fredag 22 maj 2015

Are Rosaries "Vain Repetitions" or "Many Words"?

We are talking about Matthew 6:7.

Here is the approved Catholic text:

And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard.

Orantes autem, nolite multum loqui, sicut ethnici, putant enim quod in multiloquio suo exaudiantur.

Note that the Catholic Translation neither uses a word meaning "repetitions" nor even a word meaning "many words". It uses a word which means "speaking much" and may have the nuance "speaking much and saying little". Which is pretty much the opposite of repeating a few meaningful words over and over again.

Now, Buddhists and Hindoos are Pagans we all know about, and so are Muslims, unless you prefer to class them as heretics rather than Pagans. They all use a kind of "rosaries" (except the number of beads is different and the words are not the same and the religion is not the same and therefore it is not the same rosary!).

So, can that be what Christ spoke about?

Well, Romans and Greeks were the Pagans they were dealing with back then. THEY had no rosary of any type. If they had had it, Protestants who accuse Catholicism of being a hybrid of Christianity and Roman Paganism would hardly have said that Rosaries were taken over from Muslims. So, seeing that Buddhists and Hindoos and Muslims were either far away (as Buddhists) or didn't yet exist (as Muslims) or something of both, as possibly Hindoos*, seeing that the hearers were probably much more familiar with Roman Paganism, what was "multiloqium" like in that religion?

We need in fact not guess.

We have preserved literary examples and one VERY close in time to when Christ was speaking - both the Pagan prayer and the first Pater Noster were spoken while Tiberius reigned in Rome.

Here is the end of Velleius Paterculus Roman History, Book II, the two paragraphs of chapter 131:**

"Voto finiendum volumen est. Iuppiter Capitoline, et auctor ac stator Romani nominis Gradive Mars, perpetuorumque custos Vesta ignium et quidquid numinum hanc Romani imperii molem in amplissimum terrarum orbis fastigium extulit, vos publica voce obtestor atque precor: custodite, servate, protegite hunc statum, hanc pacem, hunc principem, 2 eique functo longissima statione mortali destinate successores quam serissimos, sed eos, quorum cervices tam fortiter sustinendo terrarum orbis imperio sufficiant, quam huius suffecisse sensimus, consiliaque omnium civium aut pia fovete aut impia opprimite."

"Let me end my volume with a prayer. O Jupiter Capitolinus, and Mars Gradivus, author and stay of the Roman name, Vesta, guardian of the eternal fire, and all other divinities who have exalted this great empire of Rome to the highest point yet reached on earth! On you I call, and to you I pray in the name of this people: guard, preserve, protect the present state of things, the peace which we enjoy, the present emperor, and when he has filled his post of duty — 2 and may it be the longest granted to mortals — grant him successors until the latest time, but successors whose shoulders may be as capable of sustaining bravely the empire of the world as we have found his to be: foster the pious plans of all good citizens and crush the impious designs of the wicked."

He could have said just (I would not say it, since invoking Pagan false deities, but you can see what I mean):

"Jove and Mars and Vesta : preserve Rome, bless the Emperor and his friends, crush evildoers, remember your commitment to the Capitol and to Roman Empire."

THAT is all that the above meant.

The footnote to this ending prayer of Velleius Paterculus says:

"Like most prayers, Velleius's was not answered. Within two years, Sejanus had been sacked and executed; within eight, Tiberius was dead, succeeded by Caligula, one of the worst monsters ever to sully the Roman throne; after the interlude of Claudius, the suicide of the similarly monstrous Nero in a filthy hiding-place, only 40 years after Velleius' book, put an end to the dynasty of Augustus and Tiberius and plunged the empire into murderous chaos. "

So, no, repeating Ave Maria is NOT what Christ meant by "many words", it has fewer words than The Lord's Prayer, and he did not forbid anyone to repeat that over and over again.

In fact, saying 150 Our Father is an earlier Catholic practise than saying 150 Hail Mary (with 15 Our Father) or even dividing these into 3 * 50. About 500 or perhaps rather 800 or sth, well before the Rosary, the monks who knew Latin would say the psalter, 150 psalms per week, while those who didn't were required to learn Our Father by heart and repeat it 150 times each day.

They obviously had to use some device for counting the prayers, and a string with knots or beads is one obvious possibility.

Here is a thing*** about John Wesley:

There was a preacher named John Wesley who was used by God to bring about revivals and found the Methodist movement. And the story goes that one day he said to his servant that he was going to go and pray in his study for one hour. And so he went in and closed the door. An hour passed and the servant went to go and get John Wesley as was requested. But before he opened the door he peaked through the little keyhole (it was back in the older days) and saw his master in such a state of holiness that he dared not disturb him.

So another hour passed and the servant once more looked through the keyhole and saw the same. Finally another hour passed and John Wesley was still so deep in prayer. He thought to himself, "Surely I must get him now for 3 hours have passed and he told me to get him after 1 hour." So he opened the door and attracted his attention.

John Wesley replied, "Oh, is the hour over already. It is amazing how time passes when you are with the Lord!"

My point will not be that of Authentic Walk Ministries, but rather this.

Either he was improvising, or he was using a set prayer. If he was improvising, it is much more likely that instead of saying a few meaningful words over and over again, he added words and circumstances he really had no need to worry about.

But if not, if he was using a few well chosen words at each time, it is much more likely that he ended up with something at least approaching set prayers.

And if he had used the set prayers of the Catholic Church, well, he might really have spent the three hours actually obeying the injunction to avoid "much speaking". Totally. Alas, I don't think it was quite the case, but he was more pious than Luther, whom Priebe cites next. Taking an hour or three quarters per day to say the 15 mysteries of the Roasary is well invested, both from the viewpoint of Matthew 6:7, as a way of avoiding "much speaking", and from other view points, such as cultivating a real confidence in God.

Whose school is better for that, than the Blessed Virgin Mary's?

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St Julia of Corsica
Virgin and Martyr

* One can argue Hinduism before Ashoka was a different and more bloody religion. Horses were sacrificed as among the Norse Pagans. On the other hand, Kali worship continued or resurged or originated as a Hindoo blood cult well after Ashoka, and was ended thanks to Portuguese, French and Brits.

** Velleius Paterculus, Roman History
Book II: Chapters 94‑131*.html

Idem textus latine

Velleius Paterculus: The Roman History
The Text on LacusCurtius

*** Authentic Walk Ministries : Begin small: by Chris Priebe