Today in the reflection I would like a type of devotional prayers, the rosary. Tomorrow, we will explore the Stations of the Cross. These are two types of prayers that open to us another way to enter into our relationship with Jesus.
The name rosary comes from the Latin word for roses, a traditional symbol of the Blessed Mother. If you remember the apparition of the Blessed Mother at Gaudalupe that when Juan Diego opened his tilde there were beautiful roses that were not in season. The rosary, then, is a garland of roses. Since yesterday was Valentine’s Day in the United States, roses might be fresh in our minds as a metaphor for love.
The purpose of the rosary is to ask the Blessed Mother to pray for us, by reciting over and over a familiar prayer. First, notice the words: Hail Mary (the greeting of the angel Gabriel) Full of Grace (also from scripture) the Lord is with thee (the reassurance of the angel). Blessed art thou among women (the message as well of the angel to Mary). The point of emphasizing these phrases is to show they are connected to the Bible. Sometimes Catholics are accused of not valuing the bible, and yet the truth is that Catholics value the bible as THE book.
In the second part of the prayer is something important as well. We say, “pray for us, sinners.” We are not praying to Mary, but rather seeking her prayers before God. Because we believe that Mary’s faith was total and entire in God, we believe that when we ask her to pray for us it is very powerful. But notice carefully we do not pray TO Mary. Catholics are sloppy sometimes in their language. We pray TO Jesus; we ask Mary to pray FOR us. So, when we ask Mary to pray for us, it is just like what happens when we ask someone else to pray for us.
Most major religions have some series of repetitive prayers using a rope and beads. The reason is that by repeating a familiar prayer over and over again, our minds can be freed from distractions to think more clearly about deeper mysteries. Many of you may be familiar with the rosary, and know that there are three prayers said often, the Hail Mary (53 times), the Our Father (6 times) the Glory Be (6 times) the Apostle’s Creed (1 time) and the Hail Holy Queen (1 time).
You can learn how to pray the rosary by looking at the picture or by clicking on this link.
You can also find the individual prayers by going to the devotional prayer section of this website.
What I want to focus on the nature of the mysteries we are meditating upon when we prayer the rosary. They are divided into four groups: the Joyful Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. Put another way, we are reflecting, we are meditating on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, called the Paschal Mystery. It is an easy way to consider the entire of our relationship with Jesus.
The Joyful Mysteries focus on the beginnings of the revelation of the Jesus’ life. They are the events around the Incarnation, and are joyful because they are the beginning of our salvation. We focus on the “yes” Mary gave to God, her care and support with her kinswoman Elizabeth, the birth of Jesus, his presentation in the temple to follow the Jewish law, and the finding of the child Jesus which was a revelation of his special relationship with the Father.
The Luminous Mysteries are a relatively new set of mysteries, and they focus on the day to day revealing of the Kingdom of God by Jesus. We remember his baptism in the Jordan, when he who was baptized made holy the waters of baptism for all of us, the wedding feast of Cana where Jesus performed the first of his signs, the proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, where he is revealed in glorious fashion, and the Institution of the Eucharist, when each of us are invited to receive the very presence of Jesus, body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus.
The Sorrowful Mysteries recall the events of the suffering of Jesus where he takes on our sins and saves us. There is the Agony in the Garden, where Jesus accepts the will of the Father, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion. By recalling these sufferings of Jesus, we are called to realize and recognize the powerful love that Jesus has for each one of us. He did not save us because we deserve it. In fact, we do not deserve to be saved. He suffered for us because he loves us.
The Glorious Mysteries represent those events that are so tremendous. They are tremendous because they remind us that the relationship with God is destined for a glorious end. Because Jesus has conquered sin and death, we can be saved, we can live forever with God. The first two mysteries are those great mysteries of Jesus, his resurrection and his ascension. The Holy Spirit is the focus on the third mystery, for we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Mary’s complete fidelity to God is the purpose of the last two mysteries, her assumption into heaven, and her being crown as Queen of heaven. And in the rosary we ask Mary to pray for us, and we focus deeply on those events of Jesus that result in our salvation.