XI. THE EXCELLENCE OF THE ROSARY ON ACCOUNT OF THE MYSTERIES COMMEMORATED
"Unless thy law had been my meditation, I had then perhaps perished in my abjection."—Ps. cxviii, 92.
Dear Brethren: In our former considerations of the Rosary we have discussed the prayers of which the Rosary is composed. The second chief part of the Rosary is the fifteen Mysteries. They are called Mysteries because the truths which they contain are hidden and cannot be comprehended except by Divine revelation. These Mysteries and their significance will be the subject of our discourse to-day. It is the spirit and intention of the Church that these Mysteries be properly meditated upon while saying the Rosary. This we do by reflecting upon them, by applying to ourselves the lesson drawn! from them, and by resolving to amend our life or to perfect it according to this lesson.
I. The consideration of the Divine truths of salvation is absolutely necessary for all mankind, for no one can be saved who is not mindful of his salvation. We cannot attain happiness without serving and loving God. Yet he knows not God who does not give any thought to things divine. In order to learn to know God and to make progress in this knowledge we must contemplate the Divine attributes and perfections, and the works which proclaim them. The whole universe is preaching to us God's omnipotence, wisdom, and love. The heavens tell of God's glory, and the firmament proclaims the works of His hands. The tiny flowers in field and meadow, the birds in the tree, the stars in the sky, they all remind us of God and of His Omnipotence and Goodness. We ought not regard these things thoughtlessly, they give us food for salutary thought and meditation. They exhort us to show love and gratitude towards God, the merciful Father who has created all these things for us.
God so loved the world as to sacrifice for it His only begotten Son. The Son so loved Mankind that He became Man, suffered for us and died upon the Cross, in order to ransom us from sin and ruin. We learn to know not only the malice, horror, and guilt of sin, but also the infinite mercy and love of God by pondering on the works of God.
In the work of sanctification, specially ascribed to the Holy Ghost, we perceive fresh wonders of God's love. The Holy Ghost cleanses us from our sins and transforms us into children of God. He consoles us with heavenly consolation, and leads us with His hand, conducting us to Christian perfection and to life eternal. By considering these divine works, often and earnestly, we learn to know God, and become desirous of loving Him and serving Him faithfully. To make progress in the knowledge of these divine things is the sacred duty of a Christian. But in order to be saved it is not sufficient to know God; we must also know ourselves. For this reason St. Augustine besought God: "Let me know myself, and let me know Thee." We must learn to know our faults in order to correct them, and our evil inclinations so as to fight against them. We must ascertain what virtues we are lacking in so that we may strive to acquire them. We must understand the gravity of our sins to repent of them sincerely. Finally, we must understand our inability to acquire merit, so that we may seek from God grace, strength, and help.
It is necessary also that we understand clearly the duties which we have to perform.
If we were profoundly impressed by the excellence of the Divine Laws, of the magnificent rewards that will be the share of those who observe the Commandments, and of the terrible chastisement awaiting the transgressor, who would ever presume to transgress these Divine Commandments? And what is calculated to impress us with these truths if not serious reflection upon them?
The royal Prophet exclaims: "Blessed are they that search his testimonies; that seek him with their whole heart" (Ps. cxviii, 2).
Meditation has drawn numberless sinners from the depths of sin and protected untold numbers against sin. It is also, as St. Ignatius remarks, the shortest way to Christian perfection. Hence St. Teresa implores those who have not yet begun this meditative prayer, to do so in the name of God, and through the love of Christ, and no longer deprive themselves of this most precious and necessary good.
Objection may be made by some that they cannot meditate, that they have not the ability to do so. The reply is that for meditation no skill or science is required. When you reflect upon an article of faith, upon a commandment of God, upon sin or virtue, upon God, your duties, and then awaken acts of faith, hope and charity, contrition, and thanksgiving, followed by resolutions of amendment, petitions to God for His grace and assistance to keep these resolutions, you have made a very good meditation. This much any one can do.
Another objection may be advanced, that one has no time for it. A man living in the world has many business cares, but then the salvation of the soul is the chief business of man. Our Divine Saviour has said that one thing only is necessary, and this one thing is solicitude for the soul's welfare. David had the cares of governing a great kingdom, and yet he said: "O how have I loved thy law, O Lord, it is my meditation all the day." (Ps. cxviii, 97.) No, my brethren, time and ability are not lacking. If anything is lacking, it is the good will. Therefore let us all make the firm resolution to give in the future due consideration to Christian meditation so as to place our soul's welfare in safety.
II. The Mysteries of the Rosary offer us an easy method and material for our meditation. They give us a brief sketch of the life, passion, and death of Jesus Christ and the sorrows and joys of our Mother Mary. The fifteen Mysteries are divided into three parts: the Joyful, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious Mysteries.
The joyful Mysteries of the Rosary contain events from the youthful life of Jesus. These are the Annunciation, the Visitation of Mary, the Nativity of Christ, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. These five Mysteries comprise the foundation of the work of the redemption. With all of them is intimately connected Mary, the Blessed Mother of the Redeemer.
These five Mysteries set before us the example of Jesus and Mary. To make of us children of God, the Son of God became incarnate, and He is for us the model of a child of God. Mary, His holy Mother, is in all things His faithful likeness and thus the model for us in the imitation of Christ.
The sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary remind us of the work of redemption, through the passion and death of Jesus Christ. He begins His passion in the garden of Olives in an agony of sorrow. By the scourging He did penance for our sins of the flesh, and by the crowning with thorns, for our sins of the mind. Then He bore His Cross to the place of execution, and with it the sins of the world, in order to efface our debt upon this Cross. These Mysteries teach us how to partake of the merits of the redemption. The consideration of our sins, of their malice and guilt, and a sincere contrition for them is the first step. The second is the discipline of our flesh and its evil desires by temperance, chastity, and mortification. The third step is the discipline of the spirit by humble obedience towards God and His holy law. The fourth is the patient bearing of our cross, and the last is that we die completely to sin, and live only for Christ.
The glorious Mysteries of the Rosary tell us of the glorious fruits of the redemption. These are a new life of grace, resurrection from the dead, and admittance into heaven. They speak to us also of the mission of the Holy Ghost, whose work is to sanctify us. In Mary's assumption into Heaven we behold the most sublime work of the Holy Spirit, viz., her holy life here upon earth and her coronation in Heaven, the reward of this holy life for all eternity. All these things are calculated to induce in us a devout Christian life. We behold what God has prepared for those who love Him, who live for Him, who work and suffer and die in His grace and love.
Thus the fifteen Mysteries give us a short summary of the lives of Jesus and Mary. The events selected are best calculated to awaken our faith, to strengthen our hope, to inflame our hearts with love for Jesus and Mary, and to animate us to imitate the lives of Jesus and Mary.
These Mysteries thus offer most excellent material for our meditations. They are so simple that every believing Christian may understand them, yet so profound and full of meaning that those most learned and advanced in the spiritual life may find therein ample food for edification. The public life of Jesus and Mary pass, as it were, before our eyes.
How fortunate did the Apostles esteem themselves to have known Jesus by sight, to have listened to the teachings from His own lips, to have gazed and meditated upon His holy life! We may draw the same profit from the diligent and devout meditation of the Mysteries of the Rosary.
If we daily say the Rosary, and picture the mysteries to ourselves, what advantage may we not draw from them for our life! It will be for us a daily intercourse and association with Jesus and Mary that will enlighten our minds, elevate and ennoble our hearts, and powerfully invite our will to a true life of virtue. The Rosary is, therefore, an admirable means to lead a truly Christian life, and an admirable means, consequently to attain eternal salvation. Let us all be zealous to avail ourselves of it and the Rosary will become a bond uniting us intimately with Jesus and Mary, and conducting us to the participation of their glory and happiness for all eternity. Amen.