by Jacob Manier
In our Baptismal Covenant, we pledge to respect the dignity of every person. We make this promise with utmost sincerity even as we wrap it in liturgies that cling nearly exclusively to masculine pronouns and imagery. In our scriptures, hymns, and prayers, we extol the limitless virtues of God The Father, of Activist Bro Jesus and his burly gang of do-gooders, of Grandfatherly Holy Spirit (who we just do not know how do deal with, except to imagine him clutching his gin and tonic and doddering around The Episcopal Church Home), of Indiana Jones-like adventurers Moses and Aaron, and all the rest of the Sunday School Gang fellas.
Sure, we’ve been saddled with a patriarchal tradition… but we’ve promised to do better. To live the faith which we proclaim, we must find ways to expand the language of our prayers and praises to include feminine presence, genius, and virtue.
Such a big undertaking! Where to start?
I propose that we begin with the rosary, and with Mary. Here are her (ecumenically agreed-upon) qualifications:
She is the mother of God.
As the first Christian, she is the matriarch of The Church.
The Bible says that she is blessed among women and full of grace (yes, even before Mr. Angel Gabriel dubbed her so.)
Scripture and Tradition call her clement, loving, sweet, and also brave, strong, and wise.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Good grief, Jacob… worshipping Mary and the Saints is a Roman Catholic thing!”
Please be assured that 1) The Mother of God was not Roman Catholic and 2) nobody here is advocating the worship of Mary or of the Saints.
The Saints, like the needle on a compass, point us toward God. We do not pray to or through them, but with them – just as we pray with one another. When we invoke the name of Mary or of a Saint in prayer, we honor them as part of The Communion of Saints and we invite them, by their Godly example, to point us toward God.
Praying the rosary is one way in which we can begin to expand (and de-gender) our understanding of what it means to be The Church. When we pray the rosary, we honor she whom God so honored, and we also honor her relationship with Christ – the relationship in which the meditations of the rosary are rooted. In The Sorrowful Mysteries, the rosary challenges our stale vision of Holy Week, and forces us to face a new, raw, and powerful vision of Christ’s Passion – through the eyes of his mother. And as Protestants praying with the Mother of God, we are not alone: through the ages, from reformers Martin Luther and Thomas Cranmer, to poet-Archbishop Rowan Williams, Anglicans have loved and prayed with Mary, and have been inspired and nurtured by her example.
The Epiphany star has brought us to a crossroads in the liturgical year and in the life of Saint Paul’s Church. The journey of Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide lies before us. We are preparing to say goodbye to our beloved Lydia, to embrace Father Halley, and to step into an unknown future together.
That’s kind of a lot. Thankfully, we needn’t hit the road alone.
For here, at the corner of Transfiguration Street and Ash Wednesday Avenue, stands our mother, her hand outstretched in answer to our “Hail, Mary.” In lifting my rosary, I’m placing my hand in mom’s, and embarking on my Lenten journey with her. I hope that you will join us so that together, in the words of the rosary, “we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
If you’d like to pray the rosary as a group this Lent, please contact me: [email protected]. If you’ve never prayed the rosary before, I’d love to teach you! If you do not own a rosary, you may borrow one of mine. If you’re curious, but not quite sure that you’re ready to dive in, let’s chat.