As we approach October, it is good for us to understand and experience the beautiful prayer of the rosary. It is so simple and so deep. We can pray alone, we can pray with the family, or with the community – and always experience the dear presence of Mother Mary with us, holding her hands as Mother as we go to the Lord. The rosary is a harmonious blending of three forms of prayer – contemplative, intercessory prayer and vocal. I have a childhood experience of praying the rosary with my family: every evening the whole family came together and prayed the rosary with Mother Mary’s presence clear in my heart. The whole family was raising our voices together in prayer. It was a beautiful experience.
In the book of Ecclesiastes (4:12) we read ‘a cord of three strands is not quickly broken’. The rosary is a sacred cord. The three strands are the contemplative prayer, intercessory prayer and vocal prayer, strands which merge together to make the rosary a beautiful prayer.
We contemplate the mysteries of salvation – the joyful, the luminous, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries. We contemplate with Mother Mary. She was the first human person to receive that revelation of the mysteries of salvation. A virgin betrothed to Joseph but not living together; she was given a message that she would conceive and bear a son. She was troubled and did not understand with her brain, and yet the mystery was revealed that she was conceiving the saviour of the world, the Messiah. She realised that this was the first moment of salvation. She consented; ‘Here I am, your handmaid, let it be done to me according to your will’, a surrender of the heart. From then on, Mother Mary was with Jesus at every step. She understood from her heart every moment of that mystery. In Lk 2:50-51 (‘They did not understand what he meant. He then lent down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority’) we can see that she did not understand everything yet in her heart, but she took it all and surrendered herself at every moment. Even when she received the dead body of Jesus beneath the Cross on Calvary she surrendered – ‘Here I am’. And she rejoiced at the glory of the resurrection and was herself taken up to heaven, body and soul at the end of her life on earth.
When we meditate these mysteries we become part of these mysteries; we can learn to surrender our lives. As it happened to Mother Mary, when the message comes to us from God we can learn with mother Mary to surrender our lives, however difficult the situation might be, even when our brain does not understand. The rosary teaches us to be part of the mystery of our salvation in footsteps of Jesus our Saviour and to bring all our experiences to the Lord, offering them all in the hands of the Lord to the Heavenly Father. The rosary is intercessory prayer. When do we pray for a particular intention? In the Hail Mary there is a moment when we ask Mother Mary to pray for us now. This ‘now’ should stand for our particular intention. Ask Mother Mary to pray for these particular persons or situations. In the whole rosary the particular intention will be there. Perhaps I can be easily distracted and yet easily come back to that intention asking Mother Mary ‘Please pray!’ She is a great intercessor. We can see in chapter two of the gospel of John (the miracle at Cana, the second luminous mystery) a moment when a family was in trouble: the marriage was in distress, the wine failed. But Mary saw the problem and brought it to Jesus, preparing the whole family to obey him. That’s when the miracle took place. Praying with Mother Mary, as she concerned herself with that family of Cana, we see that she will be concerned with my problems and my family. The intercession has three elements: loving concern for the needs of others, absolute confidence in the power of Jesus, and a preparation for God’s will.
The third strand of the rosary is vocal prayer: raising my voice to God in prayer, praising him, thanking him and worshipping him. So when I pray the rosary I consecrate my voice to my Lord: every vocal prayer is the consecration of my voice, of my eyes, of my heart, of my body. When we pray the rosary in the family or in community we raise our voices together in love: the rosary is the prayer of love. That is why it is repetitive. Where there is love there is always repetition. The heart loves to repeat. Our life is all about repetition. We breathe in and breath out – that is life. Repetition enables us to understand what true love is. When we repeat the prayer, the prayer becomes part of our hearts, part of our blood stream. It enters every cell of my body. Even when I am meditating, contemplating the crucifixion and the love of Jesus, my lips will be moving: my whole body, soul, mind and heart all integrated in one single prayer. That is what the rosary is. Today as we learn the beauty of the three strands of the cord of the rosary – our life will not be broken as Ecclesiastes says, when we have the prayer of the rosary in our hearts. Our hearts will be praying, giving us the courage, the wisdom, to make the right decisions in the right time.