A Note from the Rector – 3/17/19

Welcome to the Second Sunday in Lent, which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day.  Except for major feasts of Our Lord, whenever a saint’s feast day falls on a Sunday, it is transferred to the next day.  So, in the church’s mind, St. Patrick’s day is celebrated tomorrow (in case you want to wear your “Kiss Me I’m Irish” shirt tomorrow also).  This is because Sunday is always a major feast of the Resurrection.  Every Sunday is Easter Sunday, in other words.  As awesome as St. Pat is, he doesn’t hold a candle to the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  It also means that while it is a Sunday IN Lent, it is not really a Sunday OF Lent, because Sunday is always Easter.  In fact, the 6 Sundays that occur during the season of Lent are not counted in the 40 days of Lent.  Do with that information what you will.

After today’s 10AM service we are holding an Anglican Prayer Bead workshop in the Memorial Room.  Let me tell you about prayer beads.  First, it is interesting to note that the English word “bead” descends from the medieval Old English word “bede,” which means “prayer.” This testifies to how important prayer beads have been to the spiritual lives of many.

They are an aid to help us focus in prayer.  Being human means that we are spiritual and physical beings.  Many of us find it helpful, then, to have physical components to our spiritual prayer.  Prayer beads give our hands something to do, which somehow frees up some mental and emotional space and helps to focus and concentrate our prayer.  Body, mind, and spirit are connected in mysterious ways.

This embodied, contemplative practice of using objects to count prayers is very old—probably first developed in the Hindu religion over 5,000 years ago.  Many major world religions have their own version of prayer beads.  In the earliest days of Eastern Christian monasticism, monks used pebbles to count their prayers.  This practiced developed over time (4thand 5thcenturies) into beaded or knotted ropes that monks would hold and use to count their prayers. Made out of wool, and tied with a special (and very complicated) knot, prayer ropes (commonly called after their Russian name “chotkis) are still very much in use in the Eastern Christian world.  The prayer used most often with these prayer ropes is called the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  This prayer is based on several passages form the Gospels, mainly from Luke 18:38 when a blind man outside Jericho cries out to Jesus as he passes by: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

In the West, this practice showed up first in Ireland, in the 9thcentury monastic communities of St. Columba.  It spread throughout Europe and developed in the later middle ages into the Rosary—the “rose garden”, that is still in common use by Roman Catholics, as well as Anglicans and even a Lutheran or two.  The traditional use of the Rosary calls for three main prayers: the “Hail Mary” (derived mostly from several passage of the Gospel of Luke chapter 1), the Lord’s Prayer, and the “Glory Be” (Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…).

Sometime in the 1980s an Episcopal priest along with the contemplative prayer group at her parish, developed a simplified version of the Rosary.  They called it the Anglican Rosary.  It uses 33 beads to signify the 33 years of Jesus’ life.  Diverse prayers have been used with the Anglican Rosary, but they have always been closely derived or inspired by Scripture (as, indeed, all the prayers mentioned so far have been).  Our workshop is going to be fun for all ages.  This is a great way to teach children about prayer.  See you there!