Mary And The Rosary
The Blessed Mother has been a central element in the spirituality of the Church over the centuries. As the Mother of God, she rightly deserves our love and veneration and so besides her many Solemnities and Feast days, we have the month of May dedicated to her honor. During the month of May, we are encouraged to focus our attention on the Blessed Mother, the most perfect model of the spiritual life. Could there have ever been a more exalted person in all of creation?
It was Mary's faith-filled "yes" to the angel Gabriel that helped bring about our eternal salvation. With her fiat the "Word became flesh" in her womb and so Mary became the Mother of God. However, she is not only the mother of the Redeemer, but our mother as well. Recall in John's Gospel that Jesus gives his mother to the beloved apostle who represents all of humanity. "When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home."
Countless titles have been bestowed upon the humble servant of Nazareth. Among others she is the Ark of the Covenant, the Queen of Peace and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. The Church throughout the centuries has rightly sung Mary's praises in scripture, tradition and, of course, the Liturgy. We go to her as our greatest intercessor who does nothing but bring us directly to her Son.
Since the earliest days of the Church, masses have been said in honor of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Her name appears in the most ancient Eucharistic canons and innumerable Churches have been named in her honor. Among those great devotions and signs of love for Mary is the Rosary, which holds a preeminent place in the Church.
What is the rosary? In the words of Saint Louis Marie De Montfort, "the rosary is made up of two things: mental prayer and vocal prayer. In the Holy Rosary mental prayer is none other than meditation of the chief mysteries of life, death and glory of Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Vocal prayer consists in saying fifteen decades of the `Hail Mary', each decade headed by an `Our Father'..." Based entirely on scripture, the rosary incorporates the angel's salutation to Mary in Luke's Gospel, the "Our Father" and meditations on the great mysteries of Our Lord as recounted by the evangelists.
Hailed as the greatest prayer of all time, the rosary has been championed by popes and saints. Pope Paul VI in his encyclical letter on the Blessed Mother "Marialis Cultis" calls the rosary, "[a] compendium of the entire Gospel." In the encyclical the Holy Father recalls how his predecessors "have recommended its frequent recitation, encouraged its diffusion, explained its nature, recognized its suitability for fostering contemplative prayer-prayer of both praise and petition-and recalled its intrinsic effectiveness for promoting Christian life and apostolic commitment."
The Church has always placed great emphasis on this form of prayer mostly because it is so Christ-centered. The sorrowful mysteries recall The Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion. The joyful mysteries bring to mind The Annunciation, The Visitation, the Birth of Jesus, the Presentation in the Temple and the Finding in the Temple. Finally, the glorious mysteries remind us of the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary, and the Coronation of Mary. Every time we pray the rosary we are pondering what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Along with Mary, the Mother of God, we reflect on how Jesus died and rose for our salvation.
A pious tradition says that Mary herself gave the rosary to Saint Dominic in a vision. Mary appeared to him holding the rosary, saying that whoever prayed this prayer would receive abundant blessings and graces from God. However, apart from this, little is really known about the origins of the rosary. It certainly came into being during the time of Saint Dominic and was modeled after the 150 psalms of the breviary. It was the common man's liturgy of the Hours. What is certain is that by the 16th century the rosary took its final shape with only the Fatima prayer being added in 1917.
During this month of May, we should all discover the wonder and richness of the rosary. It is a powerful tool against sin and evil and as Mary herself promised it wins for us many graces. Therefore, let us draw closer to Mary in the rosary so that we may be drawn closer to Our Lord and His Church.
copyright © 1999-2005, Spirituality for Today