God did a similar thing the other day as I prayed the Anglican Rosary.
Now, I am not a person given to visions and promptings, being more attuned to finding God in the ordinary than in the extraordinary. But this came to me so clearly and unsought that it reminded me of nothing so much as “the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” (Rev. 21:2) Which doesn’t happen every day.
The most salient thing about the new set of prayers is that they are all extracts from the Psalms. As such they are, while of course still biblical, not specifically Christian. This new way of praying the Anglican Rosary doesn’t reference or address Jesus at all. Which surprised me, because I had regarded this particular devotion as my seriously Jesus-oriented practice. While I am multi-spiritual[i]–comfortable with the practices and frames of reference of more than one faith tradition[ii]–I try to avoid syncretism, or mixing of practices from divergent religions. Hence, while I may chant a Sanskrit mantra in the morning and pray the Compline service from the Book of Common Prayer in the evening, I don’t combine the two.[iii] And the Anglican Rosary was supposed to be “Jesus time.”
The Christ-free prayers that came into my head bothered me a little, because I often chafe under the pressure I feel to throw Jesus under the bus in the yoga-and-meditation world. When a yoga studio or Unitarian church transparently tells me my music is “not where their people are” (despite my assurances that we needn’t perform the two or three chants addressed to Jesus at any particular event) I remind myself that people have many more or less valid reasons for balking at anything that smells of church, but it’s hard. What are you doing to me, Lord? I asked.
While I love my family dearly, I always say “yes” when my wife offers to take the children somewhere for the weekend and give me a little time to myself. Maybe that’s what God is doing: sending Jesus and me on separate vacations for a while. Perhaps that is how God plans to open me up still further to the wisdom and insights of other traditions–the better to understand my own, of which my view is necessarily limited. “We shall not cease from exploration,” wrote T.S. Eliot, “And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” Over and over again I have found his words to be true–and if God wants me to pray the Anglican Rosary with Jesus way off in the background for a while, maybe it’s just one more journey of exploration to undertake.
[i] See Paul, Russill, Jesus in the Lotus
[ii] One hears people say, in denigration of using more than one spiritual practice, that you cannot strike water by digging multiple holes, but by digging one hole faithfully. I used to worry about that, until a friend pointed out that a multi-spiritual approach could just as easily be thought of as digging one hole using multiple tools.
[iii] My interfaith kirtan chants being a notable exception.
Cross: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (This prayer, the Collect for Purity with which the Eucharist opens, is how I begin all my rosary devotions, and it remained unchanged.)
Invitatory: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. (Psalm 51: 10-12)
Cruciform beads: O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a barren and dry land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
Weeks: For God alone my soul in silence waits. (Psalm 62:1)