Somebody had said and I got this from the Internet that after Vatican II the Rosary fell into a relatively disused. The same is true for Marian devotions as a whole. But in recent years the Rosary has made a comeback and not just among Catholics. Many Protestants now say the Rosary, recognizing it as a truly biblical form of prayer and after all the prayers that comprise it come mainly from the Bible.
The word Rosary is coming from Latin and it means ‘a garland of roses,’ the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolize the Virgin Mary. If you were to ask what object is most emblematic of Catholics, people would probably say, “The rosary, of course.” We’re familiar with the images: the silently moving lips of the old woman fingering her beads; the oversized rosary hanging from the waist of the wimpled nun; more recently, the merely decorative rosary hanging from the rear view mirror of a vehicle.
Originally, the Holy Rosary was an attempt by the common people to join the monks in monasteries in praying the Breviary, during Middle Age, since most of them could not read. They were told to substitute one Hail Mary for every Psalm prayed. The Breviary or Divine Office is a prayer using the 150 Psalms of the Bible. The primary purpose of this prayer was to make holy or consecrate the whole day. And so instead of wasting time doing nothing especially during travel or waiting for somebody, why not make the day holy by saying the Rosary?
The Rosary is devotion in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It consists of a set number of specific prayers. First are the introductory prayers: one Apostles’ Creed, one Our Father, three Hail Mary’s and one Glory Be. This is concluded with the recitation of Hail Holy Queen. It’s the most commonly recited prayer in praise of Mary after the Hail Mary itself and was composed at the end of the eleventh century.
Between the introductory prayers and the concluding prayer is the meat of the Rosary: the decades. Each decade, there are fifteen in a full rosary which takes about forty five minutes to say and is composed of ten Hail Marys. Each decade is bracketed between an Our Father and a Glory Be. And so each decade actually has twelve prayers.
Each decade of the Rosary is devoted to a mystery regarding the life of Jesus or His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And the word mystery refers to a truth of the faith, not to something incomprehensible, as in the line, “It’s a mystery to me!” The fifteen mysteries are divided into three groups of five: the Joyful, the Sorrowful and the Glorious. When people speak of “saying the rosary” they usually mean saying any set of five which takes about fifteen minutes rather than the recitation of all fifteen mysteries.
But last October 16, 2002 Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter on the Holy Rosary entitled Rosarium Virginis Mariae by which the late Pope John Paul II added another five mysteries called the Mysteries of Light pray. He said: “Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way ‘mysteries of light.’ Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom. In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments – “luminous” mysteries – during this phase of Christ’s life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery,” (no. 21).
And so at the end let reflect these words coming from Father Robert F. McNamara. He said, “Thus the rosary evolved into a rich devotion that combined vocal prayer to God and Mary with meditation on the great events of the Redemption. It has been a prayer most pleasing to Our Lady, especially when her intercession is invoked to defend Christianity against error. The beauty of the rosary is that it can be prayed with equal devotion by the most scholarly and the most unlettered Catholic. With good reason has Mary, in her apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima, urged all of us to use faithfully this magnificent method of prayer.”
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