Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Demystifying the Rosary

Today is the feast day of Saint Joseph, and so it seems to me to be an especially appropriate day to focus on the Rosary.  Saint Joseph was a man who lived out the Rosary in his life and, we can assume, equally in his death.  It also serves to make my point quite adequately that rather than being centered on Mary, the rosary is quite like Saint Joseph in its utter devotion to Jesus.

The biggest assumption that most people have is that the rosary is about Mary.  Perhaps this is because we say the Hail Mary more times than we recite any other prayer - in fact, 10 times for every one Our Father.  Yet this is deceptive, because in reality the first part of the Hail Mary are taken from the words of the Angel Gabriel as revealed to us in the Gospel of Luke.  They are scripture.  "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you" - Luke 1:28.  The second line is also scripture, though this time from Elizabeth.  "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb" - Luke 1: 42.  Jesus's name is added as a reminder of who that fruit is and why she is so blessed.  The next part is a request to Mary that she aid us in our efforts to reach Heaven by praying for us both right at this moment and at the hour of our death.  So, the entire prayer is really a focus on the Incarnation of Jesus and a request for help in growing closer to Him.

Every mystery - with the exception of two of them from the Glorious - is centered around moments from Christ's life and public ministry.  The Joyful Mysteries are about Christ's life from his conception through the finding in the temple.  The Luminous Mysteries are about Christ's public ministry from his baptism by John the Baptist until his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  The Sorrowful Mysteries are about Christ's last hours from the moment he entered the Garden of Gethsemene until the moment he gave his last breath on the Cross.  Finally, we come to the Glorious mysteries.

The Glorious mysteries begin with Christ's resurrection, proceed to his assumption, then go to the descent of the Holy Spirit in the upper room on that Pentecost day. The final two, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and her Coronation can SEEM to be Marian focused but are really demonstrations for the Christian faithful that Christ is good for his word. You see, in the Assumption we see the promise of God made in the Psalms (because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. - Psalm 16:10) fulfilled.  The Coronation of Mary is likewise a fulfillment of the promises offered to us in Scripture (Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. - 2 Tim. 4:8)  Who was more righteous than Mary, the mother of Jesus? Who longed more for his appearance than Mary?  

You see, you have nothing to fear from the rosary.  Even the most die-hard Protestant may pick it up and pray it with confidence that there is nothing idolatrous or evil about the Rosary, unless one would claim that scripture is idolatrous or evil.  

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