I’m guessing it takes me a couple of months for new things to start seeming “normal” to me.  At least that seems to be my experience in using the daily office.  When I switch my practice, which I’ve done a few times over the years, it seems to take a couple of months of daily use for the new norms to feel normal.

That connects to my experience of using the Anglican rosary.

I’m really a novice at this.  I’d made a couple of attempts to incorporate this into my routine over the years.  And the first partial success, in my mind, came after reading “The Anglican Rosary” by Lynn C. Bauman.  I have the “expanded and revised” edition from 2003.  I believe there is a newer 2nd edition out now.

Anyway, what clicked for me was the idea of using the rosary as a mini office — probably since the idea of daily offices has been an ongoing practice for me since before I was ordained.  My practice has varied.  Sometimes I use one office.  Sometimes I use two offices.  Sometimes I’m better at maintaining my discipline than others …

Anyway, what worked for me was the idea of using the rosary for a compline office — which I’ve done somewhat irregularaly over the last year or two.  But I found I had to use words that were familiar feeling for me.  The words they used in their compline rosary simply felt too foreign to me.  And since the idea was to use words that would not take a lot of conscious thought, I found myself rewriting their suggested rosary using words from the Book of Common Prayer office of compline I have used (and loved) over the years.

I guess I’ve been using the St. Helena Breviary now long enough for that to start to feel normal for me.  So when I picked up “A Cycle of Prayer:  The Anglican Rosary for All of God’s People” (copyright by The Society of the Transfiguration and Sister Diana Dorothea, C. T., which I have in the 2006 2nd edition – a condensed version of this is available from The Anglican Fellowship of Prayer (Canada) in PDF format, with information on ordering the whole booklet from the sisters), I found myself making changes in the words to reflect what now feels like the new normal.  (Though interestingly enough, perhaps because I have not been using the breviary’s version of compline much, the old compline rosary still feels normal to me — even though it uses language that doesn’t fit with the new normal.)

So what am I actually talking about?

Those of you familiar with the Anglican rosary know that there is usually something like a cross and then an invitatory bead that lead into (and later out of) a cirlce of beads.  The cicle is composed of four cruciform beads and 28 week beads.  There is a cruciform bead at the top and bottom of the circle and on the left and right of the circle.  (If you draw a line from the top bead to the bottom bead, and another line from the left bead to the right bead, you have a cross.  Thus the name.)  Between each cruciform bead and the next, there are seven week beads (like seven days in a week).  So you have four weeks in each circle of the rosary.

I liked the idea of an ongoing Prayer for Openess, which is one of the patterns provided in the book.  But the language didn’t feel normal.  So I’ve adapted the form for my personal use.

I start by taking the cross on my rosary and making the sign of the cross with it.  This is instead of their suggested opening words.  I continue with “O God make speed to save me.  O God make haste to help me.  Glory to the holy and undivided Trinity, One God, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.”  on the invitatory bead.  This is a slight adoptation of the language they use.  The St. Helena Breviary is not using the word “Lord” to talk about God, nor the words “Father” or “Son” (usually) to talk about God.  So change here felt more natural.

Then I enter the circle.  For the cruciform beads, I say “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.”  That’s from Psalm 63:1, and I didn’t change their wording.  But I did adapt their use of Psalm 25:3.  “Lord” is not a word that feels natural at the moment to talk about God in my own private prayer.  Or at least I’m trying to be aware of why the sisters have largely omited it from their breviary.  And Jesus is the person of the Trinity who most speaks to me.  And Jesus has ways (even if he is the way) and paths.  So on each week bead I’m saying “Show me your ways, Jesus, and teach me your paths.”

This kind of adaptation seems normal and expected by those using the Anglican rosary.  It works for my personal use.  It probably wouldn’t work for group use.  (But my one attempt at that was not at all successful, anyway.)

Anyway, after three times around through the four weeks and the intervening cruciform beads, I exit through the invitatory bead (saying the Lord’s Prayer, which I’m used to in it’s contemporary version) and finally Ephesians 3:20-21 (as I use it in the breviary) “Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.  Amen.”

And then I have a bit of silence.  How long varies (and I don’t time it).

The whole idea is to quiet your mind and bring yourself in silence into the presence of God.  Those of you who have done centering prayer or practiced the Jesus Prayer will have done similar things.  (Interestingly enough, Orthodox prayer ropes, which are very similar to rosaries, most often are used in conjunction with the Jesus Prayer.)  There is an added physical element which I’m thinking is going to turn out to be helpful to me.  But time will tell.

In any of these practices, one’s intent (to place oneself humbly in the presence of God) is the central idea.  This is simply one of a number of ways that have worked for people to come into God’s presence.

Anyway, if you are interested in buying an Anglican Rosary for yourself, you can find them at http://www.praxisofprayer.com/Products/rosaries.asp (or if you live in the Sacramento area you can find them at the Cathedral Bookstore 916-442-9194).

A Circle of Prayer actually has a chapter on making a knotted cord Anglican rosary (and a suggested source for the rope).  This sounds like it would take far more prayerful patience than I think I have.  Yet there is something very attractive about the idea of prayerfully making these corded rosaries for others.