The Rosary of Our Lady is a small thin volume — it could be read in one sitting, yet it is also a volume that the reader will return to countless times. Below are some of the “keepers” I noted on my first read-through.
The Role Of Repetition In The Rosary
…Such repetition has a real meaning. Is it not an element of life? What else is the beating of the heart but a repetition? Always the same astriction and expansion; but it makes the blood circulate through the body. What else is breathing but a repetition? Always the same in and out; but by breathing we live. And is not our whole being ordered and sustained by change and repetition? Ever anew the sun rises and sets, night follows day; the round of life begins in the spring, rises, reaches its summit and sinks. What objections can one raise against these and many other repetitions? They are the order in which growth progresses, the inner kernel develops, and the form is revealed. All life realizes itself in the rhythm of external conditions and internal accomplishment. If this is so everywhere, why should it not be so in religious devotion?
The Rosary A Sojourn To A Place of Holy Tranquility
Man needs a place of holy tranquility that is pervaded by the breath of God and where he meets the great figures of the faith. This place is really the inaccessibility of God himself, which is opened to man only through Christ. All prayer begins by man becoming silent – recollecting his scattered thoughts, feeling remorse at his trespasses, and directing his thoughts toward God. If man does all this, the place is thrown open, not only as a domain of spiritual tranquility and mental concentration, but as something that comes from God.
We are always in need of this place, especially when the convulsions of the times make clear something that has always existed but which sometimes hidden by outward well-being and a prevailing “peace of mind”: namely the homelessness of our lives. In such times a great courage is demanded from us: not only a readiness to dispense with more and to accomplish more than usual, but to persevere in a vacuum we do not otherwise notice. So, we require more than ever this place of which we speak, not to creep into so to hide, but as a place to find the core of things, to become calm and confident once more. For this reason the rosary is so important in times like ours…The Rosary has the character of a sojourn. Its essence is the sheltering security of a quite, holy world that envelops the person who is praying.
The Profusion Of Human Petition In The Hail Mary: “Now And At The Hour Of Our Death”
There is something stupendous in the profusion of human petition that find expression in the Hail Mary: that she may intercede for us “now and at the hour of our death.” There is no naming of details. Every human need is included, and we all employ the same words to portray our misery. Only at two instants can we grasp this human need, instants that are decisive in our lives. The one is “now,” the hour in which we have to fulfill the will of God, to choose between good and evil, and to decide the course of our eternal destiny. The other one is “the hour of our death,” which terminates our life, giving to all deeds and past happenings the character that will count for them in eternity.
The Mystery of Christian Existence
The Apostle Paul speaks in his letters again and again of an ultimate mystery of Christian existence: namely that Christ dwells “in us.” It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me,” he says in his message to the Galatians [Galatians 2:20]. He exhorts us to be faithful and vigilant, “until Christ is formed in you “[Galatians 4:19]. He sees the significance of Christian growth in “the deep knowledge of the Son of God to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ” [Ephesians 4:13], and in becoming conformed to the image of his Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren”[Romans 8:29].
This, in the first place, is an expression of the unison of faith and the communion of grace, just as one may say of a person that a venerated model lives in him. But there is more significance to this, more from a human standpoint: namely a communion that surpasses the joint indwelling of grace and mercy, of conviction and loyal allegiance; a participation in the reality of Christ that cannot be felt deeply enough. More also in the eyes of God; and we only rightly value the meaning of these words [of the Rosary] if we seek to understand what they mean to God….To be of real importance to him is a gift God gave to man. It is the beginning of his love…This is the mystery to which the spiritual masters refer when they speak of God’s birth in man. God not only strives to be man’s helper and guardian, as he is with all that have a being, but to have a share in his existence, to enter it, transfer himself into it, to become the Son of Man…The life of Christ is the essential and substantial fulfillment of God’s love expressed to man. God took upon himself the human form, thus he who sees Jesus sees God [John 14:9]. This means that he has not only the grace to recognize God in Jesus, but also God’s joy at dwelling as a human being in Christ. What has happened in Christ, once and for all, shall be consummated again and again, says St. Paul. Not that it will happen again physically – the Incarnation is a divinely personal event of indisputable uniqueness – but spiritually, so that it can be re-enacted in every individual man….To become a true believer means to receive the risen Christ within us. To live the life of faith is to make room for him, so that he may express himself and grow within us. Faith is finally fulfilled when Christ penetrates man’s being and becomes his one and all. The life of Christ is the theme that is given and carried out in every man anew. More and more Christ enters into his life, and God in Christ; evermore his human side is led across to Christ, and through Christ to God.
A Prayer Of Lingering
The Rosary is a prayer of lingering. One must take one’s time for it, putting the necessary time at its disposal, not only externally but internally. One who wants to pray it rightly, must put away those things that press upon him, and become purposeless and quiet…The first part of the prayer consists in beholding and penetrating, in understanding and praising whatever mystery it is that follows the name “Jesus.” After that, one’s thoughts are suspended in contemplation. In the second part of the prayer one turns to Mary as the center of the mystery, asking her intercession “now and at the hour of our death.” All petitions for body and soul, ones own and those of others, personal and general, are laid before her. Above all, the petition to participate in the mystery of Christ.
The Action Of The Rosary
It [The action of the Rosary] is not directed at anything definite; it is all embracing. It is not sharp cut, but unconstrained. The words are not anchored to a special meaning but left free, so that such pictures…. [events of the past…the future...it does not have the shape of a line but resembles a space. It acts symphonically; sees the background in the foreground, the essence in the gesture, and the past and the future in the present] may also emerge that are not directly related to it The person praying not only looks at these pictures but dwells in their company, feels them, speaks to them, and lets his own life pour into them. In this way a quietly moving world comes into being , a world in which the prayer moves with a freedom that is bound only by the number of repetitions and the theme of the mystery. This has to be learned, of course, and it requires patience. A loving patience, one is tempted to say; the kind a man needs when he strives for something beautiful and alive, and does not give in until it reveals itself…. The deeper we penetrate into these mysteries, the plainer we see that they contain the basic laws, as it were, of Christian growth.
Mary had faith. She bowed before God as the Lord of Creation, certain that he could make his word come true beyond all natural possibilities. She entered on the unknown road along which he called her. This road led even further into the mystery, and only her faith enabled her to follow the road to the end. The sentence: “And they did not understand the word that he spoke to them.” [Luke 2:50], stands for Mary’s whole life. She “understood” only in the abundance and grace of Pentecost; earlier she was forced to trust and to obey.
Faith Needs To Increase
Faith is the foundation of our Christian life. It is awakened by God’s revelation. In fact, it has grown out of that very root, for the same power in which God makes himself known to us, also enables us to hear his word and remain faithful to him. With this the new life starts; not with one’s own reason and strength, but with God’s word and grace. As soon as faith diminishes, we are like Peter on the sea – we sink. We always need faith, and the more the longer we live. The more life broadens, the more faith we need, because the more we learn of how impenetrable human existence is. So we ask the Lord that he may “increase our faith.”
Hope is confidence in God’s power to accomplish all things. He has promised that we shall become new men, and that his creation shall be a “new heaven and a new earth” [Apoc. 21:1]. This is gainsaid by the impression made on us by worldly things; by the course our life is taking; by the opinions of people around us; by our own daily insufficiency and sin – by everything. Hope is the “nevertheless” of faith. In spite of all contradiction, the new life is within us, and God will complete it. We trust in him despite all opposition. But that is difficult, sometimes even impossible. So we must ask again that the Lord “may strengthen our hope.”
The Love Of God And The Meaning Of Mary’s Life
God is driven by his love to give himself to us, not out of some dark impulse, but in the unblemished freedom of his sovereignty: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” [John 3:16]
The Angel’s message to Mary was the request that she receive this love in her heart, and henceforth live out of it. It is here that Christian love began on earth. The answer Mary gave the message was a surpassing of herself, a readiness to obey. Out of this grew not only her felicity – remember the jubilant praises that mounted from her heart when she greeted Elizabeth:
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”
–but also her lasting sacrifice. Again and again she had to re-enact what seemed to be God’s self-abandonment in him who as her one and all. Again and again her Son was taken from her into alien parts, to obey the will of the Father, until at the last hour, when she would no longer be his mother only, he said, “Woman behold thy son.” [John 19:26]. To accept this, to stand the test over and over, and to grow ever more in charity, was the meaning of her life.
The Completion And Sanctification Of Human Love
When we hear of the love of God, we understand it instinctively out of our own human love, as its completion and sanctification. In truth, it is the consummation of the love that is of God. It means that beyond ourselves we merge into his love, and that it begins with obedience, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” [John 5:3]. And obedience it remains; only now the obedience that was burdensome in the beginning has become joyful and free. Out of this comes the essential meaning of our life: that in it the will of God matters more than our own. We may surmise the meaning of this when we read the words form the letter to the Romans: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Recognizing The Truth
Above all, it is when man is touched for the first time by the person and the word of Christ – be it through another man, or a book, or an inner experience – that he recognizes the truth and craves to embrace it. The Lord, in his body and living might, enters into him at this moment. Now begins, as we mentioned before, the penetration and growth of Christ in man; the “infiguration” of man in Him. From here on the summons is always repeated. Every hearing of his truth, every radiation of his image, every reminder of his commandments, demand that we take him deep into our hearts and put ourselves willingly at his disposal.
The Sacred Domain In Christian Life
In every Christian life there is a sacred domain of nascent growth in which dwells Christ – a domain in which we are more firmly rooted than we are in our own. There he works and grows; takes possession of our being; draws strength towards him; penetrates our thought and volition; sways our emotions and sentiments, so that the word of the Apostle may come true: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”[St. Paul in Galatians 2:20]…This takes place in every Christian as often as that inner life which is divined by faith steps into the clarity of knowledge, into the distinctiveness of action, and into the decisiveness of testimony. In every one of us Christ is born as often as he penetrates, as essence and standard, into any deed or happening. One day this happens with particular significance; namely when it dawns on us, clear and strong, who Christ is, so that he becomes he governing reality of our inner lives…What God has given us, if we believe and obey, does not belong to us by nature. The new life is not ours like a talent or a characteristic; it is a gift, and it remains a gift. It is governed by God’s will and guidance, and we must always be ready for a call away from ourselves, a transfer to duty, renunciation, and destiny that have their meaning only in the will of God.
Remoteness From Christ
Christ is the center; our faith in him is firm and loving. But then he disappears, often suddenly and apparently without the slightest reason. A remoteness has been created. A void is formed. Man feels forsaken. Faith seems folly. Hope he must maintain “against all hope.” Everything becomes heavy, wearisome and senseless. He must walk alone and seek. But one day he finds Christ again – and it is such circumstances that the power of the Father’s will becomes evident to him.
The Graveness Of Sin
The graveness (with which God views our salvation: so gravely that he not only bestowed this salvation but himself assumed human nature and became the child of Mary) breaks through in the mysteries of the sorrowful rosary. They also reveal God’s love but by showing us the frightfulness of sin. The question of what sin really is, we cannot answer ourselves – and this is its result – or we are blinded by it. Its meaning dawns upon is when we realize what God has done to triumph over it. It is that frightful thing which God in his omniscience and justice decreed must be expiated through the suffering and death of the Incarnate Word…The worst part of sin is its hiddenness. It hides everywhere under the pretense of being something natural, something unavoidable; the pretence that the power, gravity, or tragedy of life is expressed by it. If we are witnesses of Christ’s fate, our eyes are opened wide. It is an important moment in the life of a Christian when he is touched the first time by horror at the reality of sin. On all sides we meet this horror—but the creature does not know what it is that frightens him most deeply. All existence labors beneath the spell of sin. In Christ’s anguish it breads through to a last and most terrible transparency. Because of it , the Son of God feels the terror of this hour. But each of us must himself realize, in the deepest part of his being, that it it the fearfulness of my own sins that are here revealed.
Christianity And The Body
Christianity does not say that the body is evil and its passion sin — not that sin cannot enter passion or evil find root in the body. To become a Christian does not mean to despise or destroy the body but to do away with blindness and to recognize the evil that is at work in nature. It means to fight for purity of body and soul, and even to accept bodily pain as a means of purification. If the believer does this, it is Christ’s purity that penetrates into him.
The Crowning With Thorns
The dignity of man is revealed by his head. The crown is the emblem of the royal majesty which belongs to God. The mockery of Christ is directed at the head o the Lord, who wears invisibly the crown of the “King of Kings” The soldiers make a mock king out of him. But behind their hollow cruelty lies another wish, one that seeks to make of him – we venture the word – a “mock-god.” All the mockery on earth is combined here to abolish God’s dignity, and with it the dignity of man which is rooted in God. Man’s lie is interwoven with pride, rebellion and vanity, sometimes open, mostly hidden. Their roots are invisible to human eyes and they stretch beyond the human will. The Lord unveils their power by giving them the possibility to be turned against himself. The pride with which we strut about and the vanities we relish are turned for the Son of God into a pattern of humiliation. His suffering is as great as the measure of human evil.
The Unbearable-ness Of The Cross
“As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.”[ Luke 23:26], because he could not go on. Everything that means a burden in life is shown here in its last fearfulness: toil, destitution, pain, the people around one, one’s own existence, the inner void, the unbearableness of all things. In the last analysis, everything is a “burden”…because sin has stamped it with the curse of hardship. Man seeks to escape it. He will not take it upon his shoulders and persevere beneath it. Indolence, cowardice, resistance against the hardships of life, all mean here for Christ the obligation to carry a weight that is beyond his strength.
It Is Consummated
Before the end, the Lord spoke the words “It is consummated. [John 19:30]. The whole mystery of this; all is “consummated.” What happened here had its prelude in the creation of the world, the time when everything was generated. Then sin tore everything asunder, and all was lost. Now the Lord draws everything back again unto his bosom, and suffers it in a way that is known only to himself. In this he reaches in to the abyss of grace and lets it gush forth. And from this issues forth the new creation. The new start that is given us; the forces from which the “new man in us” can grow and rise into eternity; the new heaven and the new earth that will one day surround us – all of these issue from this hour.
And this we must know. We become Christians in the measure that we are awakened and penetrated by the is knowledge of the agony and death suffered by Christ. From this point our own suffering is transformed.
While our suffering was formerly only the consequence of our guilt, it is now part of the mystery of the Cross. It shares in the force that changes the old existence into the new. In the eyes o the world, suffering is inconsolable to the last. Nothing can really help it. Mostly we do not notice it, because it does not last very long, or because our attention is diverted. But when it becomes great and we have to face it, then we see there is only one help for our suffering and that help comes from suffering itself. Since the time of Christ’s passion it has always been so. It was then there was raised up a fearful and blessed ground onto which we might safely step; and the strength has been given us to change the old life into the new if we suffer together with Christ. If man understands this mystery and commits himself to it, he has reached the center of all things, and all goes well.
Mary Stood “Beneath The Cross”
Scripture does not speak of Mary in its last days of Jesus …(until) only at the end, when we are told that “now there was standing by the Cross of Jesus his mother” [John 19:25]. This sentence covers all of the preceding events. She always stood “beneath the cross,” and never withdrew from the holy and terrible domain of Christ’s passion. It was natural for her to be present in whatever place it happened. And just as natural that she would come to know all that had occurred. Every breath the Lord drew passed thorough her breast; every throb of his heart was her own; and nothing happened to him that had not also “penetrated her soul,” as Simeon had foretold. So we must draw her into it all.
She connects us with all these happenings. It is she who causes us not only to look and meditate, but also makes us aware that all these happenings concern us, every one of us, concern me. She is the reason I do not run away when my faint heartedness becomes unbearable, but that I remain. She herself remained, “until all was consummated.” And so must I.
The Resurrection of the New Man Within Us
Paul says in the letter to the Romans that “our old self” should be “crucified” and die and be “buried in Christ.” If this happens, then “as Christ has arisen from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we may also walk in newness of life” [Romans 6:4]. This dying and entombing of the old self is a constant process within us: through every struggle against evil; through every conquest of self; through every suffering bravely borne; through every sacrifice of love and charity. But through it is also accomplished the resurrection of the new man. At times, very deep within us, and covered by earthly insufficiency and calamities, we feel the secret spark of this ever-holy and living flame, “the glory of the sons of God” (Romans 8:21). For the rest, we have to believe.
A Christian (Mary’s) View Of The Ascension
It applied to Mary, above all, when Paul said: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” [Colossians. 3 1-2] Her son was “above” and her heart was with him, and her whole being strove upward to him.