There are wonderful spiritual benefits, for ourselves and others, when we pray the rosary. What about intellectual benefits? Can the rosary help us understand our faith better? Can it help us transform by renewing our minds, as St. Paul instructed? Yes!
Broadly, the three traditional sets of mysteries take us through the three phases of salvation history. In the passage from joyful to sorrowful to glorious mysteries, we see an echo of the creation, the fall, and the redemption of man. We were made in joyous communion with God, sorrowfully fell, and are gloriously redeemed against all hope.
These same phases are found in good stories, as well. Drama unfolds as a situation is set, then upset, then reset, often in a surprising way. We naturally tell tales of rise, fall, and redemption – and this shouldn’t surprise us one bit. God is the *author* of creation, the teller of the great story in which we’re all part. When we sub-create in making new life, we help make a child in God’s image. When we sub-create in telling a new story, we author as He authors.
To say that history is “his story” may be lousy etymology, but it’s good theology. Our good stories echo THE great story, and, so, our books tell us the same thing that our beads do.
The rosary is a crib sheet or, if you prefer (since we’d never cheat), a study outline for this most-important story. The joyful mysteries cover nearly all of the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel. These joyful mysteries are five events from early in Jesus’ life, from the announcement of His birth to His parents’ finding Jesus in the temple. They provide the setting for the story; they are part of the initial “rise”, the situation which must be upset to produce the drama. Pope John Paul II filled in another part of this “first act” by giving us the luminous mysteries. These five sample from all the gospels, highlighting a few significant and, in some cases, sacramental events from Christ’s public ministry.
While the joyful mysteries run straight from Luke 1:26 to the end of chapter 2, you have to go looking for the luminous mysteries, for example in Luke 3:15-22, John 2:1-12, Mark 1:15, Luke 9:28-36, and Mark 26:26-28. In the sorrowful mysteries, the story takes its downturn. It takes THE downturn, that singular lowest point in human history where Satan – and our sins – killed God for three days.
What can overcome such a horrible event? Christ is DEAD. This should be the end of the story, yet, out of seeming failure, the great story changes – literally in a heartbeat. Christ is risen! And this most miraculous event is only the beginning of the glorious mysteries. He ascends to Heaven and sends His Holy Spirit to guide the Church. Lastly, as a first example of our own great hope, a human, Mary, is assumed body and soul into Heaven to be with God forever. She is the example of all we can become and sits beside the King as our Queen Mother.
It is fitting that the rosary begins and ends with Mary. This is not just God’s story, detached from humanity. This is God’s story for us, God reaching into human history and turning it on its head.
It all begins, as it does for each of us, with a “yes” to God. It all ends, if we die in God’s friendship, with our eternal life, body and soul, in God’s presence.
(There are many good sources for scriptural references in the rosary. I recommend the scriptural rosary audio at Rosary Army.)
image credit: All for Mary
Joe Wetterling delivers adult catechesis through his blog, Ho Kai Paulos. He also comments on sci-fi/fantasy from a Catholic perspective at The Baptized Imagnation. He is a volunteer moderator and presenter for The Catholic Writers Conference, and a volunteer proofreader for the Project Gutenberg archive.
I remember when I started praying the rosary, and more importantly, the moment I recognized salvation’s history in this prayer. It completely floored me that I had been praying it for *months* and hadn’t recognized the power, symbolism, simplicity, and depth behind it all!
You and me both, Allie.
I used to (and still on some bad days) say the Hail Mary without any punctuation or spaces. hailmaryfullofgracethelordiswithyou…
When I slow down and stick some vocal emphasis on “…thy womb, *pause* JESUS…”, the prayer just changes. It becomes just that bit harder to be complacent about what I’m saying. No Mary, no Jesus. No Jesus, no salvation. Hail indeed.