Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Divine Mercy Chaplet

In our parish we recite the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet after almost every Mass. There are no meditations specifically assigned to the chaplet as there are to the Rosary. In thinking about the chaplet itself, it seems to me that it is a little paraliturgy of its own, and a highly Eucharistic one at that.

It begins with the a Pater, and Ave, and the Apostles' Creed. Not particularly significant now, but at the time of its composition it would have been immediately recognized by anyone who prayed the Divine Office as the beginning and ending of the daily office. Prior to the breviary reforms of the early 1960s, those three prayers began Matins and ended Compline. (They also began Prime which in the monastic context often began the day's office as Matins and Lauds were prayed at night and a short period of sleep separated them from Prime.)

The final prayers of the chaplet, the "Holy God, Holy and Mighty, etc.", are found in the Good Friday Liturgy both at the time of the chaplet's composition and now, in the old preces at Prime, and in every celebration of the Byzantine Liturgies of St John Chrysostom and St Basil with only a slight adaption, i.e., the words "and on the whole world".

The prayers at the heart of the chaplet seem to me highly Eucharistic. The "Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity" of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the old catechism definition of the Eucharist. The first of the decade prayers, "Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Thy dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world." could serve as a one-sentence summary of the priest's prayer at Mass. And "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." the prayer of the people. Looked at Eucharistically, the chaplet also thereby reinforces the doctrine of the Mass as sacrifice.

One more point that occurs to me: how similar the prayers of the chaplet are to the prayer taught by the angel to the children at Fatima: "Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifference by which He is offended. And through the infinite merit of His Most Sacred Heart, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners." It seems to make much the same point as the chaplet prayer. The same diamond but seen through different facets.

Or so it seems to me.