The Rosary of the BVM has been included in every manual of devotion for Anglo-Catholics since at least 1853, when the Rosaries compiled for use of the English Church was published in London; it was more popular in PECUSA. The Rosary was included in The Practice of Religion, an Anglo-Catholic manual first published just after the turn of the century (1908; there were several subsequent editions).
A much more elaborate formula for its recitation has formed part of St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, published by PECUSA’s own Order of the Holy Cross, since 1947, and distributed by the Forward Movement. A new edition of SAPB came out in December 2013, a welcome renewal since the former most recent edition was in 1967, and the new edition brings the manual in line with the 1979 BCP.
These devotional manuals are what was known in medieval parlance as “primers”, by the way.
The current Rosary of the BVM
When nearly anyone hears the word “rosary”, this is usually the one meant, the Rosary of the BVM first introduced by the Dominicans. Before going into the history of how it came to be in this form, it will help to sketch a current picture.
The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary was first developed by the regular Order of Friars Preachers, for which reason it is also known as the Dominican Rosary, is said on a chaplet five decades of small beads separated by a large bead between them, with a short strand of a large bead, three small beads, another large bead, and a cross at the end. The purpose of the beads and their arrangement is to keep count.
The entire Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary includes twenty decades divided into four chaplets of five decades each. Many who have used the Rosary before may be used to just fifteen decades in three chaplets. In the Roman Church, it has had four chaplets since 2002, the year that Pope John Paul II instituted the fourth chaplet of Mysteries, his reason for doing to provide Mysteries that focus on Jesus’ earthly ministry.
In America, Ireland, and some other countries, the opening prayers before each chaplet (or of the Rosary if saying the entire twenty decades) are the Sign of the Cross (Signum Crucis), the Apostle’s Creed (Symbolum Apostolorum), the Our Father (Pater Noster), three Hail Marys (Ave Maria) for Faith, Hope, and Love, and the Minor Doxology (Gloria Patri).
After these are said, the first decade begins.
On the large, or single, bead, devotees first name the Mystery upon which they will be meditating while reciting the upcoming decade.
Then they say an Our Father, leaving off the doxology: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
On each small bead of the decade, they say a Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.
While saying the decade of Hail Marys, they meditate on the Mystery they have named.
When you get to the chain, or string, they say the Minor Doxology: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
They often follow this with the Fatima Prayer: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.
Then they proceed to the next decade and repeat.
Upon concluding the final decade, they say the Marian antiphon known as Salve Regina, which is followed with a preci and a collect for the Rosary:
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy! our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley, of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us; and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus; O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
O God, whose only-begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
They usually close out with this exchange:
V. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.
R. And let light perpetual shine upon them.
May Almighty God bless us, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Joyful Mysteries are said Mondays and Sundays from the First Sunday of Advent through Transfiguration Sunday (Last Sunday after the Epiphany before Lent). They are the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation, and the Finding in the Temple.
The Luminous Mysteries are said Thursdays. They are the Baptism, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist.
The Sorrowful Mysteries are said Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays of Lent. They are the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Bearing of the Cross, and the Crucifixion.
The Glorious Mysteries are said Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Easter Day through Christ the King Sunday. They are the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of the BVM, and the Coronation of the BVM.
The opening and closing prayers used in America, Ireland, and other places are not universal. In Rome itself and the Order of Friars Preachers (the Dominicans), for instance, the Rosary opens with a set of preces (versicle and response) instead of the Apostle’s Creed. The same is true with the end prayers; for instance, in the late nineteenth century, the Irish often ended the Rosary with the Litany of Our Lady.
In fact, much of what many devotees consider officially essential to saying the Rosary is not, in fact. According to the forerunner of what is now the Roman Curia’s Congregation of Divine Worship at the Vatican, the only essential prayers of the Rosary are the fifteen decades of Hail Marys and the fifteen Our Fathers. Not even the Minor Doxology at the end of the decade is essential. Even the specified Mysteries, while standardized under the authority of the Vatican in 1559 (and JP II’s encyclical in 2002), are not necessary; all that is essential on that count is to meditate on an event of Christ’s life while saying the decade.
The reason why only fifteen decades are essential, rather than twenty, lies in the history of the Rosary and how it came to be.
Beginnings of the Rosary in the Western Church
The Rosary of the BVM as we have it today originated in the mid- to late fifteenth century, though legend has it that the form first arose from St. Dominic in the early thirteenth century then fell into disuse. The form was based on prayer traditions using multiple repetitions of the same prayer, at first the Lord’s Prayer, using knots on a rope to keep count.
In ninth century Ireland, laity began using a string of beads to keep count of the one hundred fifty Our Fathers they said to mirror the number of Psalms said by regular clergy of convents in the Divine Office. The form was called “Our Lady’s Psalter” even then. In the similar practice in the Eastern Church, laity more often used knotted rope.
The intention was to mirror the 150 Psalms. In the first couple of centuries, some said 150 Our Fathers, some 150 Hail Marys, some 150 praises to Jesus, some 150 praises to Mary. By the fourteenth century, brief meditations were attached to each repetition of the primary prayer, there being sets of 50, of 100, and of 150.
A brief (very brief) history of the Angelic Salutation in the West
The Angelic Salutation is better known as the Ave Maria or Hail Mary. It is also called the Memorial of the Incarnation.
The two verses from Chapter 1 of the Gospel of Luke form the base upon which the modern Ave Maria stands. In Luke 1:28, an angel (traditionally said to be Gabriel) appears to Mary and says, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”. At her visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, after hearing the news declares, “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”.
There are better translations, of course, ones which I in fact prefer, but these are the words as they are most commonly used in the prayer.
Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), the same who sent St. Augustine to what was still called Britain in 597, ordered that these two verses be joined as an antiphon (“Hail, thou that art full of grace, the Lord is with three. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”) and used on the Feast of the Annunciation, Ember Wednesday of December, and the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Its inclusion as part of the Little Office of Our Lady introduced its use as a stand-alone prayer in the eighth century, when the Benedictine mother house at Monte Cassino appended it to the end of each Hour of the Divine Office (Breviary). The Little Office was most likely composed by, or at least in consultation with, St. Alcuin of York, chief liturgist at the court of Charlemagne, who wrote the Votive Masses of Our Lady for Saturdays.
Until around the middle of the eleventh century, the Ave Maria remained solely a monastic vehicle for prayer, or rather, acclamation. At that time, the Little Office, through its inclusion in “primers” for private lay devotion, became very popular. Shortly thereafter, those lay persons began adding the name “Mary” to the prayer (“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”), a practice which soon spread and became the norm.
The statutes of Odo, bishop of Paris, in the year 1198 enjoined his priests to exhort the people to say daily the Paternoster, the Symbolum Apostolorum, and the Ave Maria. This may be the beginning of its general use in the West.
By the thirteenth century, most orders had added the Ave Maria after the Paternoster (Lord’s Prayer) in the Divine Office.
In 1263, Pope Urban IV affirmed the Ave Maria with the inclusion of the name Mary, and added the name “Jesus Christ” to the end of it (“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ”).
By the fourteenth century, two forms of supplication were being added in different places, varied forms of similar petitions: (1) “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners. Amen” vis-a-vis (2) “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour or our death. Amen”. This innovation took nearly three centuries to gain official sanction.
In the Sarum Use, the Ave Maria formed part of the opening prayers of the Canon of the Mass, following the Veni Creator Spiritus, the Collect for Purity, Psalm 43, the Kyrie, and the Paternoster. The passages from Luke form the whole prayer.
Public liturgies began dropping the cognomen “Christ” from the Ave Maria in the early sixteenth century (“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”), at least from the Canon of the Mass in the Sarum Use. A vernacular primer published in London between 1528 and 1530, however, still included it in its list of daily prayers and in its Rosary of the BVM.
A Sarum Breviary printed in Paris for an English monastery in 1531 gave the full Ave Maria as we have it today, but a Primer published in England in 1556 gave just the Lucan verses.
Not until the Council of Trent in 1566 did Pope Pius V officially add the petition that forms the third sentence of the Ave Maria as it now stands (“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with three. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour or our death. Amen”).
Given the fact that it is this petition which is the basis of objections to the Hail Mary today, it is ironic that a large part of the impetus for its official inclusion was the objection of Protestants and Reformers in the sixteenth century that the Angelic Salutation, at least in its officially-sanctioned form, was merely a greeting and nothing more.
The Angelic Salutation in the East
Contrary to popular belief, the Angelic Salutation is not just a Western aberration.
Nearly all Eastern translations into English render the first word as “Rejoice!” rather than “Hail!”. St. Jerome, who translated the Vulgate from Greek into Latin, was far from being a linguistic savant. The Greek word “Chaire” does mean “Rejoice” just as “Ave” does mean “Hail”. Where Jerome has “gratia plena”, or “full of grace”, the original Greek has the word “kerecharitomene”, or “favored one”.
In the East, the two sentences from Luke joined as one were used in a regular prayer as early as the fifth century. In fact, it has been a part of the Liturgies of St. James of Jerusalem, or St. Mark of Alexandria, of St. Basil the Great, and of the Abyssinian Jacobites. Some Eastern scholars and theologians surmise that its use goes back to the fourth century, or date its introduction to the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431.
In composing his formula for the Sacrament of Baptism in 647, St. Severos, Patriarch of Alexandria, included the prayer thus: “Peace be with thee, Mary, favored one, for the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Holy Mary, Theotokos, pray for us sinners. Amen.” This is the first instance known of a petition being added to the end of the Angelic Salutation, but it never spread in the East.
As early as the sixth or seventh century, the name “Mary” was added in various places, in others the whole salutation/prayer was preceded by “Theotokos Parthenos”, with the prepositional phrase “because you have borne Christ, Son of God, the Savior of our souls” after.
The standard form used in the Eastern churches today, in English, is: “Rejoice, Theotokos Parthenos, Mary favored one, for the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, which hast borne the Savior of our souls. Amen”.
Or an English language version a few decades older: “O Hail, Mother of God and Virgin, Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou has given birth to the Savior of our souls. Amen.”
On the title “Mother of God”
I did not translate the Greek word “Theotokos” above for the simple reason that it has no real equivalent in English. Or in Latin, for that matter, for which Jerome can be forgiven. His attempt to render an equivalent, “Mater Deus”, does mean “Mother of God”. In Greek, however, that would be “Meter Theou”; some still translate Theotokos that way. Another attempt at translation is “God-bearer”, though this in Greek is actually “Theophoros”, a title used in many of the Eastern churches in addition to Theotokos.
The best and most accurate translation is “Birth-giver to God”. This is not the same as actually being a mother to the newborn. It has the connotation more of “surrogate mother”, though such things were not even possible in the fifth century so none of even the most accomplished of theologians could explain exactly what they meant.
Speaking of the fifth century, that is when the title “Theotokos” was officially given to Mary by the whole Church Universal, at the Council of Ephesus in 431. A large part of the reason this came to be was that the Nestorians, against whom this ecumenical council was primarily called, had taken to using the title “Christokos”, because their leader Nestorius, sitting Patriarch of Constantinople, felt the title Theotokos compromised the divinity of Jesus.
Nestorius’ chief opponent, and chief rival for leadership of the Church in the eastern half of the Empire, Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, was also responsible for stirring up the mob which pulled the pagan philosopher and noted scientist Hypatia from her chariot, dragged her naked through the streets of the city, flayed her alive at the basilica, and then burnt her body. And before that, Cyril had inspired the crowd which burned the famous Library of Alexandria.
The word “Parthenos”, by the way, simply means “Virgin”.
The Carthusian Rosary
Toward the end of the fourteenth century, a Carthusian monk named Henry Kalkar divided the 150 prayers into fifteen decades, to be said on a chaplet of five decades. Elsewhere, another Carthusian monk, Dominic of Prussia, assigned a verse of Scripture to each bead of an entire chaplet, making fifty Mysteries in all. This form, still used by the Carthusians, is called, naturally, the Carthusian Rosary or the Life of Christ Rosary.
The Carthusian Rosary is very flexible and adaptable, and it is not even considered necessary to say all fifteen Hail Marys, which in this case lack the petitionary third clause. In place of this third clause, which in any case did not exist at the time this formula was composed, a meditation or theme is added at the end of the Memorial of the Incarnation, followed by an Alleluia.
Usually, the whole rosary begins with an Our Father and ends with the Minor Doxology, after which this prayer is said:
Oh Immaculate, ever blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, Mother of God; oh Temple of God, the most beautiful of all temples; oh Doorway of the Kingdom of Heaven through which the whole world has been saved, do hear me mercifully, and become by sweet protectress, for me a poor and wretched sinner. Be my help in all my needs. Amen.
The Dominican Rosary
In 1483, an anonymous Dominican friar published a booklet called Our Dear Lady’s Psalter, which reduced the number of mysteries to fifteen, the same as those of the Joyous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries, except for the last two, which in this case were “The Assumption and Coronation of Our Lady” and “The Last Judgment”.
In 1521, another Dominican, Alberto de Costello, assigned a major Mystery to each decade while retaining individual meditations for each bead. Around the same time, the Gloria Patri was added to the end of each decade.
The Rosary’s Joyous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries were formalized by the Vatican in 1569, more than a quarter century after the separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome.
In the nineteenth century, different prayers began to be appended to the end of the Rosary of the BVM. Though the Salve Regina is now the standard, though not official, closing devotions, in the nineteenth century it was still anything but. In the Philippines, for example, Salve Regina was sung before the Rosary rather than after it. As late as 1883 in Ireland, each chaplet of the Rosary was often concluded with the Litany of the Blessed Virgin. It only became standard in the very early twentieth century.
The Fatima Prayer (“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy. Amen.”) became part of the recitation common across the world after 1917 (the year of the supposed appearances at the town in Spain). When used, it follows the Gloria Patri at the end of each decade. It is not, however, and officially instituted part of the Rosary and the Jesuits, for example, always omit it.
In the Roman Church, the recitation of the Rosary usually concludes with the Salve Regina, with the collect after its versicle and response in form presented above replaced by the following:
“O GOD, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.”
In 1973, the National Council of Catholic Bishops in the U.S.A. (now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB) sent out a pastoral letter on Mary that approved of the composition and use of new mysteries for the Rosary and encouraged experimentation.
In 1973, the National Council of Catholic Bishops in the U.S.A. (now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB) sent out a pastoral letter on Mary that approved of the composition and use of new mysteries for the Rosary and encouraged experimentation.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II issued an encyclical instituting the Luminous Mysteries as part of the Rosary in order to have a chaplet, as a single five-decade set is called, focused on the earthly revelatory ministry of Jesus.
A Brief History of the Rosary in the Anglican Communion
That devotees used a form of the Rosary is demonstrated by manuals for private devotion such as The Encheiridion, published from 1528 to 1530. A primer published in London translated from the French in which it was compiled was published under that name in 1531. The last devotion before the appendix is “The Rosary of the Blessed Virgin”.
This Rosary follows the older formula of having separate meditations not for each decade but for every small bead. Even its themes or meditations are virtually the same, though longer. The main difference is that where the theme is appended to the end of the Angelic Salutation in the Dominican Rosary, in the case at hand, the Hail Mary comes after.
After the meditation is read on each bead, devotees said the Hail Mary thus: “Hail Mary! full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ!”. At the end of the decade, devotee said the Our Father, the Apostle's Creed, and another Hail Mary. There were no opening or closing prayers.
The practice of saying the Rosary as we know it today returned to the Anglican Communion via the Church of England during the Oxford Movement that began in the 1830’s. It wasn’t until 1853, however, that one of its adherents published a devotional manual for Anglicans which included the Dominican Rosary, called Rosaries compiled for the use of the English Church.
In this 1853 primer, the last two of the Glorious Mysteries—the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary—were changed to the Triumph of the Church in the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints (Church Triumphant for short) and the Consummation of the Bliss of the Saints (Beatific Vision for short), respectively.
The first Rosary in the primer is called the Rosary of the Psalter, and was intended to be used for all fifteen Mysteries at once. In place of the Ave Maria (Hail Mary), the manual here substituted the Pater Noster (Our Father). Each decade was preceded with a scriptural passage relating to the Mystery in question and concluded with the Gloria Patri and a collect tailored to the mystery just meditated upon.
In addition to that rosary and the Rosary of the BVM or Rosary of St. Dominic, the Rosaries compiled for the use of the English Church also included rosaries of the Most Holy Trinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, of our Lord’s Passion, of the Heart of Jesus, of the Faithful Departed (two of these), and two Eucharistic Chaplets.
In its introduction, the 1853 primer suggested the Roman Ave Maria may be substituted by the Eastern Orthodox version Theotokos Parthenos, giving the following version: “Hail, Virgin Mary, Mother of God, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, which gave birth to the Savior of our souls.” The text I provided above comes from Eastern Orthodox sources.
For its own version of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, however, the manual simply omits the petitionary second half of the Ave Maria. Each of the three sets of Mysteries, called Chaplets by the 1853 primer, concludes with the Angelus.
The devotional manual The Encheiridion mentioned above was republished in 1860.
The Practice of Religion, first published in 1908 in London and New York City, follows the 1853 Rosaries in its listing of the Glorious Mysteries in its Catechism section, but in the section instructing the reader how to say the Rosary uses the Roman Catholic originals. It offers no alternate form of the Hail Mary and concludes with the Salve Regina.
St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, first published in 1947, gives no alternate to the names of the last two Glorious Mysteries anywhere. It also adds the seasonal Marian Antiphons from the Daily Office in the Roman Church to the end of the Rosary.
Other historic rosary-based prayers in the RCC
In approximately 1198, the Order of the Most Holy Trinity for the Redemption of Captives began saying the Rosary of the Holy Trinity on a chaplet of three groups on nine beads. The prayer around which the chaplet was structured is the Trisagion.
In 1233, the Order of the Servants of Mary, known as the Servites, instituted their rosary known as the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. The form is used with a chaplet of seven decades.
In 1422, the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans) established the Rosary of the Seven Joys of Our Lady, also known as the Franciscan Crown. This rosary is said with seven decades of Hail Marys, bookended by an Our Father and a Minor Doxology, with two more Hail Marys added at the end.
In 1851, the Vatican approved the Chaplet of St. Michael, consisting of nine groups of three small beads separated by a large bead. The prayers used are the Paternoster and the Ave Maria.
In 1912, the Order of the Visitation instituted the Rosary of the Five Wounds, said on a chaplet of five decades but with different prayers.
In 1935, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy instituted the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, said on a chaplet of five decades but using special prayers.
In 1983, the visionaries at Medjugorje, Croatia, introduced, or revived, a form known as the Jesus Rosary. This consists of seven meditations of five beads each, before which the mystery and intention are said aloud, followed by five Our Fathers, concluding with this collect: “O Jesus, be strength and protection for us”. At the end, seven Minor Doxologies are said.
There’s actually dozens of these.
Divine Mercy Chaplet
Established in 1935 in Lithuania, this chaplet uses a traditional rosary but has short prayers that have been specially written, the English translation of which is copyrighted by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, one for the large beads and another for the small beads, with the Trisagion at the end with the conjunctive phrase “and the whole world” added onto the end of the traditional petition.
There are optional opening and closing prayers also.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet is used by some Episcopal religious (certainly the Society of Saint Anthony, a Franciscan order which recommends it along with the Rosary of the BVM and other private devotions to its members), and there is an Anglican Divine Mercy Society.
The first Sunday after Easter, often called Low Sunday, is called by devotees of this prayer practice Divine Mercy Sunday.
Yes, there is an Orthodox Rosary of the Blessed Virgin, not as common among Orthodox as the Rosary of the BVM is among Roman and some Anglo-Catholics, but it exists nevertheless. And it uses similar prayer forms and can be said using a five-decade chaplet designed by St. Seraphim of Sarov (1754-1833), who said he was merely reviving an Eastern practice from the past.
The Mysteries are somewhat similar to the Western version, but more focused on Mary. The fifteen mysteries are meant to be said all at one time all the way through.
For each decade, the Mystery is named:
1- The Birth of the Theotokos
2- The Presentation of the Theotokos
3- The Annunciation of the Lord's Birth
4- The Meeting of the Theotokos and St. Elizabeth
5- The Birth of the Lord
6- The Prophecy of St. Simeon
7- The Flight into Egypt
8- The Boy-Christ among the Doctors
9- The Wedding of Cana
10- The Crucifixion of the Lord
11- The Resurrection of the Lord
12- The Ascension of the Lord into Heaven
14- The Dormition of the Virgin Theotokos
15- The Crowning of the Theotokos by the Blessed Trinity
Then the Eastern version of the Angelic Salutation is said for the ten knots: “O Hail, Mother of God and Virgin, Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast given birth to the Savior of our souls. Amen.”
Each decade is followed with an Our Father and the following: “Open unto us the door of thy loving-kindness, O blessed Mother of God, in that we set our hope on thee, may we not go astray; but through thee may we be delivered from all adversities, fix thou art the salvation of all Christian people”.
For this prayer, some substitute the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner”).
After these, a collect about the mystery just meditated upon is said. There were more than one set written, but for the most part it was up to the individual to personalize.
It continues through all 15 mysteries.
Though there is some resistance to its use, especially in America, where many Orthodox shun it because of its Roman association, use of the Rosary as above is growing throughout the Eastern Orthodox churches.
Orthodox Prayer Ropes
These come in designs of 100 knots separated by one or two beads every 25 knots; a rope of 50 knots separated by a bead every 10 knots, a design similar to a typical Roman rosary, and a rope of 33 knots, often separated by a bead every eight knots with an extra above the tassel. Speaking of which, instead of a cross, the Orthodox prayer ropes have a tassel. They are used to pray the Jesus Prayer, one hundred repetitions at a time. With the hundred-knot version, you go around once, with the fifty-knot version twice, with the thirty-three-knot version, you go around three times and then add one on the tassel. The thirty-three-knot version is the normal, and nearly all Orthodox regular and most of the secular clergy wear it on their left wrist.
Though many still use prayer ropes, more often now strings of prayer beads are used.
Though many still use prayer ropes, more often now strings of prayer beads are used.
This is of special interest to me as an Anglo-Catholic Episcopalian because of the PECUSA’s partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in Project Canterbury and because of PECUSA’s intercommunion with ELCA.
There is no “official” Lutheran Rosary, but one form is dominant, used by Missouri Synod and ELCA Lutherans. They usually begin the Rosary with only the Sign of the Cross; in some places the Apostles’ Creed follows. On all the large beads, they recite an Our Father, with its doxology usually added in Protestant circles. On the small beads, they recite the Jesus Prayer. After the decade, they recite the Minor Doxology.
While they say each decade, they meditate on Mysteries that are the same as those of the Roman Catholic Rosary of the BVM, except for the two last Glorious Mysteries, which is the Lutheran version are (4) The Community of Saints, and (5) The Heavenly Jerusalem. These two are almost identical with those placed in that spot in the 1853 Rosaries compiled for Use in the English Church: (4) The Church Triumphant, and (5) The Beatific Vision.
At the end, then they recite the Hail Mary, but leave off the third supplicatory sentence. Usually, this is followed with the Magnificat. Lastly, devotees recite the following prayer, written by Martin Luther: “O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, what great comfort God has shown us in you, by so graciously regarding your unworthiness and low estate. This encourages us to believe that henceforth He will not despise us poor and lowly ones, but graciously regard us also, according to your example. Amen.”
The ELCA has another, specially-designed rosary intended for Lenten use, with a cross, a large bead, and three small beads leading to a circlet of forty-two beads in groups of one large and six small beads.
A Swedish Lutheran pastor named Martin Lonnebo created yet another Lutheran rosary he calls the Pearls of Life.
In 1999, a Lutheran man married to a Catholic woman introduced the Ecumenical Miracle Rosary, used on a standard five-decade rosary. It begins with the Apostles’ Creed and the Our Father, then uses prayers he wrote. On the large beads, a prayer he wrote based on the Great Commandment is said. On the small beads, a prayer based on the Great Commission is said. At the end of the whole chaplet, the Jesus Prayer is said. There are three sets of five Miracles, grouped by theme.
This was developed by a prayer study group at a PECUSA parish in Texas. Its thirty-three bead pattern—four groups of seven-bead “weeks” separated by four “cruciform” beads, with a cross and an invitatory bead—was designed by The Rev. Lynn Bauman of the Church of the Good Shepherd parish in Cedar Hill, TX. Essentially, it is the 33-knot Orthodox prayer rope turned into beads, with five of the “knots” made differently.
As most often used, it begins with the Sign of the Cross, followed by the preces from the Daily Office on the invitatory bead, then proceeds with the Trisagion on each cruciform bead and the Jesus Prayer on each bead of the following week. Do this three times, then say one more to make one hundred, mirroring exactly the practice of Orthodox prayer ropes. Finish with the Lord’s Prayer.
One later variant substitutes the Our Father on the cruciform beads and ends instead with the Priestly Blessing.
The Society of St. Francis, the Anglican Communion’s main Franciscan order, uses the Anglican Chaplet, but uses it instead for what they call the Angelus. On each of the cruciform beads, they say one of the following, in order:
1. The angel of the Lord brought tidings to Mary; and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.
2. Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.
3. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
4. Pray for us O Holy mother of God that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
On each of the weeks beads, they say the Hail Mary. They use no closing prayers.
King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland, Georgia, offers several formulae for prayers to be used with the Anglican prayer beads.
The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Shelby, North Carolina, a progressive parish which stresses its inclusivity, offers an Anglican chaplet of five weeks instead of four, and uses most of the same prayers (including the full Hail Mary) and Mysteries as the Roman versions, only its last two Glorious Mysteries, like those of our Lutheran cousins, are different: “Reconciliation of the World to God” and “Prophetic Witness to the World”.
Current Use of the Rosary of the BVM in PECUSA
Most of PECUSA’s sixteen traditional orders and eleven Christian communities use the Rosary of the BVM as part of their regular worship and contemplation. The same is true in the rest of the Anglican Communion. It is also a staple of Anglo-Catholic spiritual life and has been since nearly the beginning of the Oxford Movement in the 1830’s. Which is true even more so for PECUSA than the rest of the Communion because while England may have been its birth-place, America was strongest base for the Catholic Revival.