Friday, February 25, 2011

Sorrowful Mysteries, 4th, The LORD Carries His Cross

John 19:16-17
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus,
and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.

In the 4th Sorrowful Mystery we pray for the grace to bear our trials with patients.

The 4th Sorrowful Mystery has, as I find many times, obliterated what I thought was just a cliche and through the contemplation of this mystery I have seen the truth in the old saying "everyone has their cross to bear".

First of all I am brought back to Mark 8:34 where our LORD says "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." As a Christian my only goal in life should be to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. In order to do that I don't need a bunch of stuff. My goal shouldn't be a better job, a bigger house, a "picture perfect" family. If I somehow end up with these things, then so be it. But my purpose should be to be a disciple. To be a disciple, I don't need an easy life. What I need is my cross.

However, in this life the LORD has blessed me tremendously. I have a good job. I have a decent house and cars that run. I have a little money in the bank. I don't want for food. If someone gets sick we go to the doctor. I could go on and on with the good things that the LORD my GOD has blessed me with. But that is not the point of this particular post.

My blessings are many, so even if I am willing to seek out my cross, I sometimes have a hard time finding it because I have it so good. so I pray
LORD, I want to be your disciple. You have blessed me abundantly and I do not see my Cross. Jesus, Son of David, Have pity on me(Luke 18:38). Let me see(my cross).

This is a scary thing to pray. The fact is, I want to be a good disciple and carry my cross as Christ carried His. But, I fear that when He does show me my cross, I will lack the courage to pick it up (the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak Mathew 26:41). So I pray, LORD strengthen me and grant me the courage to pick up my cross.

But, I know that even if I see my cross and even if the LORD gives me the courage to pick it up and carry it that I cannot carry it by myself (because without me you can do nothing. John 15:5). So I pray, Help me, LORD I cannot carry this cross by myself. I am too weak.

Far from being cliche the Cross is central to the Christian life. A lesson I have learned meditating on the 4th Sorrowful Mystery is that my focus in life should be to be a disciple of Our LORD. To be a disciple I must pick up my cross and follow Him. If I don't see my Cross then I need to pray that GOD will grant me sight. That if I fear The Cross, I should pray for the grace to embrace my Cross. Finally, that I will not carry The Cross on only on my own shoulders but if I ask, the LORD will help me under the weight of The Cross.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Rosary and Some Common Objections

I would very much like to encourage Protestants to take up the practice of praying the Holy Rosary and also to strengthen Catholics in the prayer. The Rosary is a very rich prayer that can be prayed by the Christian who is very young in the faith as a way to growing in the prayer traditions of Orthodox Christianity. The Rosary can also be prayed by those who have already developed a deep prayer life as a way of nurturing the life of faith.

I know, however, that there are some major obstacles for Protestants to begin this prayer. I believe that these obstacles are the result of a gross misrepresentation of the prayer and/or simple misunderstanding. First and foremost, I know that most Protestants have an aversion to the Hail Mary. I have covered that in a separate post.

Following that, the three most common objections to the Rosary that I know of are that it is mistaken as a form of worship of Mary. Second is that it is a direct violation of our LORD'S command to not "babble on like the pagans" and finally, that the Rosary is strictly a Marian prayer and Marian prayer is pointless because there is only one Mediator, Christ Jesus.

Not only do I wish to answer these objection for the Protestant, as well, I fear that weakly formed Catholics may be caught off guard by these propositions and thereby hampered in taking up the practice.

First and foremost, no Catholic worships Mary. It  is that simple. Catholics do not worship Mary. We worship only GOD, period. I believe, by and large, that most people who think this are caught up in a misunderstanding. It seems to me that the cause of this misunderstanding is a fundamental difference between Protestants and Catholics in the understanding of prayer.

Prayer can be worship, but it isn't necessarily worship. We have prayers of worship directed toward GOD. We also have prayers of intercession directed toward those who's help we seek.

Our prayers asking for intercession are comparable to asking a friend for a favor. An even more accurate comparison may be that prayers for intercession are like asking a mentor at work for help and guidance.

We understand that as the mother of Jesus, Mary holds a unique place of honor among GOD'S creation. That not withstanding, whether it is Mary, or St. Joseph, or St. Michael or any other saint, we understand that their ability to intercede on our behalf comes from GOD, not from themselves. We do not ask anything of Mary other than that she intercede for us.With regards to worship, this is no different than asking a friend or family member to pray for you. You are not worshiping them are you?

In addressing the second objection, namely that the Rosary is babbling on like the pagans we must look at what the Rosary actually is. The prayer of the Rosary is really found in the contemplation of the mysteries. The vocal, repetitive prayers are meant to time and move the contemplative prayers. Since the Rosary requires more than mere repetition of words, it is not a "vain repetition".

More to the point, when you really look at what the Rosary is, it is not just repeating the same prayers time and again. Rather it is more akin to what a person might call "Bible Study". It is an in-depth look at certain events in the life of Christ. In looking at these events we try to learn how to become better Christians from the virtues extolled and lived by our Savior and His Mother (who was the first and model Christian).

Therefore, in the Rosary, and this is important, we are contemplating the Gospel. When we pray the Rosary, we are looking at the Life of Christ with Mary, his Mother. Who would be better to study the Gospel with than Mary?

This leaves us with the final objection, that there is but one Mediator. I don't think that anything in the Bible is superfluous. Do you? In other words, I think that every story in the Old and New Testaments are there for us to learn from. For instance in 1 Kings 2 we see that King Solomon's mother was asked to interceded for one of the King's subjects. She did and King Solomon assured her before she even asked that he would not refuse her.

So if the Queen of Israel was not refused by her son, the King of Israel, why would Jesus Christ, King of Heaven and Earth, refuse His Mother? He wouldn't and we can know this from John's Gospel. When Mary does intercede on behalf of someone she is not refused. In John 2 when Christ and Mary are at the wedding at Canna, she comes to Him because the host has run out of wine. He does not refuse her, rather he performs His first public miracle.

Finally, it seems to me that the "One Mediator" objection is a syntactical matter. We can only be reconciled and saved through the eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Holy Roman Catholic Church teaches nothing else and the prayer of the Rosary presumes nothing else. It is only through this Sacrifice that salvation can be won.

However, that doesn't mean that we cannot ask the Queen to recommend our intentions to the King. Mary can intercede on our behalf with her Son and He can remain the "One Mediator". If Mary can intercede on our behalf as she did in Canna, then Marian prayer is not useless, rather, it is powerful.

When it is all said and done, the Rosary is a great prayer to nurture spiritual growth. I know many people neglect this prayer because of some basic objections. I hope that if you had any or all of these objections to the Rosary that you might consider what I have said here. I also know that I may not have completely convinced you.If this is the case I would be happy to explore any remaining objections you may have.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sorrowful Mysteries: 3rd, Crowning with Thorns

Matthew 27:27-31
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him.
They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head.
And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him off to crucify him.

The 3rd Sorrowful Mystery is the "Crowning with Thorns". This Mystery recalls the time after Christ was scourged at the pillar. The roman soldiers mock Jesus by calling Him "King of the Jews" and then treating Him badly. The soldiers give Him all of the symbols of a King in a way that hurts Him. In other words they are just making sport of Him.

The soldiers call Christ King and then go on to act as if He is anything but King. I think this is what struck me so strongly. As a Christian, I claim that Jesus Christ is King of Heaven and Earth and that I am under His dominion.

I have claimed Jesus Christ as King and one lesson I have learned from the 3rd Sorrowful Mystery is that every time I make a decision to act contrary to the word and example of Jesus, every time I disregard His law and teaching, I am joining with the roman soldiers and mocking our LORD. When I call Jesus King and go on to act as if His Kingship makes no difference in my life, I am just making sport of Him. This lesson brings to light the severity of my own sins, especially the ones that seem innocuous on the surface.