Tag Archives: Rosary

Prayer Beads: The Roman Catholic Rosary


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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The Roman Catholic Rosary
The Roman Catholic Rosary

Many scholars admit that the use of prayer beads originated with the Hindus in ancient India, and the Hindu or Buddhist mala is the great mother of rosaries. From India and the Himalayan kingdoms, the prayer beads traveled west to Africa and Europe, where it evolved into the Islamic Subha, the Christian rosary, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, and the secular worry beads used throughout Greece and the Middle East.

The Roman Catholics use the word ‘Rosary’ to describe a string of prayer beads, a device used to keep count of the recited prayers, as well as a sequence of prayers.

Mary world Rosary

In the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, the Rosary is a sacramental and Marian devotion to prayer to commemorate events in the life of Jesus.

Traditionally, the prayer beads have consisted of strings of similarly sized beads, seeds, knots, or even rose petals and beads made from crushed roses, from which we get the word “rosary.” In Latin the term “rosarium” means ‘crown of roses’ or ‘garland of roses.’ The Roman Catholics sometimes write the word ‘rosary’ with an initial capital as ‘Rosary.’

To the Roman Catholics, the Rosary is above all a protracted prayer that helps to meditate on the mysteries of the life of Christ and His Mother Mary. Strongly associated with the Blessed Mother, the Rosary relies on her intercession with her Divine Son and on her ability to raise the minds and hearts of the faithful to God through both vocal prayer and reflection on all that God has done for us.

The Perugia Altarpiece, Side Panel Depicting St. Dominic by Fra Angelico (1395–1455)
The Perugia Altarpiece, Side Panel Depicting St. Dominic by Fra Angelico (1395–1455)

According to Cornelius Sneck, a disciple of the French Dominican Blessed Alain de la Roche, the concept of the rosary was given to Saint Dominic in an apparition by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the year 1208 at the church of Prouille in a hamlet in Languedoc, France. Here are the words of Cornelius:

We read that at the time when he was preaching to the Albigenses, St. Dominic at first obtained but scanty success: and that one day, complaining of this in pious prayer to our Blessed Lady, she deigned to reply to him, saying:

Wonder not that you have obtained so little fruit by your labors, you have spent them on barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of Divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, He began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore preach my Psalter composed of 150 Angelic Salutations and 15 Our Fathers, and you will obtain an abundant harvest.

Traditionally, from this time onwards, the Rosary included 150 “Hail Marys,” one for each of the Psalms, which were gradually divided into 15 groups of ten each, corresponding to the 15 mysteries of the Rosary for meditation. Therefore, technically, a complete Rosary was for many years 15 decades long. Nowadays, the most commonly used Rosary has five decades, and the mysteries were commonly divided into three groups, the Joyful, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious, with five mysteries in each group.

Thirteen popes starting with Pope Leo XIII supported the tradition that the Blessed Virgin Mary first revealed the Rosary devotion to St. Dominic.

How to recite the Holy Rosary

The Prayers

IN THE NAME of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (As you say this, with your right hand touch your forehead when you say Father, touch your breastbone when you say Son, touch your left shoulder when you say Holy, and touch your right shoulder when you say Spirit.)

I BELIEVE IN GOD, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty. He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

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. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

HAIL MARY, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among 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 our death. Amen.

GLORY BE to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

O MY JESUS, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy. Amen.

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 vale 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. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of he promises of Christ. Amen.

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 by 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.

ANNOUNCE each mystery by saying something like, “The third Joyful Mystery is the Birth of Our Lord.” This is required only when saying the Rosary in a group.

Say the above prayers in the order shown in following image:

The Catholic Rosary

INTRODUCTION
1. IN THE NAME…
2. I BELIEVE IN GOD…
3. OUR FATHER…
4 – 6. HAIL MARY…
7. GLORY BE…
8. O MY JESUS…

THE FIRST DECADE
9. ANNOUNCE…
10. OUR FATHER…
11 – 20. HAIL MARY…
21. GLORY BE…
22. O MY JESUS…

THE SECOND DECADE
23. ANNOUNCE…
24. OUR FATHER…
25 – 34. HAIL MARY…
35. GLORY BE…
36. O MY JESUS…

THE THIRD DECADE
37. ANNOUNCE…
38. OUR FATHER…
39 – 48. HAIL MARY…
49. GLORY BE…
50. O MY JESUS…

THE FOURTH DECADE
51. ANNOUNCE…
52. OUR FATHER…
53 – 62. HAIL MARY…
63. GLORY BE…
64. O MY JESUS…

THE FIFTH DECADE
65. ANNOUNCE…
66. OUR FATHER…
67 – 76. HAIL MARY…
77. GLORY BE…
78. O MY JESUS…

CONCLUSION
79. HAIL HOLY QUEEN…
80. O GOD, WHOSE…
81. IN THE NAME…

The Mysteries of the Rosary

The praying of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which allow the faithful to contemplate on the life and death of Jesus – from the “Annunciation” of the birth of Jesus to his “Ascension” into heaven, and beyond.

The three Mysteries are known as: the Joyful (or Joyous), the Sorrowful, and the Glorious.

Each of these Mysteries allows the faithful to contemplate on five different stages of Christ’s life. Based on the long-standing custom, these traditional 15 Mysteries of the Rosary were standardized by Pope Pius V in the 16th century.

In October 2002, Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae recommended an additional set of Mysteries called the Luminous Mysteries (or the “Mysteries of Light”) thus increasing the total number of mysteries to twenty.

Various other mysteries for meditation and thematic Scriptural passages called ‘Scriptural Rosary’ have been provided. Though these additional offerings are not official, they are perfectly acceptable means of praying the Rosary and meditating on the mysteries of salvation by the faithful.

Although it is recommended, it is not obligatory to recite the fruits of the mystery before each decade. As such, many Catholics have long forgotten the fruits of the mysteries.

Joyful Mysteries (Monday, Saturday)

  1. The Annunciation (of the Birth of the Savior to Mary).
    Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
  2. The Visitation (of Mary to Elizabeth and John the Baptist).
    Fruit of the Mystery: Charity, Love of neighbor
  3. The Nativity of Our Lord.
    Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty of spirit, Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of riches, Love of the poor
  4. The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
    Fruit of the Mystery: Obedience, Purity of intention
  5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
    Fruit of the Mystery: Piety

Sorrowful Mysteries (Tuesday, Friday)

  1. The Agony in the Garden:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Contrition, Conformity to the will of God
  2. The Scourging at the Pillar:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Purity, Mortification
  3. The Crowning with Thorns:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Moral Courage, Contempt of the world
  4. The Carrying of the Cross:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
  5. The Crucifixion:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Final perseverance, Salvation, Self-Denial

Glorious Mysteries (Sunday, Wednesday)

  1. The Resurrection:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
  2. The Ascension:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Hope, Desire for Heaven
  3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit (on Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost):
    Fruit of the Mystery: Love of God, Wisdom, Knowing and sharing the truth
  4. The Assumption of Mary:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Devotion to Mary, Grace of a happy death
  5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Eternal Happiness

Luminous Mysteries (Thursday)

  1. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Openness to the Holy Spirit, Living one’s baptismal promises
  2. The Miracle at Cana: To Jesus through Mary,
    Fruit of the Mystery: Doing whatever Jesus says
  3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance, Trust in God
  4. The Transfiguration:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Becoming a new person in Christ, Desire for holiness
  5. The Institution of the Eucharist:
    Fruit of the Mystery: Eucharistic Adoration, Active participation at Mass

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Prayer Beads: The Islamic Subha / Masbaha / Tasbih


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) proclaimed: “Worship is the pillar of religion.”

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Salat, or prayer, is one of the Five Pillars, or essential rites in Islam. Recited five times a day (at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset and nightfall), salat intersperses the rhythms of daily life with habitual opportunities to stand before The Almighty in entranced concentration.

Islamic Prayer Beads Tesbih Subha 99 Malachite
Islamic Prayer Beads Tesbih Subha 99 Malachite

Nowadays, many Muslims pray with prayer beads as a device to keep track of the words of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) they repeat while glorifying Allah.

Muslims probably gained the concept of prayer beads from India. When this happened, however, is uncertain. However, scholars admit that the use of prayer beads originated with the Hindus in ancient India, and the Hindu or Buddhist mala is the great mother of rosaries. From India and the Himalayan kingdoms, the prayer beads traveled west to Africa and Europe, where it evolved into the Islamic Subha, the Christian Rosary, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, and the secular worry beads used throughout Greece and the Middle East.

In India, a strand of Islamic prayer beads is known as Subha (Arabic: سبحا) derived from the Arabic phrase Subhan’Allāh (Arabic سبحان الله) meaning “Glory to Allah.” It is also known as Masbaha (Arabic: مسبحة) or Tasbih (تسبيح).

Subha may vary in style or decorative embellishments ranging from cheap mass-produced prayer beads, to those made with expensive materials and high-quality workmanship.

Subha beads are most often made of spherical glass, wood, plastic, amber, or gemstone. The cord is usually cotton or silk.

Subha may have either 33 beads, or 99 beads separated by flat disks into three groups of 33. There is often a larger, leader bead and a tassel at one end to mark the starting point of recitations.

The believers touch one bead at a time while reciting words of dhikr which are often the 99 names of Allah (Arabic: أسماء الله الحسنى‎ ʾasmāʾ allāh al-ḥusnā),  which help the believers in their communion with Allah.

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At times the believers repeat phrases which express reverence, complete submission and gratitude to Allah. Following are the most used phrases, each repeated 33 times:

Subhan’Allāh (Arabic سبحان الله) meaning “Glory to Allah
Alhamdulillah (Arabic: الحمد لله‎) meaning “Praise be to Allah
Allāhu Akbar (Arabic: الله أكبر) meaning “Allah is Great”

At the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims did not use prayer beads as a tool during personal prayer, but may have used date pits or pebbles. Caliph Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) used a Subha similar to modern ones. The widespread manufacture and use of Subha began about 600 years ago.

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Prayer Beads: The Buddhist Japa mala


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Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj .

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Digital StillCamera

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Buddhism is a way of life that got transformed into a religion. It is indigenous to the Indian subcontinent that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhārtha Gautama, also known as Gautama Buddha, Shakyamuni, or simply as the Buddha. The Buddha, meaning “the awakened one” lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent between the 6th and 4th centuries BC.

According to Dīpavaṃsa, the oldest historical record of Sri Lanka, Buddhism was introduced into the island during the reign of Sri Lanka’s King Devanampiya Tissa (307 BC to 267 BC) by Venerable Mahinda, the son of the great Indian Emperor Ashoka.

Around 228 BC, Sohn Uttar Sthavira, one of the royal monks of Emperor Ashoka came to Suvarnabhumi (or Burma, the present day Myanmar) with few other monks carrying Buddhist sacred texts.

Buddhism was introduced into China during the reign Emperor Ming (58-75 AD).

In 372 AD, about 800 years after the death of the historical Gautama Buddha, Buddhism was introduced to Korea from Former Qin, a state of the Sixteen Kingdoms in China.

Buddhism took root in Japan during the Kofun period (250 to 538 AD).

During the reign of King Thothori Nyantsen (5th century AD), a basket of Buddhist scriptures written in Sanskrit arrived in Tibet from India which were not translated into Tibetan until the reign of king Songtsän Gampo (618-649 AD) who had married a Chinese Tang Dynasty Buddhist princess and a Nepalese Buddhist princess, named Bhrikuti.

Eventually, Buddhism became the established religion in these countries.

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Tibetan Buddhist 108 Ox Bone Skull Prayer Beads Mala
Tibetan Buddhist 108 Ox Bone Skull Prayer Beads Mala

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The Buddhists in India adopted the Hindu practice of using Japa mala for repeating mantras or counting breaths. As Buddhism spread to other eastern countries so did Japa mala for meditation. They also used the Japa mala as a divination tool.

The voices of groups of monks chanting together resonate from the Buddhist monasteries in a continual monotonous murmuring. Chanting with a string of 108 prayer beads helps the Buddhist faithful to reach an interior state of supreme reality beyond time and place.

Like the Hindu Japa mala, the Buddhist Japa mala too are usually composed of 108 beads or divisions of that number, 54 or 27. The 108 beads represent the number of worldly desires or negative emotions that must be overcome before attaining nirvana. Buddhists believe that saying a mantra for each fleshly failing will purify the supplicant.

The Buddhist Japa malas are made of sandalwood, seeds, stones, or inlaid animal bone.

Burmese Buddhist monks prefer strings of black lacquered beads.

In Tibet, Japa malas of inlaid bone originally included the skeleton parts of revered monks, to remind their users to live lives worthy of the next level of enlightenment. Today’s bone malas are made of yak bone, which is sometimes inlaid with turquoise and coral.

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Buddhist 27-bead wrist malas
Buddhist 27-beads wrist malas

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Smaller 27-bead wrist malas were created mainly to prevent the prayer beads from touching the ground during prostrations.

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Prayer Beads: The Hindu Japa mala


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .

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The antiquity of the Japa mala, the Hindu rosary, is confirmed by its frequent inclusion in sculpture and painting along with Hindu deities such as Agni, Agastya, Ahirbudhnya, Ardhanarisvara, Bhadrakali, Bhringin, Brhaspati, Gauri, Kamantaka, Lakulisa, Manasa, Parvati, Rati, Risi(s), Shiva, Subramanya, Surya, Uma, and Vāyu, among others. Lesser spirits are believed to dwell in rosary-bead perforations.

A female Shiva sadhu (sadhvi) in Haridwar, India. (Photo: Brett Davies, 2010)
A female Shiva sadhu (sadhvi) in Haridwar, India, holding a Japa mala. (Photo: Brett Davies, 2010)

The Sanskrit term “Japa mala” for the strand of Hindu prayer beads means ‘muttering chaplet’ because of the prayer beads’ function to record the number of prayers uttered.

Japa mala is used as an aid to meditation, each bead counted is an individual prayer or mantra, that keeps the mind from wandering and make it concentrate, without distractions, on the meaning of the prayer being recited. Recitation is usually murmured, or silent. The repetition of a mantra or divine names through the devotional act known as japa yoga

This practice of praying using prayer beads to keep count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a self-selected deity (ishtadevata) became widespread by the eighth century BC in India.

108-bead mala of  jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.
108-beads Japa mala of jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.

The 108 beads of the Japa mala represents the cosmos derived by multiplying the twelve astrological signs by the nine planets. Hence the Japa malas are usually made from 108 beads, though other numbers, usually divisible by nine, are also used. The total number of beads may vary among different Hindu sects. A common Vaishnavite Japa mala has 108 beads. Shaivites often use 32, or 64. There are many other variants.

27- beads Japa Mala made of Rudraksha seed
27- beads Japa Mala made of Rudraksha seeds.

When worn visibly by a Hindu, the material used for the Japa mala bead can indicate the Hindu deity or sect to whom the Japa mala and its wearer are dedicated.

According to Hindu tradition the correct way to use a mala is to hold it with the right hand, with the thumb flicking one bead to the next, and with the mala draped over the middle finger. Since the index finger represents the ego, the greatest impediment to self-realization, it is considered best to avoid using it when chanting on a mala.

A widely used Hindu Japa mala prayer is the Gāyatrī Japam also called Gāyatrī Mantra, repeated twice a day in the morning and in the evening. It is addressed to Savitr, the Sun before sunrise, the supreme generative force and ruler of the planets, to propitiate hostile planets or angry gods. The greater the number of repetitions, the greater the blessing. The favored number of repetitions are 27, 54, or 108 times, without any break. Through repetition, the reciter strives to accumulate an inner force originating from the Sun, to illuminate his mind, to gain knowledge, energy, and blessings in one’s undertakings.

Materials used in Hindu Japa malas are the most varied of those used among all religions. Most of them are of vegetable origin that include seeds, berries, fruit, nuts, drupes, dried plant stems, and wood. From mineral sources come glass, semiprecious or precious stones, and metals. Materials of animal origin such as bone, ivory, horn, coral, shells and pearls are also used. A Japa mala made of gold or gemstones is considered one hundred times more auspicious and efficacious than any other material. Glass, especially coloured ones simulating precious stones, has also been used for centuries. Today plastic beads that simulate natural minerals are universally used because of their low-cost.

The Hindus believe that each material embodies its own particular properties: Silver and gold fulfill wishes; coral brings wealth; crystal, good luck; pearls, glory; and shell helps one to achieve fame.

Many Hindus fear falling prey to evil eyes that could fall on them and their Japa Mala. To avoid this some members belonging to certain Hindu sects place the Japa mala and the hand holding it into a small cloth bag called gaumukhi, meaning “cow’s mouth” while reciting the prayers.

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Prayer Beads in Major Religions


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .

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In many major religions and cultures, the device most used to help devotees to pray and meditate is the strand of prayer beads. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population meditate or pray with beads.

Hindu/Buddhist 108-bead mala of  jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.
Hindu/Buddhist 108-bead mala of jasper with turquoise howlite and red bamboo coral marker beads.

Many scholars admit that the use of prayer beads originated with the Hindus in ancient India,and the Hindu or Buddhist mala is the great mother of rosaries. From India and the Himalayan kingdoms, the prayer beads traveled east to China and Japan, and to the west to Africa and Europe, where it evolved into the Islamic Subha, the Christian rosary, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, and the secular worry beads used throughout Greece and the Middle East.

Catholic Rosary
Roman Catholic Rosary

Traditionally, the prayer beads have consisted of strings of similarly sized beads, seeds, knots, or even rose petals and beads made from crushed roses, from which we get the word “rosary.” In Latin the term “rosarium” means ‘crown of roses’ or ‘garland of roses.’ The Roman Catholics sometimes write the word ‘rosary’ with an initial capital as ‘Rosary.’

Since counting prayers were initially so important, each religion embracing the use of prayer beads developed its own symbolic structure to follow. In addition to helping keep one’s place in structured prayers, the prayer beads also symbolize the commitment to spiritual life. With its circular form, a string of beads represents the interconnectedness of all who pray.

Common to many strands of prayer beads is the number nine. Greatest of the single-digit numerals, nine symbolizes completion. Where the numbers do not add up to nine, they are often divisible by three, symbolic of the trinity in Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), the three central concepts of Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) and the trinity in Christianity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

In addition to their use in the religious rituals of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, the prayer beads find a place in the spiritual practices of cultures as diverse as the African Masai, Native Americans, Greek and Russian Orthodoxy.

Eastern-Orthodox Prayer Rope
Eastern-Orthodox Prayer Rope

Many similar prayer practices exist in various other Christian communities, each with its own set of prescribed prayers and its own form of prayer beads or prayer rope. These other devotions and their associated beads are usually called “chaplets”. The rosary is sometimes used by other Christians, especially in Lutheranism, the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Church.

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