy Gerakas