Thursday, October 11, 2007


Rosarium means “garden of roses” or, better, “bouquet of roses”. When we pray the Holy Rosary, we are offering our Lady a bouquet, each “Hail Mary” a fragrant rose that pleases her and our Lord, because we are praising His mother, our mother. October is especially dedicated to promoting the Rosary.

The Rosary combines vocal prayers with mental prayer or contemplation. The vocal prayers principally consist of the sets of ten Hail Marys (decades) beginning with the Our Father and ending with the Trinitarian doxology (Glory Be). The mental prayer consists in contemplating the mysteries assigned to each decade. St. Josemaria Escriva has written an excellent meditation, booklet length, on the mysteries of the Rosary. His meditation is a model for combining “the piety of children” with “the doctrine of theologians”.

To facilitate contemplation, one could pause for a few seconds of quiet at the start of each decade, directing his attention to the particular scene as described in sacred scripture, situating oneself in it as a co-participant, or to a specific verse relating to the episode, and thus enter into the mystery.

There are four sets of mysteries: the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous; the last one (Mysteria Lucis, Mysteries of Light) added by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (October 16, 2002). The Joyful Mysteries are the “main part” of the Rosary for meditation on Mondays and, since 2002, on Saturdays. The Sorrowful Mysteries are assigned to Tuesdays and Fridays; the Glorious Mysteries, to Sundays and Wednesdays; and the Mysteries of Light or Luminous Mysteries, to Thursdays.

In the First Joyful Mystery, the Annunciation of the Birth of our Lord, we could make our own Mary’s momentous Yes to the divine will: Ecce ancilla Domini, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord,” fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, “be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38); and in the Second, the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, Mary’s Canticle, the Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” as she acknowledged the praise of her cousin, Elizabeth (Lk 1:46). In the Third, the Nativity of our Lord, we can join the chorus of angels bringing the news to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will!” (Lk 2:14); and in the Fourth, the Presentation of our Lord, think over the words of Simeon, Nunc dimittis, “Now dismiss your servant, Lord, according to your word, in peace” (Lk 2:29). In the Fifth, the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, we could ponder the response of our Lord to Mary and Joseph: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Lk 2:49).

In the First Sorrowful Mystery, the Agony in the Garden, we join our Lord saying, “Not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). In the Second, the Scourging at the Pillar, we recall the prophecy of Isaiah: “He was bruised for our iniquities” (Is 53:5). In the Third, the Crowning with Thorns, we take up the soldiers’ mockery as our own earnest adoration, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Mt 27:29, Mk 15:18, Jn 19:3); and in the Fourth, the Carrying of the Cross, another verse from Isaiah: “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Is 53:4). In the Fifth, the Crucifixion and Death of our Lord, we consider seriously: “(Christ) became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philip 2:8).

In the First Glorious Mystery, the Resurrection, we ponder the announcement of the angel, “He has risen as he said” (Mt 28:6); and in the Second, the Ascension, our Lord’s bidding: “Go, make disciples of all nations… I am with you always, until the end of time” (Mt 28: 19-20). In the Third, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, we savor the words of the Psalmist, “Send forth your spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30). In the Fourth, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we gaze at Mary, the Ark of the Covenant: “Then God’s temple was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple” (Rev 11:19); and in the Fifth, the Coronation of our Lady, we watch with wonderment: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Rev 12:1).

In the First Luminous Mystery, the Baptism of our Lord, we can hear the Voice saying, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). In the Second, the Self-Manifestation of our Lord at the Wedding Feast in Cana, we can take up Mary’s advice: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5); and in the Third, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the words of our Lord, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). In the Fourth, the Transfiguration, we join Peter in his daze: “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” (Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 9:28-36); and in the Fifth, the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, we can reflect on our Lord’s command, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19).

Pope John Paul II describes the Rosary as “a compendium of the Gospel” and “a method of contemplation” that is “based on repetition”—not the pharisaical repetition of “empty phrases” eschewed by our Lord (Mt 6:7), but one “nourished by the desire to be conformed ever more completely to Christ”—because God respects “our human nature and its vital rhythms”. Indeed, “the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life” (RVM, Nos. 18, 25-27).