In my previous post, I presented what I called an Evangelical defense of the Rosary. In that post, I hope that I dispensed with arguments against praying the Rosary. However, laying aside arguments of “why not” is hardly the same as giving a positive reason why someone should pray the Rosary. In this post I will attempt to do just that.
First off, the Rosary is a tool of meditation and prayer. Now, since the seventies when Eastern meditation came into vogue with the New Age movement (and TV shows like Kung-Fu, Martial Arts and Far Eastern cinema), meditation has had a very negative connotation among Christians. Many Christians, especially conservative Evangelicals, associate meditation with some foul element of Eastern religions that will invariably lead good, godly Christians into false worship of foreign “gods.” With something like Hindu transcendental meditation, this could be true. With Christian meditation, however, this could not be further from the truth!
Christian meditation is found in the very beginning of Holy Scripture. Genesis 24:63 says, “Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening.” The Lord Himself spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, saying, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8) Within the Book of Psalms there are thirteen separate passages that refer to meditation including six references in Psalm 119 alone. In his closing address to the Church at Philippi, St. Paul instructs, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Lastly, St. Paul advised St. Timothy to meditate as a tool of spiritual growth. (I Timothy 4:15)
Meditation is a method of prayer in which Christians reflect on the greatness of God and his glorious deeds in the creation and redemption of the world. In meditation a Christian prayerfully considers these passages of Scripture and reflects on how God moved, how that event impacted the lives of believers then and how it impacts their own lives now. As the Jews were called to meditate on the Law (the Torah), Christians are called to meditate on the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Rosary is a tool that allows us to do just that.
The Rosary itself is made up of a Crucifix and four beads which hang off of a loop of 55 beads. This loop is made up of five decades, with each decade being one larger bead and ten smaller beads. It is from the ten smaller beads that the name “decade” originates. When praying with or meditating with the Rosary, one holds a bead in between their fingers while praying the Lord’s Prayer on the larger beads and a “Hail Mary” one each of the smaller beads, before concluding with a “Glory Be.” While one has the immediate benefit of simply reciting these prayers, they also serve as a time frame to meditate on each of the particular events of the life of Christ that are called “mysteries.”
The Rosary is divided into four sets of five mysteries. The sets of mysteries are the Joyful Mysteries, events of great exultation regarding the birth and early life of Christ; the Luminous Mysteries, events which shed light on the identity of Christ from His own ministry; the Sorrowful Mysteries, the agonizing events between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Crucifixion; and the Glorious Mysteries, events which occurred on Easter and afterwards.
The Joyful Mysteries are the Annunciation of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary (St. Luke 1:26-38), the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth (St. Luke 1:39-56), the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke 2:1-21), the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke 2:22-38), and the Finding of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple (St. Luke 2:41-52). The Luminous Mysteries are the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the River Jordan (St. Matthew 3:13-16), the Wedding at Cana (St. John 2:1-11), the Preaching of the Kingdom of God (St. Mark 1:14-15), the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Matthew 17:1-8), and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist (St. Matthew 26). The Sorrowful Mysteries are the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (St. Matthew 26:36-56), the Scourging at the Pillar (St. Matthew 27:26), the Crowning with the Crown of Thorns (St. Matthew 27:27-31), the Way of the Cross (St. Matthew 27:32), and the Crucifixion (St. Matthew 27:33-56). The Glorious Mysteries are the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. John 20:1-29), the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke 24:36-53), the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41), the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (please view this LINK for a thorough discussion of that topic.), and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven (Revelation 12:1-6).
So, as you can see, all of the subjects upon which one meditates are drawn from passages in the New Testament and are events in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (or, in the case of the last two mysteries, something He did for His blessed mother after His Ascension). By meditating on the Holy Mysteries we are, in fact, meditating on the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are focusing on key events in the life of Our Savior and reflecting on how they pertain to our life. In Holy Scripture, St. Paul directs us to meditate on whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. What could be more true than Truth Incarnate? Who could be more noble than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Who could be purer than Him who knew no sin? What could be lovelier than God who is love Incarnate? What could be of better report than the Good News? Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments enjoin us to meditate. As Christians we are called to meditate on the life of Christ. The Holy Rosary is a prayerful way of responding to a Scriptural responsibility.
Praying and meditating with the Rosary concludes with the following prayer:
O God, whose only-begotten Son by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.