Praying the Rosary
by Fr. Dismas Gannon
The author of The Cloud of Unknowing reminds us that contemplative prayer is God’s gift, it is not something we can acquire by our own efforts. But he suggests that, to keep our minds simple and open for this gift, we should often repeat the little words “sin” and “God”. I would like to add two other, little words to repeat often: “Yes” and “No”.
Both are very powerful words. When Eve said “No” to God she changed the whole world. Everyone born from then on, with the exception of our Mother Mary, has been deprived of Sanctifying Grace because she said “No” to God. Mary said “Yes” to God when Gabriel asked her if she would consent to become God’s Mother and her “Yes” made possible the world’s salvation.
When we monastic/contemplatives pray the Rosary we put our hand in Mary’s, so to say, by fingering the beads. We join our “Yes” to her joyful “Yes” to Gabriel; with her we greet Elizabeth and sing her “Magnificat”. Together we turn our rapturous gaze on the face of Jesus in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread”. Then, we join our “Yes” to hers in offering Him to the Father in the Temple and hear with her Simeon’s words that a “sword would pierce her heart”. Twelve years later we share her joy in finding Jesus among the Teachers of the Law in the same Temple.
We listen in hushed awe to Jesus’ agonizing “Yes” to the Father in the Garden; we cringe with her while sharing her anguish at His scourging and crowning with thorns. We join them both on the way to Calvary and, at the foot of the cross, receive her as our Mother from Jesus’ own lips: “Son, behold your Mother, Mother behold your son.”
Then, with her, we rejoice at the triumphant “Yes” the Father utters by raising Jesus from the dead and share her bitter-sweet love on seeing Him ascend to the Father. We are with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit, without whose help “we do not know how to pray as we ought”. Then, we lose and gain her in new way when she is assumed into Heaven and crowned there as Queen of the world.
While we are gazing on these mysteries of our salvation with our inner eye and saying “Yes” to the demands they make on us and saying “No” to self, we should not forget that it is God’s loving and creative gaze that is fixed on us, forming and nurturing the Christ-life in us through Mary’s intercession. It is His gaze, not ours that makes us contemplatives.
This creative process becomes more apparent in the Luminous Mysteries Pope John Paul II gave us, because they make us focus on the many times that Jesus went out of His way to show His love for us.
In the darksome mystery of His assuming our sins at His Baptism for instance; in His delight at being able to do a favor for Mary at Cana by changing water into wine; in allowing us to hear His voice in the first proclamation of His kingdom, the Word speaking the Good News; in His transfiguration, when He spoke of His coming Passion and most of all, in His gift of the Eucharist, in which and by which He gives Himself to us as our Food.
As we ponder these many mysteries we are, the same time, asking Mary to “pray for us poor sinners now and at the hour of our death” so that, when our earthly eyes are closed, our inner eyes might be opened to the unspeakable vision of the Blessed Trinity.