Many of the posts that I put on this site will revolve around the Holy Rosary, a great source of joy in my life, and something that I always fall back on when I need to pray. How great is the mystery of the Holy Rosary. But, of course, the first objection one might think of is that we are praying to Mary. For more thoughts on this, I invite the reader to read the post from earlier this June entitles "Do We Worship Mary?" This will help the reader to get an idea of the intercessory role of Mary in our spiritual lives. I also should let the reader know that this post is called "The Rosary, part I". I will be putting many posts in the future on the Rosary, and they will not be chronological. For example, the next post might be talking about something totally different. Part II will come later, as will part III and so on.
On October 16, 2002, Pope John Paul II published an Apostolic Letter entitled "Rosarium Virginis Mariae", or the "Rosary of the Virgin Mary." I first came across it in March of 2008, when I read it for a class on Christian Spirituality. I was so taken back by it that I decided to present on it for my final oral exam in the class. Click here for the text of the Letter.
In number one of the letter, Pope John Paul II quotes Marialis Cultus, an earlier work by Pope Paul VI, which he writes:
"The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium"
This is what I want this post to discuss for a little bit. How is it a Christocentric prayer? Well, we can get an idea of this by meditating on what exactly the mysteries of the Rosary are. There are 20 mysteries of the Rosary. Let's just take the Joyful for right now. You have the Annunciation, that momentous occasion, where Mary's radical yes and assent to God's plan allowed Jesus to enter into the world. Then you have the Visitation, which I discussed in an earlier post about the first journey of Christ and the first people to be evangelized after Mary. Then you have the birth of Christ, that beautiful scene of the King of Glory, humbled enough to come as a child. Then there is the Presentation, Jesus being circumcised according to Jewish custom. And finally, the last Joyful mystery is the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, which is the only story we have of the childhood of Christ, which gives us an important insight into those hidden years of Christ. When we meditate on the Annunciation, we are meditating with Mary the life of Christ. When we pray the Rosary, we are meditating Christ the way Christ's mother meditates on her son. So, when we pray the Rosary, we are praying with Mary to Christ. We are also meditating with her on Christ.
When Jesus was on this earth 2,000 years ago, there was no other person closer to Him than Mary. And this is how it typically happens even in our own relationships. Most of the time, it is your mother who knows you the best. It is her who cared for you when you were sick, lonely, upset, crying, hungry, and hurt. It was her who rejoiced when you were happy, joyful, and successful. Mothers are supposed to be all she can be for her children; this is why it is upsetting when there are emotionally distant mothers, or absent mothers. Mary is the best example of motherhood because God gave her the graces to be born without sin, thus there was nothing in the way between her and Jesus. Because of this intimate relationship that they shared, Mary was able to meditate on Christ as best a person could. This is why we meditate with her when we meditate and contemplate Christ. Mary was and is still human; she is not a divine being. It is because of her humanity that we can imitate her at all. This is why the humanity of Christ is so important; it allows us to imitate Christ. The Rosary is a Christocentric Prayer, and we imitate Mary praying the Rosary. Think of Mary as perpetually praying the Rosary, as she is always contemplating Christ and His will. We are invited to contemplate on the same things, and praying with Mary gives us an edge to get closer to Christ.
Now, you may say, what about those mysteries which are about Mary? It is true that there are mysteries that directly involve Mary and don't seem to involve Jesus. Let's take the Assumption of Mary and her Coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth, the fourth and fifth Glorious mysteries. She was assumed into heaven and made Queen of Heaven and Earth because of the incredible love of God that was bestowed upon Mary. When we say that Mary was immaculately conceived, we are saying that God granted graces to her in anticipation of the Crucifixion to be born without sin. Because she didn't have the stain of sin on her, she was granted something that no other person can experience because of sin, the assumption into heaven. For her, the soul and body never separated. The Church hasn't said whether she died, or whether she was assumed straight to heaven. But if she did die, it was an immediate raising up of her body. This event may have been a post taste of what the original plan for humanity was, that everyone was assumed into heaven. However, because of the stain of sin, it didn't happen that way, and Mary, being the Mother of God, was given those graces from the Crucifixion to be born without sin. As a result of that, she was allowed to come up body and soul into heaven immediately at the end of her life. So, the Assumption shows you the Christocentric end (telos) of His crucifixion: the ability for eternal life instead of death the way it was supposed to happen. The Coronation of Mary shows the incredible love of God in bestowing upon His humble servant the vastness of the spiritual riches of heaven and earth, the reward to docility to the divine plan of the Father.
We too can receive great spiritual riches, here and after we die. Mary teaches us docility to the will of God by her radical fiat (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum, or "let it be done to me according to your word"). That radical yes allowed for God to become incarnate into this world. By being docile by following the example of Mary, we are also saying yes to God and following His will for us in our lives. Docility is learned by being Christocentric, as Mary was. One of the great spiritual riches God grants us through the Rosary is docility to His will, because we are learning about Him when we pray it, precisely because of its Christocentricity.
May God bless you in all that you do, and may your eyes forever be fixed upon the merciful eyes of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.