Mary, Mother of God

Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J

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“Say it with flowers!” For years now florists have been suggesting that if we wish to say “Thank you!” or “I love you!” we should say it with flowers. And they have arranged it so that we can send flowers to anyone, anywhere in the world, in a matter of minutes. It is not an original idea. For many centuries now the Church has been suggesting to its members that if they wish to say, “Thank you!” or “I love you!” to Mary, they should say it with flowers. Say it with roses. Say it with the Rosary. And the Church assures us that the delivery will be instantaneous.

The Rosary is very old and ever new. It is both traditional and scriptural. It is vocal prayer, meditation and contemplation. It is the prayer of ordinary people and great saints. It is so simple we hardly realize how sublime it is. It is a compendium of the whole of Christianity; the Gospel in the form of a prayer. If we ever lost the Gospels we could reconstruct it from the Rosary.

The Rosary begins and ends with the Sign of the Cross, the traditional profession of faith in the Triune God. Next is the Apostles Creed, a summary of the principal truths of Christianity; the great reality that shapes our minds and inflames our hearts. It is followed by the Our Father which is the prayer our Lord taught to his disciples. Then we say the Hail Mary, the angelic salutation announcing the coming of the Savior of the world. The final prayer is the Doxology reminding us of the purpose of all creation.

These are the prayers of the Rosary. The heart of the Rosary is the meditation on the Mysteries which represent the principal events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. These are the things that Mary “kept pondering in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) They unfold for us the greatest Cinderella story of all time; the amazing story of the little Jewish maiden who became the mother of Jesus and the very Queen of Heaven. The story becomes even more thrilling when we realize that she is also our own mother.

There are four sets of mysteries which reveal joy mingled with sorrow and crowned with glory, elements which are also to be found in our own lives. The Joyful Mysteries are: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation and the Finding in the Temple. The Luminous Mysteries are: the Baptism of Jesus, the Wedding Feast of Cana, the Proclamation of the Coming of God’s Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist. The Sorrowful Mysteries are: the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with thorns, the Way of the Cross, and the Crucifixion and Death of our Lord. The Glorious Mysteries are: the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, the Assumption of Mary and the Coronation of Mary.

The Assumption and the Coronation are the only two mysteries which are not explicitly contained in the Gospel. These two mysteries also highlight one of the differences in the Protestant and Catholic attitude to the devotion to Mary. The Protestants look on Mary historically, as she was here on earth. They say that she did her mission perfectly but now her work is finished. Catholics, on the other hand, look on Mary not only historically but also existentially, as she is today, Assumed into heaven and still active in her constant intercession for us through the Communion of Saints.

Some object to the Rosary because of the constant repetition of the Hail Mary. They say that it is monotonous and boring. They miss the point. This constant repetition is the dynamic, the Christian mantra, which gives the Rosary its tranquilizing and therapeutic effect. Like the heart beat of Mary it is reassuring to her children, and it furnishes the background music against which they ponder the mysteries.

The Rosary has Catholic written all over it. But Protestants are also beginning to appreciate it. A Methodist minister, Rev. J. Neville Ward, recently wrote a book about the Rosary entitled, “Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy.” In the preface of the book he gives his reasons for praying the Rosary. “In Methodism the silence about the Mother of Jesus is positively deafening. It is so complete that during a ministry of over thirty years I have begun to wonder what anxiety is behind this surprising mental hang-up. The wonder has increased as I have learned how much she means in the public and private praying of both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches, and incidentally, but importantly, as I begin to discover among our own people, signs of shy but nervous interest in her mysterious being. I have found this nervousness dispelled simply by using this form of prayer and trying to enter into the benefit which so many Christians find in it. It seems to me now that it is a quite inexhaustible source of help in the spiritual life.”

Saying the Rosary, of course, is not necessary for salvation. If we never say the Rosary we can still save our soul. And evidently the Rosary is not for everyone. But if it is for you, you are blessed indeed.

How do you know if the Rosary is for you? Well, you have to say it faithfully over a period of time, both in good times and in bad, in joy and in sorrow. Then one day, in a moment of stress and anxiety, instead of reaching for the pill or the bottle you reach for the beads. Then you can be sure that the Rosary is for you. And you will be doubly blessed because there are no bad side-effects, it does not cause cancer, you don’t need a prescription, and it doesn’t cost a cent.

And what a consolation it will be for you at the moment of death to know that Mary is praying for you as you have petitioned her to do, so many times in the Rosary. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”


© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J. all rights reserved