In the 7th century, St. Eligius (c.588-660) wrote of making a chair adorned with 150 gold and silver nails to aid in the praying of the Psalter of Blessed Mary, which substituted one Hail Mary for each of the Psalms.
In the early 8th century, Venerable Bede (d. 733) attests that churches and public places in France and England had prayer beads available for the faithful to use.
c. 1075 Lady Godiva
refers in her will to "the circlet of precious stones which she had
threaded on a cord in order that by fingering them one after another
she might count her prayers exactly" . . .
A rule for anchorites
in mid-12th century England gives directions on how fifty Hail Marys
are to be said divided into sets of ten, with prostrations and other
marks of reverence.
It is recorded in 12th century Mary-legends (Marien-legenden) that
a certain Eulalia was told to pray five decades slowly and devoutly
instead of fifteen decades in a hurry.
It is recorded by a contemporary biographer that St. Aibert, who died in 1140, recited 150 Hail Marys daily, 100 with genuflexions and 50 with prostrations.
1160 Saint Rosalia is buried with a string of prayer beads
1214 traditional date of the legend of Saint Dominic's reception of the rosary from the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Rosary
It is recorded of St. Louis
of France (1214-70) that "without counting his other prayers the holy
King knelt down every evening fifty times and each time he stood
upright then knelt again and repeated slowly an Ave Maria."
Mid-13th century word "Rosary" first used (by Thomas of Champitre, in De apibus, ii. 13), not referring to prayer beads but in a Marian context.
1268 A reference to guild of "paternosterers" in Paris in "Livre des métiers" of Stephen Boyleau.
Early 15th century, Dominic of Prussia, a Carthusian, introduces 50 mysteries, one for each Ave Maria
c. 1514 Hail Mary prayer attains its current form.
1569 Pope Pius V established the current form of the original 15 mysteries
1587 A Book on the Rosary entitled Rosario della Sacratissima Vergine Maria by Ven. Luis de Granada is published in Italian, which uses a similar method to the fourth method of the five methods of praying the rosary by St. Louis-Marie de Montfort.
1597 first recorded use of the term "rosary" to refer to prayer beads.
Eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of the things which I
say unto Thee? Or seest Thou at the time that which cometh to
pass in time? Why, therefore, do I place before Thee so many
relations of things? Not surely that Thou mightest know them
through me, but that I may awaken my own love and that of my
readers towards Thee, that we may all say, "Great is the Lord,
and greatly to be praised." I have already said, and shall
say, for the love of Thy love do I this. For we also pray, and
yet Truth says, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of
before ye ask Him." Therefore do we make known unto Thee our
love, in confessing unto Thee our own miseries and Thy mercies
upon us, that Thou mayest free us altogether, since Thou hast
begun, that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves, and that we
may be blessed in Thee . . . Confessions, St. Augustine
But again one might ask whether we are to pray by words or deeds and
what need there is for prayer, if God already knows what is needful for us.
But it is because the act of prayer clarifies and purges our heart and
makes it more capable of receiving the divine gifts that are poured out
for us in the spirit. God does not give heed to the ambitiousness of our
prayers, because he is always ready to give to us his light, not a visible
light but an intellectual and spiritual one: but we are not always ready
to receive it when we turn aside and down to other things out of a desire
for temporal things. For in prayer there occurs a turning of the heart to
he who is always ready to give if we will but take what he gives: and in
that turning is the purification of the inner eye when the things we crave
in the temporal world are shut out; so that the vision of the pure heart
can bear the pure light that shines divinely without setting or wavering:
and not only bear it, but abide in it; not only without difficulty, but
even with unspeakable joy, with which the blessed life is truly and
genuinely brought to fulfillment. On the Lord's Sermon on the Mount, St. Augustine
Ethan Bronner of the New York Times reports on an interesting archaeological find:
A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe
dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a
quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because
it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.
Then he sticks his foot in it by implying that Christians would somehow find this shocking:
If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to
a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of
Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection
was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.
Do religion writers even bother to study the religions they report on any more? The New Testament (and Christian tradition in general) is full of prophecies and prefigurations. The whole freaking book of Isaiah for example. Or Hosea. As Michael Barber explains (via Curt Jester):
the idea of a resurrection on the third day flows from Hosea 6:2:
"After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us
up,that we may live before him."
Indeed, Jesus explains to the disciples that his resurrection on the third day would take place in order to fulfill Scripture.
"Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead" (Luke 24:46).
In fact, the New Testament is clear that Jesus came to fulfill the hopes of ancient Israel.
the New York Times story seems to suggest that this tablet will somehow
raise questions about the truth of Christianity. Somehow, for them, the
discovery that some ancient Jews expected the messiah to suffer and
rise on the third day is problematic for Christianity.
This isn't a question of whether the prophecies and prefigurations are right or not. It's a simple matter of fact that they have always been an integral part of Christian writings. There is no conceivable reason why another one surfacing on a stone tablet would be greeted any differently than all the others.
In Introduction to Christianity, Ratzinger characterizes the evolution of the modern world view through the use of a careful distinction between emphasis on "what we have made" -- factum -- to "what we can make" -- faciendum -- by means of the human ability to make -- techne. Factum is the historical approach, the understanding of who and what we are by the understanding of how we got here, essentially the evolutionary approach. Our ability to manipulate what we are is the faciendum, what we might call the transhumanist or cybernetic approach, which takes the evolutionary approach as a given and looks beyond it. (To illustrate, he quotes Marx: "So far philosophers have contemplated the world; now they must set about changing it.")
It might be a little disorienting to think of factum as "what we have made" rather than simply as "fact." What he means is not so much our artifacts as our ability to perceive, define, and make sense out of the world in the process of manipulating it.
Here are some excerpts:
The scientific method, which consists of a combination of mathematics (Descartes!) and devotion to the facts in the form of repeatable experiment, appears to be the one real vehicle of reliable certainty. The combination of mathematical thinking and factual thinking has produced the science-oriented stance of modern man, which signifies devotion to reality in so far as it is capable of being shaped. The fact has set free the faciendum, the "made" has set free the "makable", the repeatable, the provable, and only exists for the sake of the latter. It comes to the primacy of the "makable" over the "made", for in fact what can man do with what has merely existed in the past? He cannot find his real purpose in making himself into the museum attendant of his own past if he wants to master his own contemporary situation.
If before, perhaps through the conclusions implicit in the doctrine of the origin of species, he might have resignedly noted that so far as his past was concerned he was just earth, a mere chance development, if he was disillusioned by such knowledge and felt degraded, he does not need to be disturbed by this any longer, for now, wherever he comes from, he can look his future in the eye with the determination to make himself into whatever he wishes; he does not need to regard it as impossible to make himself into the God who now stands at the end as faciendum, as something makable, not at the beginning, as logos, meaning. . . .
What already seems more important than the theory of evolution, which for practical purposes already lies behind us as something self-evident, is cybernetics, the "planability" of the newly to be created man, so that theologically, too, the manipulation of man by his own planning is beginning to represent a more important problem than the question of man's past -- although the two questions cannot be separated from each other and in their general tendency largely govern each other reciprocally: the reduction of man to a "fact" is the precondition for understanding him as a faciendum, which is to be led out of its own resources into a new future.
The rhetorical challenge of modern theology is to speak to what people actually believe now, and I think this is a very good summation of the contemporary Weltanschauung.
I've been reading Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity, an illuminating look into the meaning of belief, which tries to dip underneath the surface of "ecclesiastical language" to make the mysteries of faith stand clearly before us, but not to simplify or "de-mystify" them.
In the beginning of the book, Ratzinger talks about the reality behind the phrase "I believe" in a way that I find very directly speaks to me as a person who every day decides to believe despite the obviousness of any and all arguments to the contrary, and despite the immediate visibility of the abyss beneath my feet on even the best of days.
Man is a seeing creature, whose living area seems to be marked off by the range of what he can see and grasp. But in this area of things that can be seen and grasped, the area which determines the living space of man, God does not occur and will never occur, however much the area may be extended. . . . God is not just he who at present lies in fact outside the field of vision but could be seen if it were possible to go further; no, he is the being who stands essentially outside it, however far our field of vision may be extended. . . .
The little word Credo . . . [thus] signifies not the observation of this or that fact but a fundamental mode of behaviour towards being, towards existence, towards one's own sector of reality and towards reality as a whole. It signifies the deliberate view that what cannot be seen, what can in no wise move into the field of vision, is not unreal; that on the contrary what cannot be seen in fact represents true reality, the element that supports and makes possible all the rest of reality . . .
It is not just today, in the specific conditions of our modern situation, that belief or faith is problematical, indeed almost something that seems impossible, but that it has always meant a leap . . . across an infinite gulf, a leap namely out of the tangible world that presses on man from every side. Belief has always had something of an adventurous break or leap about it, because in every age it represents the risky enterprise of accepting what plainly cannot be seen as the truly real and fundamental. Belief was never simply the attitude obviously corresponding to the whole slant of human life; it has always been a decision calling on the depths of existence, a decision that in every age demanded a turnabout by man that can only be achieved by an effort of will.
When he says that "God does not occur and will never occur" in our reality, he means the totality of God, the "I AM," not the brief inklings we all experience in brains geared to "feel" the numinous at times. It is therefore well to remember the Buddhist caveat: "When you see the Buddha on the road, kill him." The same goes for God. What you see is never what is.
He shewed me a little thing, the quantity
of an hazel-nut, in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball.
I looked thereupon with eye of my understanding, and thought: What may this be? And it was answered generally thus: It is all that is made.
I marvelled how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have
fallen to naught for little[ness]. And I was answered in my
understanding: It lasteth, and ever shall [last] for that God
loveth it. And so All-thing hath the Being by the love of God.
In this Little Thing I saw three
properties. The first is that God made it, the second is that God
loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it. But what is to me verily the
Maker, the Keeper, and the Lover,—I cannot tell; for till I am
Substantially one to Him, I may never have full rest nor very
bliss: that is to say, till I be so fastened to Him, that there is
right nought that is made betwixt my God and me. It needeth us to have knowing of the littleness of creatures and to hold as nought all-thing that is made, for to love and have God that is unmade. For
this is the cause why we be not all in ease of heart and soul: that we
seek here rest in those things that are so little, wherein is no rest,
and know not our God that is All-mighty, All-wise, All-good. For He is
the Very Rest. God willeth to be known, and it pleaseth Him that we
rest in Him; for all that is beneath Him sufficeth not us. And this is
the cause why that no soul is rested till it is made nought as to all things that are made. When it is willingly made nought, for
love, to have Him that is all, then is it able to receive spiritual
rest. -- From Revelations of Divine Love by Juliana of Norwich
The illustration above is a manuscript page from the Revelations or Shewings. The one below is a medieval depiction of an anchoress.
Pope Benedict speaks of a "world where self-centeredness, greed, violence and cynicism so often
seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people's hearts." "Fragile growth of grace" expresses it so well. Sometimes I feel like I need to grow a shell over my soul, but that would be cheating.