A garland of Roses on Valentine’s Day
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, February 14, 2011
Good morning, sports fans!
Who could forget Fred Rogers, the host of PBS’s “Mister Rogers Neighborhood“? A generation of children grew up watching that dear, late gentleman. Even as an adult, I would occasionally tune in and watch the series before the Presbyterian pastor passed away.
In his iconic zippered sweater, Fred Rogers was a gentle, picture perfect example of a friendly fellow, kind and wholesome. Men and women throughout the United States mourned his passing. As I understand it, the Smithsonian museum has one of his iconic, handmade red cardigans.
For over 30 years, he began the show with the lines I used to begin this entry – if anything, he was consistent.
Never wavering, never faltering, his continual repetition of that simple song made it ingrained in the minds of an entire generation, where it remains, even to this day – in our hearts.
In the entry immediately preceding this one – Theology Throwdown – I addressed an issue a regular visitor and commenter upon my blog had made in response to a post.
In this entry, I will address the other.
The comment is as follows: “I will give you just two direct commands of Christ that the church ignroes and goes against. Jesus said “that when you pray, don’t pray as the heathen do in vain repetitions because they think that they will be heard for their much speaking”. The rosary is much repetition and were modeled after mid eastern prayer beads which chanting is done over and over.”
While attending university, as part of my curriculum, I and other class members had to memorize all the bones of the body. In conjunction, in a later, separate pathophysiology class, we had to learn the cascade response. And I recollect further, that in high school we were required to learn the Krebs Cycle as part of biology.
Of all the styles of learning, rote memorization is perhaps among the lowest. The reason why is that merely memorizing a list demonstrates very little understanding or comprehension – which is the entire purpose or learning and is the goal of every instruction, to impart understanding and comprehension to those whom have none. To have a student merely repeat a thing does one thing – it ingrains an idea or concept upon the imagination.
First, an idea must be available to the student before the student builds upon the foundation.
How does that relate to the concept of repetition?
Certainly, most could agree that at one time or another, repetitive events in our lives have assisted us in learning. Whether learning routes in a new locale, or learning a new skill or idea, repetition and memorization have an integral role in our understanding.
And yet, repetition is not the only style of learning. It is, however, an important one, and shared by us all.
Perhaps you, the reader, may recall a skit on Saturday Night Live, in which Eddie Murphy made lighthearted jest, in gentle mock of Mister Rogers. “Imitation,” it’s often said, “is the most sincere form of flattery.”
When we consider our mental health, we look for examples of the “norm.” That is, in many cases we seek to examine what the majority of people do, or how they behave. We know that OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – is an outlier in the normative of human behavior.
In the 1988 motion picture “Rain Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, we saw the character that Hoffman portrayed practice some most unusual behaviors. They were erratic, to be certain, some of which were repetitive as well. Some observers might characterize them as obsessive. And they would be right, because savants – the mental disability from which Hoffman’s character suffered – often have poor social skills accompanied by obsessive/compulsive behaviors. And indeed, those individuals whom suffer from OCD or other more severe mental disorders, may suffer from “clang speech” – a characteristic of certain psychotic disorders in which words are uttered in sequence without any obvious association, other than they may have some rhyme or metrical similarity.
It is truly nonsense repetitive speech.
The word “Rosary” itself, as one might suppose, simply means “a garland of roses” in Latin, and the rose being symbolic of the Virgin Mary, in much the same way that carnations are symbolic or emblematic of mothers on Mother’s Day. The very flower itself – the rose – of course, has long been associated with love, purity and are in high demand on Valentine’s Day.
I acknowledge that sometimes, others express ideas better than do I, and this is such a time. The website AmericanCatholic.org had this to say about some whom have excessively lopsided devotion to the Rosary: There are “a few who so exaggerate its importance that it begins to eclipse Jesus and the Eucharist as the central focus of Catholic life. Still others are turned off by the lopsided theology of those who present the rosary as a simple cure for all evils while failing to note that action must be combined with prayer in eliminating those evils.
Pope Paul VI warned against exaggerated approaches when he wrote in 1974: “We… recommend that this very worthy devotion not be propagated in a way that is too one-sided or exclusive. The rosary is an excellent prayer, but the faithful should be serenely free toward it. Its intrinsic appeal should draw them to calm recitation” (On Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, #55).
As with anything in life – and almost any spiritual practice – a person can, as the popular saying attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes goes, become “so Heavenly minded that they’re no Earthly good.” That is to say, one can become lopsided and imbalanced with any practice.
Writing in AmericanCatholic.org, Thomas A. Thompson, S.M., and Jack Wintz, O.F.M., observed that “Pinpointing the origin of the rosary is not easy. The familiar legend that St. Dominic (1170-1221) received the rosary from Our Lady is difficult to substantiate, and most historians believe the rosary developed slowly during a time-span stretching possibly from the 1100s to 1569, when Pope Pius V officially approved the devotion. The rosary took its present form between the 14th and 15th centuries.“
The website EWTN.com has this to say about the origin of the rosary: “The origins of the rosary are “sketchy” at best. The use of “prayer beads” and the repeated recitation of prayers to aid in meditation stem from the earliest days of the Church and has roots in pre-Christian times. Evidence exists from the Middle Ages that strings of beads were used to count Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Actually, these strings of beads became known as “Paternosters,” the Latin for “Our Father.”“
The website eRosary.com writes this about the origin and development of the Rosary: “The rosary is a form of combined prayer and meditation that has been around for over 1200 years. The origin of the rosary dates back to the ninth century where Irish monks would recite and chant the 150 Psalms of the Bible as a major part of their worship. People living near the monasteries were drawn towards this beautiful and harmonious devotion, and they became very eager to join in with the monks’ prayers.
Unfortunately, the people were not able to adapt to this form of prayer because the psalms were very hard to memorize and printed copies of the psalms were not readily available. As a result, it was suggested to the people outside the monastery that they recite a series of 150 “Our Father” prayers in place of the psalms.
As this form of devotion became increasingly popular, people started to devise methods in order to keep track of their prayers. At first, 150 little pebbles were placed inside small leather pouches to keep count. Since this method was rather troublesome, a thin rope having 50 knots on it was used instead (it was used three times for a total of 150 prayers). Eventually, the instrument of choice became the use of string with small pieces of wood.”
Considering further the development of the modern rosary, there are some whom ascribe it as far back as the 4th century, being used by the Desert Fathers – a group of Christian ascetic monastics whom resided in the deserts of Egypt circa 3d century, among whom is most prominent Anthony the Great. Anthony’s biographer – Saint Athanasius of Alexandria – is the solitary individual whom is today accredited with fully elucidating and defending the unique and separate nature of the Godhead. He may best be remembered for his role in the conflict with Arius and Arianism, when at the First Council of Nicaea, Athanasius argued against Arius and his doctrine that Christ is of a distinct substance from the Father.
Now, while it may seem that some of the preceding paragraphs have been off-topic, they are in defense and explanation of the charge that the rosary is “modeled after mid eastern prayer beads which chanting is done over and over.”
The reader should understand that not everyone could read during that era, and that such mneomic devices were used to assist the memory. We use mneomic devices even today.
So yeah… Egypt is the very cradle of Christianity. Guilty on the first count. Egypt is the Middle East.
Concerning the charge that “chanting is done over and over,” if it soothes your soul, and makes you feel good to coo to a lover or spouse, “I love you,” or if an injured child crying for it’s mother calling out her name over and over again is idiotic and nonsensical, then guilty as charged. If meditating on the words of the LORD’s Prayer while reciting it is vain… well then, God help us all.
I have heard Christian folk suggest that in times of worry or stress, to simply repeat the name of our LORD until they become peaceful. Does the LORD consider that nonsensical or vain repetition? Indeed, what if that is the ONLY prayer one knows? Would anyone dare suggest that He IGNORES such a prayer – the very act of calling upon His name?
Why, of course NOT!
As was stated above, the Rosary is “a form of combined prayer and meditation.”
There are, of course, several types of prayer. One such type is intercessory prayer, about which I had briefly touched upon in the previous related entry entitled Theology Throwdown.
And yet, perhaps it may be worthy to consider the purpose of prayer.
Does one pray to change God? Or, does one pray to change oneself?
I think the answer rather obvious, which is, that one prays in large part to change oneself. For if we all had our own ways, what a world of hurt we’d all be in!
The respondent had written, “Jesus said “that when you pray, don’t pray as the heathen do in vain repetitions because they think that they will be heard for their much speaking.” And indeed, since Christ Jesus did say that, let’s examine His remarks.
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6 verse 7 Christ Jesus is recorded to have said, “”When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” (NLT) Another version renders it this way, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (ESV) And yet another phrases the passage this way, “When you pray, don’t ramble like heathens who think they’ll be heard if they talk a lot.” (GWT) And yet another renders it this way, “And in your prayer do not make use of the same words again and again, as the Gentiles do: for they have the idea that God will give attention to them because of the number of their words.” (BBE)
Suddenly, a more clear picture emerges – one that hopefully, yields more understanding.
“They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” “Don’t ramble…” And my personal favorite, “do not make use of the same words again and again…”
What I think is interesting, is the next several verses.
Christ said, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” And then, He instructed them to pray like this: “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.“
Arguably, that prayer – the LORD’s Prayer – is the most recognized prayer the world over.
We know that Christianity is a religion based upon a personal relationship. A personal relationship is cultivated by spending time with someone. We spend time with God by being in prayer. We develop our relationship with Him by practicing awareness of His presence in our daily lives. Prayer and meditation are two important parts of cultivating that relationship.
We know that God is love. We know His son Christ Jesus. We learn about God from the example of Christ.
Here ends the lesson.
Thanks be to God!