Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Rosary, Mary, Christ, and TF

TF has a couple posts up concerning the Rosary. I'm not posting here because I think that they haven't been adequately addressed already; Mike Burgess has done the heavy lifting on that score. However, in view of a recent suggestion, I thought I might pile on a little bit.
Certain of those who engage in Marian devotion, insist that Mary leads them to Christ.
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it's not just "certain of those" who do so that say it; it's the Church in (among other places) Lumen Gentium. Here's a tiny portion of what LG has to say that is relevant.
For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer. Just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by the ministers and by the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is really communicated in different ways to His creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source.

The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary. It knows it through unfailing experience of it and commends it to the hearts of the faithful, so that encouraged by this maternal help they may the more intimately adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer [62; emphasis added].
(As an aside, this little snippet also does away with the ridiculous canard suggested by some silly folks - though not, to my knowledge, TF - that Mary is someday, somehow going to be "added" to the Trinity. But I digress).

The point here is that - contrary to TF's insinuation - it is not just some mere sliver of Catholics who say that the Blessed Virgin leads them to Christ, as though they were in the minority or something. No. This is the formal teaching of the Church.
On the other hand, do you suppose she prayed the Lord's prayer? If so, she admitted her lack of sinlessness.
Mike answers this assertion well:
That she was personally preserved from sin by her prevenient salvation comports with her words in the Magnificat you cited. Of course she had (and needed to have) a Saviour, the one and only Lord. He saved her by keeping her from sinning. He preserved her graciously. Hers is a gracious sinlessness, showing the fulness of the gratuitous theosis given to us by the Lord, who calls us and prepares our works for us to walk in, and is at work in us both to will and to do, according to His good pleasure.

Your speculation about Mary praying a complete version of the Lord’s prayer is no more problematic than our Lord praying and reciting the Psalms in the liturgy of the intertestamental synagogue and Temple.
Exactly. For Mary to pray the Our Father is consistent with the fact that she too has a Savior. Even if TF were correct in supposing that Catholics say she didn't need a Savior (and we simply do not say this), though - Mike is exactly right: there wouldn't be any substantive difference between her saying the Our Father and the Lord Jesus participating in the ceremonial rites of the OT. Of course, I could be mistaken in one thing here. Perhaps TF doesn't say that Catholics believe Mary needs no Savior. If that, however, were the case, then he would know that his criticism here has no force. I am inclined to think better of him than this. But this means that he doesn't understand what we say about Mary's standing before her Lord and ours.

In a followup post responding to someone else, TF writes:
Assuming that Mr. Greco's dating for the Rosary is correct (and it is always dangerous trying to pin dates on innovations in church history), this only reinforces one of the points that my original post was making, namely that the Rosary is foreign to the Bible. It was unknown to Mary - it was unknown to the Apostles - and (per Greco) it was unknown to a thousand years of the universal church.
Yes. And the ex tempore prayers used in TF's congregation on Sunday are unknown to two thousand years of the universal church, and are foreign to the Bible. This is true of the extemporaneous prayers that are said in the Mass, too. The salient question is: so what? Perhaps he wishes to allege that the Rosary is not just "foreign" to the Bible but that it is contrary to the Bible. I don't think so. TF continues:
Casting the Rosary as, "the Rosary is a meditation on the Gospel...and I do think that Mary meditated on her son's life and the wondrous things God had done for her," (ellipsis in original) misses the issues and objections to the Rosary.
Except that this is precisely the purpose of the Rosary. For TF to say that this "misses the objections to the Rosary" is as much as to say that he has missed the purpose of the thing. Now it stretches no one's credulity to suppose that TF's real objection is to the fact that prayers that are a part of the Rosary are directed to the Blessed Virgin; but they nevertheless constitute nothing more than that: a part of a meditation on the Gospel. What does he think the point of the various mysteries of the Rosary are, anyway?
But the Rosary is not in the form of meditation, but prayer;
I'm not sure how to respond to this. I guess we all missed Turretin's Style Guide, where we are authoritatively informed as to the legitimate forms that meditation may take.

But seriously. This quarrel does not bear up to scrutiny. Who is to say what form meditation must take? I'm not sure what the answer to that is, but I'm reasonably sure it's not TF, and it's not Protestants. I would like to think better of TF than this. This is so obviously a specious complaint that I think he would have done better to just repeat what is surely his real complaint: that prayers to the Blessed Virgin are a part of the Rosary.
And the prayers of the Rosary are objectionable both as to the fact that at least one prayer (the "Hail Mary") is not directed to God, and because the method of successive repetition is a heathen practice specifically condemned by Jesus (Matthew 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.)
But repetition per se is not unbiblical. To the contrary, it is entirely scriptural. The major example is Psalm 136, where every single verse - all twenty-seven of them - end with "for his mercy endureth for ever." Rev. 4:8 is maybe an even better one:
And the four living creatures had each of them six wings: and round about and within they are full of eyes. And they rested not day and night, saying: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come [emphasis added].
It seems clear: the prayerbook that God gave us (the Psalms) include an example of repetition, and the angels ceaselessly sing a form of the Sanctus. Hence repetition in prayer is not in and of itself an evil. But there are other difficulties with this, too. What and who is going to say what sort of repetition would be wrong? Even the cherubim seen by Isaiah say (6:3) "Holy, Holy, Holy." But that's repetition, right? Now perhaps TF will argue that this is far too small a repetition to qualify for the criticism that he makes, but to this I would reply: fine. But who then is to judge what degree of repetition is illegitimate, and why should we listen to him?

Anyway, the point is: repetition is not a problem. Consequently TF's complaint about it is irrelevant.


Turretinfan said...

Reginald: your church is not the only one to engage in Marian devotion. Hence my qualification regarding "certain of those."


Reginald de Piperno said...

Of course I have no way of knowing whom else you have in mind, but I seriously doubt that the Orthodox would object to the formulation, even if it doesn't reflect a standard usage for them.

In any case, your clarification doesn't seem to me to warrant a modification of my post; the phrase "certain of" normally means something like "an unspecified but limited number," and it seems unreasonable to refer to one billion Catholics as a limited number.

In any case, I appreciate the clarification of your meaning.


Martin said...

To meditate is to use your imagination to visualise a scene...eg "premeditated murder". Using your imagination in prayer is to imagine some biblical scene as thouroughly and prayerfuly as possible. TAO probably would maintain that you must have a bilble open and not engage your mind in other prayer. Like no one ever dreams as they drive.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi Martin,

I don't know what he had in mind. I know that his expressed opinion presumes a definition of "meditation" that excludes prayer as a potentially constitutive part, and I think that exclusion is unnecessary and unjustified.

Thanks for stopping by :-)

-- RdP

Reginald de Piperno said...


Thanks for stopping by, but your comment was basically spam. You're welcome to comment on what I write, or on others' comments here, but please don't attempt to turn this into a marketplace. Thanks.