The Rosary seems to many an outdated mode of pietistic expression — Hail Mary after Hail Mary repeated in an endless litany, often in slumber, half alert and redundant — and yet it is one of the Church’s oldest Marian devotions.
It’s history is entwined with human events that include victory in battle, heresy, succor in famine and plague. Countless saints and blesseds have traveled the road to heaven beaded cord in hand, and to this day, consecrated men and women do the same. The lay are also given this string of beads to make of them the fragrant offering of prayer which most resembles the living faith we meditate on using them — for in the passage of each decade, the whole story of salvation is rendered before our minds and hearts in a litany of blessing and grace.
The mysteries of the Rosary are a Christo-centric meditation: invitation extended us to near closer to His very life, through the steps His Mother took alongside Him. In venerating her, we render her the honor due the one who is Mother of God. And it is so, that among the many devotions of the Church, the Rosary stands apart as that shower of joyful praise, which makes our own that canticle the divine messenger Gabriel visited her with, saying, ‘Hail, full of grace!’.
She would not set herself apart among the children. From her we learn the meaning of humility. The God-bearer, she who responds to that heavenly visitor ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord’, becomes the object of that shower of felicity of which Dante sings:
” ‘…Into the face that most resembles Christ
now look: for by her radiance only she
can render you prepared for seeing Christ.’
I saw a rain of such felicity
showered upon her by the holy minds
fashioned for crossing that exalted sea,
That all the wondrous things I’d seen before
had not so left my vision stunned, suspended,
nor shown me so much the face of God,
And the Love that, to greet her, first descended,
singing, ‘Hail Mary, virgin full of grace,’
now stood before her with his wings extended.
The blessed court responded to his song,
singing the antiphon on every side,
and radiant peace shone forth in every face
‘Holy Father, who for my sake abide
coming down here and leaving that sweet place
where you are seated by eternal lot,
Who is that angel of such joyous gaze
looking into the eyes of our sweet Queen —
so deeply in love he seems to be ablaze?’
So to his doctrine once again I run:
that man who was adorned by Mary’s ray
as star of morning by the rising sun.
And he: ‘Whatever grace and gallantry
can dwell in angel or in blessed soul
dwells all in him: as we desire should be,
For that is he who bore the palm below
to Mary, when the Son of God would take
upon Himself the burden of our flesh.’ ”
Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, Canto XXXII, 85-114 | as translated by Anthony Esolen
And ever since that moment, when Heaven visited earth and became flesh in Christ, each rose of prayer laid at her feet forms one long cord of hope, which unites present misery to the long awaited redemption that found a worthy and fragrant vessel in her womb.
No longer lonely is the world below. The beads of this joy continue to fall upon the earth, while the saints rejoice, and souls heaven-bound return on pilgrimage, anchored by the cord to paradise.
On this, her feast, may she intercede for yet wandering souls. Salve, Virgine Rosarii, miserere.
You may reach Maria Grizzetti at IncarnationandModernity@gmail.com