3 Aspects of the Christian Rosary #prayer #rosary

IM001380While most of us grew up thinking of the rosary as an exclusively Catholic thing, the fact is that the devotion predates the Protestant movement and the resulting division between Christians. Christian use of the rosary is not just found among Catholics, but survived among some Anglicans and Lutherans, and has also been revived, often under names such as Christian rosary or Lutheran rosary, in some Christian communities.

Since the rosary is in common Christian use, it is well to think seriously about it. What is the rosary, anyway? There are three aspects of the rosary we might need to study to achieve full understanding.

The Beads

A rosary is a physical set of beads used to count prayers. Many cultures have something similar to a rosary. In Eastern religions, a string of 108 beads is used to count repetitions of a mantra, or religious phrase. In the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches, a prayer rope is used to count repetitions of the Jesus prayer.  Muslims are said to use beads to count the many names/attributes of Allah.

A forerunner of rosary beads in the Western church was Paternoster beads, which were used to count repetitions of the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer. These were used by Christians who could not read, or could not afford a Liturgy of the Hours prayer book, which is a devotion based on the Psalms. Repeating the Our Father, and later, the rosary prayers, was a substitute.

The Verbal Prayers

The rosary is also a set of verbal prayers to be recited. They were prayers regularly taught to young Christians at the time the rosary was created. Besides the Our Father and the Hail Mary, they include the Glory Be to the Father, the In the Name of the Father, and the Apostles Creed.

I knew all these prayers, except the Hail Mary, from when I was a Protestant. We sang the Glory Be in our Presbyterian church every Sunday. The Hail Mary prayer can be a stumbling block, but the older version of the Hail Mary is made up of two Bible verses, and the longer version just asks Mary to pray for us. To God. The same way we ask our friends to pray for us. It’s not a form of worshipping Mary, which would be a serious sin. For those who worry, the short form Hail Mary or the Jesus prayer can be used in place of the full Hail Mary.

The Life of Christ Meditations

There is a third factor to the rosary. It is a series of 15 events and topics from the life of Christ that we are to think about while reciting the verbal prayers. Much later, Pope John Paul II added 5 more events, called the Luminous Mysteries. Protestants may use these extra Mysteries or not, as they choose. All are Bible stories known to Protestants, anyway.

The meditations add depth to the rosary devotion and keep us from just mindless and thoughtlessly uttering the verbal prayers. They are the heart of the devotion. There are many Catholic leaflets, books and videos that help us keep these meditations in mind when praying the rosary. I don’t know that there is much of this nature made for various sorts of Protestants, but if you can’t find anything, adapt something Catholic!

The Lutheran Rosary

Martin Luther and the Lutheran Hail Mary

 

Martin Luther and the Lutheran Hail Mary

Can you imagine Martin Luther, founder of Protestantism in general and Lutheranism in particular, kneeling down in prayer and saying the ‘Hail Mary?’ Impossible, right? Well, Martin Luther himself didn’t think so. He included the Hail Mary prayer in a prayer book that he published. It had the first part of the modern Hail Mary: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

This shortened Hail Mary was the original form which is used in the rosary, and which early was used as a substitute for praying the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, for those who could not read the Psalms or who didn’t have access to a book of the Psalms or the Liturgy.

Since Martin Luther by that time was in the Catholicism-rejecting business, he certainly did not need to include this prayer. He did not retain all of his former Catholic beliefs about the Virgin, but he— and other reformers such as Zwingli, Calvin, and even the later John Wesley, retained some Catholic teachings that their modern-day followers universally reject.

One thing I lament about  the world today is that so many of us don’t know what other churches teach, and many also don’t know what the founder of their church taught, or even what the creed or catechism of their church teaches. Perhaps Christians would be better able to understand one another if they would learn some of these things?

The Lutheran Rosary – https://myantimatterlife.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/the-lutheran-rosary/     The top post on this blog

 


In my research for this blog— I read that including links in my posts makes my own post ‘Google’ better— I came across a very new blog by a LCMS (conservative Lutheran) seminarian. He wrote a good post on Luther and the Hail Mary, which is here: https://dsmondayblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/the-hail-mary-according-to-martin-luther I think it would be a wonderful idea if all my readers would stop by his blog, read his article, and drop some encouraging words in a comment.

I also ran across an article called Martin Luther’s Devotion to Mary. The author turned out to be a friend of mine, Dave Armstrong, a former Protestant who is now a Catholic apologist. His blog is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/

Here are two other articles for further reading:

Mother Mary and Martin Lutherhttp://www.interfaithmary.net/pages/mary_Luther.html

Martin Luther believed in devotion to Mary? (James White)http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2013/10/17/martin-luther-believed-in-devotion-to-mary/

The Lutheran Rosary

Lutheran-Rosary-Step-6

Lutherans pray the rosary? But I thought that was just for Roman Catholics!

Yes, some Lutherans do pray the rosary. Like the Anglicans/Episcopalians, the Lutherans have rejected fewer traditions of Christian worship than groups like the Baptists. And so, there is some tendency for these groups to use forms of devotion that most Protestants say are ‘too Catholic.’

When I was a Lutheran, I prayed the rosary. I modified the Hail Mary prayer to leave off the second part— the part that says ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.’ I felt a little guilty about praying the rosary since I was Lutheran, so I only ever told one other Lutheran. She prayed the rosary too— and she didn’t modify it.

One year the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the USA (ELCA)— that’s the liberal Lutheran body in the USA— published a little thing about saying the ‘Lutheran rosary’ for Lent.

This Lutheran rosary is much like the traditional rosary, but for the Hail Mary beads one says the Jesus prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.’ You meditate on the mysteries, which are the same as the traditional ones, except for the final two of the Glorious mysteries. In this Lutheran rosary, the Assumption of Mary is replaced by The Communion of Saints, and the Coronation of Mary in Heaven is replaced by The Heavenly Jerusalem. The Luminous mysteries added by Pope Saint John Paul II are not mentioned.

At the end of this Lutheran rosary, where traditionally one would say the ‘Hail, Holy Queen’ prayer, you are given a choice. You may say:

1. The older version of the Hail Mary, which they call the pre-Trent Hail Mary. OR

2. Part of the Magnificat, OR

3. Martin Luther’s Evangelical Praise of the Mother of God.

To read the full instructions, go here: http://www.giftsofaith.com/Files/lutheranrosary.pdf

Note, 3-16-2018: The above link is no longer active. If you can find it on the internet somewhere else, please let me know in a comment. I want to make sure the material stays available to those looking for it.

Another link that IS currently working is this: http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-lutheran-rosary.html

If you are a conservative Lutheran, perhaps a member of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, you may wonder if it is only the liberal Lutherans that allow the Lutheran rosary or any other rosary. On a site called ‘Ask the Pastor’ I found an answer to that question: http://xrysostom.blogspot.com/2008/09/do-lutherans-use-rosary.html

The short form of the answer is that the Lutheran rosary and the traditional rosary are not forbidden by the LCMS Lutherans.

My personal opinion is that if one is starting to pray the rosary, it is not a bad idea to stay as close to the traditional rosary (Catholic rosary) as you can. There are many illustrated booklets produced by Catholics that have a picture illustrating the mystery  and a brief meditation or appropriate Bible verse. There are also audio and video rosaries and scriptural rosaries— with a Bible verse for every single Hail Mary in the rosary.

While there are probably more Lutherans who pray the traditional rosary than that use the new Lutheran rosary, this rosary is a good tool for Lutherans (and other Protestants) who want to add the rosary to their devotional life without worry that they are doing something that is ‘too Catholic.’

ChemnitzRosary

Lutheran Reformer Martin Chemnitz & rosary

Another post of interest:

Martin Luther and the Lutheran Hail Mary

Do you pray the rosary? Do you know of any non-Catholics who pray the rosary? What do you think about the Lutheran rosary?

I am at work at on a short ebook about the Lutheran rosary, which will be available soon. If you have experience with the Lutheran rosary, please comment below, especially if you have something to say about your own practice of this devotion.