WHAT IS THE HOLY ROSARY?
The Holy Rosary, most simply put, is a prayer tool. It is a communication device, which is meant to improve our relationship with
Our Lord here on earth. In drawing close to Him now, we are able to experience His peace and love as a foretaste of Heaven, and become prepared to spend eternity in His loving presence.
Undoubtedly communication is the foundation and strength of any good relationship. It is something we struggle with in our everyday relationships, and often carries over into our relationship with God. The Holy Rosary seeks to enhance our ability to communicate with the One
Who created us, knows our hearts better than we know ourselves, and is always speaking to us. Through a combination of meditation and vocal prayer, the Rosary offers to teach us a most perfect way to assimilate the essential components of communication: listening, understanding and responding from our hearts.
Learning to Listen…and Understand
Often we hear the noises around us, but do not listen. Sometimes we become so focused on what we are doing that we don’t even hear any noise. A perfect example would be the sounds of a busy city. There are truck engines, horns blasting, trains whistling and yet we may not even be aware of them because we are so accustomed to them or busy thinking about something that has already happened in our day, where we need to be, or things we need to attend to in the near future. When speaking with someone, we become so intent on thinking about the next thing we are going to say, that we often are not even paying attention to what they are saying to us. We may be hearing them, but we are not listening. And how can we possibly expect to understand where someone is coming from, if we are not listening to him or her. It is not true communication, because it is one way.
If this is true in our daily lives, it becomes more apparent when we look at our conversations with God. We unload all our wants and needs, occasionally throwing in a few thanks, but we never take the time to really listen to what He is saying to us. Knowing that it is true that God is always communicating His love to us, why don’t we hear or understand Him? Why don’t we hear how He is answering our prayers? Similar to the examples given above, we may be so accustomed to His loving messages all around us, that we are simply unaware of them. Or we may be so busy speaking to Him about what we want or trying to anticipate our next response that we are just not listening to Him. Once again, this is not true communication.
The goal then of the Most Holy Rosary is to remedy this ailment. The objective of meditating on the Sacred Mysteries is to develop our ability to become better listeners. We achieve this in communication by paying more attention to the details being presented to us, and learn to enhance this skill when praying the Holy Rosary by truly immersing ourselves in the contemplation of the Mysteries of Sacred Scripture.
Praying the Rosary is not simply a matter of reciting prayers in a repetitious manner, but a meditation on the Love of God. Meditation is a form of prayer that engages the three powers of our soul: the memory, the intellect and the will. When we meditate during the Most Holy Rosary, we use our minds and imagination to reflect upon the particular virtues and truths that have been presented to us through Scripture and Tradition. We also use our will to foster a love for these virtues and truths, and to resolve to embrace them in the way we choose to live our lives. When meditating upon the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary our hearts, minds, and souls become conformed to those of the most perfect examples of Jesus and Mary. In essence, we grow in their likeness of humility, patience, obedience and all of the virtues of Christian perfection. After much time and practice in meditation, by the grace of God one may even reach contemplative prayer, where divine insights into these truths are realized aside from human effort.
In this time of meditation we also come to discover the importance of practicing silence before reciting the vocal prayers. By pausing for a few moments after listening to the words spoken to us in Sacred Scripture, it allows our mind time to focus and process the information being presented in each
Mystery, our hearts time to absorb the virtues presented and assimilate the truths spoken to us, and prepares us to respond vocally from the depths of our hearts where these virtues have begun to take root. In a society filled with continual noise and distraction, this acquired skill of silence between hearing words spoken to us and responding in truth becomes invaluable in our ability to communicate meaningfully and effectively.
The Holy Rosary encourages us to know the heart and mind of God by becoming familiar with the events that surrounded the
life, death and Glory of Jesus and His Blessed Mother. These events are commonly referred to as Mysteries because of the Divinity that is revealed to us through Jesus. We are called to listen to that same Divinity that exists within us as He reveals Himself to us in the events which surround our daily lives. If we learn how Jesus acted, spoke, or reacted to various situations in His life, we can come to understand how God may want us to apply those same lessons to our life. The Mysteries give us a reference point of how He has spoken in the past and may be speaking to us today. Times may change, but God’s perspective does not.
Learning to Respond From Our Hearts
The principal vocal prayers of the Holy Rosary are the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) and the Hail Mary. Praying a “decade” of the Rosary consists of reciting the Our Father followed by 10 Hail Mary’s. It is during the recitation of these prayers that we meditate upon a particular occasion in the life of Our Blessed Mother and Jesus, and the virtues they displayed during these times, as revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
The Holy Rosary groups the events of the lives of Jesus and Mary into “Mysteries” based upon the emotions emanating from the heart of those involved at the scene, as well as the emotions they evoke from the one meditating upon the Mystery. They are known as Mysteries because we can never fully comprehend or attain to the Divine life of
Our Lord and His infinite nature as finite human beings. Altogether there are twenty mysteries, and thus twenty decades:
Five Joyful Mysteries Events leading up to and including
life of Jesus.
Five Luminous Mysteries Events recorded in His public ministry that
shed His infinite Wisdom & light upon us.
Five Sorrowful Mysteries Events surrounding the Passion of Jesus
and Our Most Sorrowful Mother.
Five Glorious Mysteries Events surrounding the life of the Risen Christ
The prayers we recite are a response to the Mysteries we are reflecting on:
We offer each Our Father from our hearts, as we pray that the Divine Will be done, in forming within us the virtues that Jesus and Mary have displayed in each Mystery.
We offer every Hail Mary from our hearts, asking Our Blessed Mother to pray for us that we may come to understand each Mystery, and that we may be made like her Son in the virtues that have been revealed in each Mystery.
We offer each Glory Be from our hearts, in response to the Mysteries of salvation that God has revealed in His Son. We give Him praise and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of His Son, and for sending us the gift of the Holy Spirit which restores grace to our lives.
Blending Vocal Prayers With Meditation
Throughout the Holy Rosary we blend our mental prayer with our vocal prayers. The
beads are used to keep track of the prayers being recited, so that the mind is free to engage in meditation. The vocal prayers are not to be rushed through, but offered in a slow and rhythmic manner from the depths of our hearts. In this way, our minds and spirits become quieted and are able to enter into deeper reflection of these Sacred Mysteries. The mantra of the Hail Mary repeated throughout the Holy Rosary has a calming
effect on our soul, as we are assured of the loving presence of Our Mother. As this prayer climaxes each time at the name of Jesus, we are gently guided to refocus our lives and meditation on the One
Who is the very center of our soul.
The Importance of Communication
The essence of the Holy Trinity consists of the Divine Love they exchange with one another. The peace, harmony and joy that exists in their presence emanates from the communication of this love, known as the Divine Will. Because humans were created in the image of God, we were made to also exist in relationship with the Holy Trinity and one another, which finds its life in communication. If we seek to live out the Divine Will by having relationships that are filled with moments of spontaneous love, we must first seek and learn this communication from its origin.
Not surprisingly, those who enjoy a healthy relationship with God - by learning to hear how He speaks to them and reciprocating humbly from their heart in prayer - often find more peace and fulfillment in their everyday relationships.
Heaven is not so much a place as it a relationship. The true exquisite beauty and splendor is experienced not when entering the “pearly gates” into a specific time or place, but rather when we enter into the ecstasy of the Divine Love which is communicated between the Holy Trinity, the Holy Angels and the Saints, and all of God’s creation.