As usual, my high aspirations for improving my practice of prayer during Lent haven’t lived up to expectations. Still, I recently picked up a small book called The Jesus Prayer Rosary by the late Fr. Michael Cleary that I’ve found helpful. Although I’m wary of mix ‘n’ match approaches to spirituality, I love the Rosary and have been looking for a way to incorporate the Jesus Prayer into my practice of prayer beyond ad hoc use.
In the introduction, Fr. Cleary says that he wrote the book precisely to bring these two traditions together. Particularly, he suggests it could be a valuable way of praying for those who are uncomfortable with the Marian prayers of the traditional Rosary.
The Jesus Prayer Rosary differs from the traditional (Dominican) Rosary in about the ways you might expect. Here’s what the structure looks like:
On the cross pray
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Holy and strong,
Holy and immortal,
have mercy on us.
On the first large bead pray the Lord’s Prayer.
On the three small beads pray
i. Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.
ii. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
iii. Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Pray the “Glory Be…”
On the next large bead, announce the first “mystery” or meditation and pray the Lord’s Prayer.
On each of the ten following beads, pray the Jesus Prayer.
After the ten beads, pray the “Glory Be…” and the Concluding prayer for each meditation.
Repeat this for all five decades; on the centerpiece pray one of the concluding prayers (the book offers several, including the traditional Lukan canticles).
Pray a concluding prayer.
The book offers a series of Bible passages and meditations that correspond roughly to the traditional mysteries of the Rosary: Meditations on the Infancy of Jesus, the Ministry of Jesus, the Passion, and “Life in Christ,” which include the Resurrection, Ascension, the Holy Spirit, the Life of Grace, and the New Jerusalem.
For each meditation, the book also provides a clause to use when praying the Jesus Prayer that resonates with the mystery being meditated upon. For instance, the form of the Jesus Prayer given for the meditation on the Last Supper is
Jesus, Lord and Christ,
Son and Word of the Living God:
you make yourself known to us
in the breaking of bread,
have mercy (on us).
I’ve only used this form of the Rosary a couple of times so far, but I’ve found it to be conducive to focusing on Jesus, which, according to Fr. Cleary, is what it’s for:
Concentrating on Jesus is what this little work is all about. It’s also a pretty good description of what Christians down the years have called ‘meditation.’ Making it possible for people to do so, in a way that changes their lives, what they have called ‘evangelization.’ At least, that’s the way St. Paul understood it: ‘For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4.6). And, staying focused on that face is for the apostle the secret of the spiritual life, the life of transforming grace: ‘beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3.18). (pp. ix-x)
I’m not at all uncomfortable with the traditional Marian rosary, but I do find this version’s more intensely Christological focus to be appealing.