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Friday, August 24, 2007

Howard on the Rosary at Gordon

This is the conclusion to Dr. Howards fine talk at Gordon College. It is very short, and on the Rosary, and very beautiful.

He addresses, I believe, most of the objections people have to the Rosary. It's not exhaustive by any means, but a wonderful catechetical reflection. Again, keeping in mind it was delivered at Gordon College, quite amazing!

God love you!

Howard at Gordon on the Rosary

I might wind this up here by mentioning one item that is as sticky as any of the items on the list of questions that good Evangelicals have about Roman Catholic piety. I mean the Rosary.

If anything on earth looks like the vain repetition the Bible warns us against, it would certainly be the Rosary. It entails seemingly endless repetitions of the Hail Mary. That can't possibly be "prayer", surely?

Let me see if I can help you see at least the reason Catholics appreciate the Rosary. First, we all know how terribly difficult it is to fix our minds in Christian meditation. If you have attempted it yourself, you know that your worst enemy is wandering thoughts. You also know that you very quickly run out of things to say when you are pondering one of the Gospel mysteries (and surely if one is a serious Christian one will have as part of one's daily exercises just such meditating and pondering). The Rosary supplies us with a way of tarrying (that is the key word, actually) in a systematic and progressive way, in the presence of all the great events of our salvation, in the company of the one who was most receptive to the Lord, namely, the Virgin Mary, who said, you will remember, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done unto me according to Thy word." Alas--that is what you and I, in our father Adam and our mother Eve did not say in Eden; and it is one way of summing up this whole process of growth in the Christian life we have embarked on. If only I can learn, increasingly, to say, from my heart, "Be it done unto me according to Thy word."

The Rosary presents us with fifteen of the Gospel events--the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and so forth-and, by giving us a sort of refrain to murmur as we place ourselves in conspectu Dei at each scene--the way charismatics will murmur "Jesus! Jesus!" or the way we Evangelicals repeat "Alleluia!" or "Crown him! crown him!" in a hymn--by giving us a quiet refrain to keep on our tongues as we tarry, it helps us to stay in place. The words are like ball bearings, so to speak. They assist our poor scattered faculties to stay in line. And of course, the "Hail Mary" is biblical: we are simply repeating Gabriel's salutation to this woman--we are one of the many generations who want to call her blessed, as she herself sang in the Magnificat. For of course she was the one of us who was taken most intimately into the whole drama of redemption: the patriarchs and prophets and kings and apostles all bore witness to the Word: Mary bore the Word. She is the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Insofar as we increasingly unite our own aspirations with hers, we move closer and closer into intimate union with the Lord. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord": if only I can learn to say that, in a thousand situations all day long when irritation, or resentment, or lust, or impatience surge up in me. "Be it done unto me according to Thy word." It is a wonderful frame of mind for a Christian to aspire to. The Rosary, day by day, presents to us those events upon which our souls ought to be habitually dwelling and helps us to tarry in those Gospel precincts.

My time is up. I have scarcely touched on this matter of the Virgin Mary and have said nothing of the Pope, or of prayers to the saints, and Purgatory, and so many other things that seem an outrage to ardent Evangelical imagination. As a form of shorthand, I may simply say that every single one of these notions and practices is profoundly centered on Jesus Christ who, says the Roman Catholic Church, echoing Saint Paul, is "the one mediator between God and man".

There are gigantic matters that we could talk about. For my part, I want to say a most fervent and heartfelt thanks to Gordon College or having me here today. All my memories of my fifteen years on the faculty here are good memories. God bless and prosper Gordon College, say I.


Katie Alender said...

He sounds like an extremely thoughtful and interesting person... and brave, to say all this to an audience of evangelicals!

Sharon said...

I would strongly recommend Howard's book ' If Your Mind Wanders at Mass' whether you need it or not! He is a former English teacher and is now an orthodox Catholic. His beautiful prose combined with impecable orthodoxy and a strong love for the Mass has resulted in a wonderful explanation of the Mass.