The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: Part 2

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.



Filed under Feasts

5 responses to “The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: Part 2

  1. Contemplative meditation and prayer are valuable spiritual disciplines. I recommend their daily use. If the use of trinkets and beads helps remind someone or guides them in this practice, they should use them. I agree that those are positive reasons for using the Rosary as a tool. I personally would recommend replacing the “Hail Mary’s” with the “Jesus Prayer,” as some Lutherans do – or at least “The Magnificat.” But that’s simply due to my Protestant aversion to the veneration of Mary. 🙂

    • sjl

      I have also recommended the Jesus prayer to a variety of people, especially penitents who have been dealing with issues of pride or anger. I have also used the Magnificat as a substitute for the Salve Regina prayer sometimes used to conclude the Rosary simply because it took me longer to memorize the Salve Regine and it seemed a worthy substitute.

      I can fully acknowledge that there are elements of Roman-Catholic Mariology which may be completely in error. That being said, there is a level of veneration which is completely appropriate. To venerate means to treat with respect or to revere. If there were ever a woman in Christianity who deserved respect and reverence, it would be she who carried, birthed, and raised our Savior, especially since Scripture acknowledges her own faith in accepting the will of God and her role as a willing participant in salvation history.

      Part of the character of the CEC is seeking out treasures from the history of the Church that have been lost over the years. The Eucharist, the Sacraments, the Charismata, Holy Scriptures, all have, in one quarter or another, been cast aside by some element of that which calls itself “the Church.” The CEC is about reclaiming those things which are worthy, while not getting bogged down in the things which are not. A healthy respect for the Mother of God is one of those things which we ought to reclaim, while not getting bogged down in any kind of false theology.

  2. dgl

    Very well said and a great reason to belong to the CEC instead of the RC church.

  3. Fr. Looker,

    You make a very compelling case for using the rosary. Like the previous responder, I am convicted about the need for more prayer in the church and am convinced we need more practical disciplines to deepen our exprience of God. My own spiritual life has been revolutionized by biblical meditation and private worship.

    However, I am also a deeply convicted Reformed Protestant and have serious issues with a lot of the Mariology coming out of the RC. I read your previous article and know the words of “Hail Mary” are found in scripture, but don’t see any commandment, admonition or suggestion that we should pray to her. Further, I don’t believe the scripture teaches the “Assumption of Mary”.

    The argument for praying to Mary really does hang on her “position” in redemption in general and the “Assumption/Coronation” doctrine in particular. Catholic doctrine proclaims Mary’s position as “Co-Redemptrix” with Christ. Historically, Protestants have parted company with Rome on their Mary theology because there is no biblical evidence of such a doctrine being taught or commended in the New Testament by the Apostles. To the contrary, there is a lot of scripture which proclaims Jesus Christ as the One and Only Redeemer (Romans 5).

    Likewise, the Assumption Doctrine, “assumes” a certain interpretation of Revelation 12. A multitude of New Testament scholars disagree with the “Assumption” view of Revelation 12 and instead interpret the “Woman” as the Church in general and Mary as a part of the church. Further, even if we were to concede the point and say Mary is the woman of Revelation 12 to the exclusion of the Church, the question remains: Should we create such an all-encompasing doctrine (Assumption and Coronation) out of one chapter of the Bible? Mary’s “highly favored” status as the mother of our Savior is a long way from Co-Redemptrix!

    Therefore, I join the long history of Protestants who believe that praying to Mary or Saints is not warranted by the scripture. Here is a link to the article “Why Protestants Don’t Pray to Mary” by Philip Schaff who “wrote the book” on church history:

    While your blog is very thorough and well constructed, there is at least one logical/biblical/theological fallacy: Asking a living, corporeal saint to pray in our behalf is warranted, but asking and praying to non-corporeal, dead saints (e.g. Peter, Paul and Mary) is another. The Bible clearly forbids communications with the dead (Dt 18:10-11), it even indicates the impossibility of it (2 Sam 12:15-23, Lk 16:19-33), and when Saul summoned Samuel (a faithful prophet) from the dead, he was cursed by God (1 Sam 28).

    Of course all of this is predicated on my belief that Mary is not the Queen of Heaven, was not Assumed nor Coronated. Is she to be respected and given special reverence? Yes. Do Protestants give Mary her “due”? No! Should we pray to her? My considered opinion is we should not. I believe Mary is like the Apostle Paul and other honored saints–dead.

    Above all else, my desire is to pray through Jesus Christ, the One and only Mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5-6). However, you are my brother and while we may disagree over some points of theology, greater is He who unites us than the doctrine that divides us!

    • sjl

      Rev. DuBose,

      Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. I had to take notes in order to prepare for my reply. First and foremost, I feel the need to dispel a myth. The idea of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not now, nor has it ever been, part of the official magisterial teaching of the Roman-Catholic Church. There has been a very vocal lay movement to have the teaching declared one of the dogmas of the Roman-Catholic Church, but as far back as Vatican II, the Papacy has ignored the request. Prior to her death, Mother Theresa of Calcutta joined in this movement as have several hundred bishops and a few dozen cardinals. Blessed John Paul II, known to have attributed his surviving an assassination attempt to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, refused to entertain the petition, and Benedict XVI has suggested that such a teaching was inappropriate. I suppose the benefit of believing yourself to be infallible is that you do not have to do what anybody tells you. While there are clearly a large number of Roman-Catholics who believe that the Blessed Virgin Mari is the “Co-Redemptrix,” the doctrine is nowhere in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and has never been officially espoused in any authoritative teaching of the Roman-Catholic Church. It may well be that within the next fifty years or so the Roman-Catholic Church will declare this to be dogma, but, until that day, let us not confuse official teaching with overly pious lay zeal.

      Perhaps I am the one with the hang up here, but I feel that precision in language is particularly important, especially when it comes to theological conversations. I have never “prayed to Mary,” nor have any of my colleagues of peers are far as I know. “Praying to” someone implies a belief that the recipient of those prayers has the ability in their own right to answer those prayers. When a Greek “prayed to” Aphrodite they believed that Aphrodite herself would grant them favor in love. When a Roman prayed to Neptune, he had full faith and confidence that Neptune himself would change the tides and provide smooth sailing. When I say a “Hail Mary,” (perhaps even the phrase “Pray a ‘Hail Mary’” itself is misleading) I am expecting nothing more than that the Blessed Virgin Mary will add her prayers to mine and intercede on my behalf. I never expect to see a vision of the Blessed Virgin, nor do I expect that she will come down from Heaven and wave a magic wand. Scripturally speaking, the Blessed Virgin Mary has no more ability to work a miracle than you or I do in as much as we all have the Holy Spirit inside of us.

      I suppose that you are right when you suggest that asking Mary to intercede on our behalf—not that I did not say “praying to”—does hang on her heavenly position. That presumed preferential position in Heaven does, at least in part, depend on the doctrines of the Assumption and Coronation. (For what I hope is a good treatment of the topic, you really should read my post on the Assumption) While the Doctrine of the Assumption is an argument from silence, it is heavily supported by what we might call circumstantial Scriptural proof-texts, none of them entirely conclusive on their own, but, when taken as a whole, the argument can be compelling. It is, if you will pardon the pun, the safest assumption of all of the so-called Marian Doctrines.

      Similarly, the doctrine of the Coronation is one which hangs on a few verses in the Book of Revelation. That book is certainly one “about which reasonable men may reasonably disagree.” Nevertheless, the argument that the woman in Revelation 12 is “the Church” is not compelling in that, from the writings of the Church Fathers, we see that the Blessed Virgin Mary has always been viewed as an Archetype of the Church. Thus, saying the woman in Revelation 12 is “the Church” is not an argument that excludes the vision from being the Blessed Virgin Mary as well. In a vision that like of St. John’s, such as it is, why could the woman not be representing both?

      I concur with your statement that “Mary’s ‘highly favored’ status as the mother of our Savior is a long way from Co-Redemptrix!” but I remind you that the “Co-Redemptrix” is not official teaching. I will have to look up the article by Schaff.

      Your suggestion of my fallacy is confusing. You said, “The Bible clearly forbids communications with the dead, it even indicates the impossibility of it,” but then you go on to admit that Saul did have communications with the dead when “Saul summoned Samuel (a faithful prophet) from the dead.” So is it impossible or did Saul do it? Regardless, that is beside the point. The passage from Deuteronomy condemns one who “calls up the dead,” which would seem to be what Saul and the Witch of Endor did, but asking the saints to intercede on our behalf hardly seems to be “calling up the dead,” especially in light of Our Lord’s comment in St. Matthew 22:32 (and elsewhere). The passage from II Samuel regards the death of the first son of David and Bathsheba. David’s point was hardly “I cannot ask my deceased son to pray for me now,” but much more so, “I cannot raise him from the dead.” Similarly, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus seems barely applicable. When the Rich Man, suffering in Hades, asks Father Abraham to send Lazarus to comfort him, Abraham replies, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.” This great gulf or chasm is between Abraham’s Bosom and Hades, not heaven and earth. Even more to the point, when the Rich Man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his household to warn his brothers, Abraham does not say that he cannot, but rather ironically replies, “neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” This is ironic in that Our Lord did just that by rising from the grave and those of hard hearts were still not persuaded. Finally, the passage from I Samuel 28 makes it very clear that Saul was punished “Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek.” Clearly, consulting a medium and conversing with the dead (which is, as you rightly pointed out, forbidden in Deuteronomy) only made Saul’s situation worse, but he was condemned and died, not for having discourse with the dead, but rather for disobeying the Lord. I fail to see how saying “St. Peter, pray for me to the Lord Our God” logically, scripturally, or theologically fallacious.

      You also stated that you believe “Mary is like the Apostle Paul and other honored saints–dead.” I would agree with you only in so much as to admit that they all died, but I again return to St. Matthew 22:38, where Jesus says, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” If Jesus will say this about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I fully believe he will apply it to His Holy Apostles and Blessed Mother.

      With all that said, you stated that “all of this is predicated on my belief that Mary is not the Queen of Heaven, was not Assumed and Coronated.” So your thought exercise for the day is, what if she were? What if, immediately upon her death, Jesus took His blessed mother’s body up into Heaven and gave her a special crown and special place near Him in Heaven. Would that change your opinion? I am curious.

      I will agree that while Protestants do not give Mary her appropriate due respect, I will admit that many Roman-Catholics give her too much credit. I heard a sermon recently on St. Luke 11:27-28 which focused entirely on how blessed Mary was because of verse 27 and completely ignored verse 28. I could not help but think that the preacher rather missed the point!
      Your final words are perfectly appropriate: “greater is He who unites us than the doctrine that divides us!” It is positively tragic to think of the absolute violence and atrocities which have been committed over these issues. In my mind, this is both a fun intellectual exercise and an apologetic exercise where our iron sharpens iron. Either we both become better able to argue our convictions, or we re-evaluate them and reconsider them.

      In either case, blessings both Toby and Eric for the wonderful conversations and engaging debates.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s