Today the Church celebrates the great festival of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The Rosary is one of the treasured prayers of the Church. It best understood as a form of guided meditation, whereby through the careful and deliberate repetition of prayers and consideration of significant events, the mystery of the Incarnation of God in Christ is remembered and recalled.
The Church believes that the Rosary belongs to Christ’s Mother, and presents this prayer form as her gift to the faithful, because the prayer of the Rosary repeats the angelic salutation of Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin and appeals to the Mother of God as a heavenly intercessor.
The Mother of God, whom the Gospel of Luke recalls, contemplated the mystery of the Incarnation to the depths of her very soul, presents herself to us in the prayer of the Rosary as route of access to her divine Son. She who is the example par excellence of the disciple who “hears the Word of God and keep it” teaches us how to listen to Christ and what it means to be his disciple.
The Rosary is a prayer of the Incarnation ,which means that it serves as a means by which we come to know God, who reveals himself in Jesus Christ. Remember, it is our Faith that the Lord Jesus is the one, true God, who accepted a human nature and lived and real human life.
It is the purpose of the Rosary to direct our attention to the Incarnation of God in Christ- in fact, all the “mysteries” of the Rosary are referring to the singular Mystery of God, who in Christ, takes on our flesh and becomes like us in all things but sin.
The origin of the Rosary prayer is hidden in legend. It is said that the evangelist and priest, Saint Dominic, received the Rosary from the hand of Our Lady herself. More likely, this story is intended as symbolic and meant to indicate that it was of critical importance to the religious community that Saint Dominic founded, the Dominicans, to propagate the prayer of the Rosary.
For many centuries, due to the efforts of the Dominican Order, the Rosary was, after Holy Mass, the favored form of prayer used by the Christian faithful and the means by which the most of the faithful were catechized.
Not only did people pray the Rosary, they learned the essentials of the Church’s Faith from it. The rosary introduced people to Christ.
That the celebration of the Rosary takes place today, October 7th, originates in a military victory. A tremendous naval battle happened on this date in the year 1571, in which the forces of the Ottoman Empire were defeated by a mercenary fleet, large in part, financed and supported by Saint Pope Pius V. Saint Pius V assembled an army and navy and called it his “Holy League”. He credited their victory in battle to the intercession of the Mother of God.
This day was at one time remembered in Europe in a manner that would be similar to how we commemorate the Fourth of July. Today was seen as a day when the peoples of Europe were delivered from an aggressive invasion, and gave thanks to God for this deliverance.
Modern people likely find the associations of religion and military victories to be unsettling, but the history is real and we have to make some sense of it whether or not it makes us feel uncomfortable.
Further, the historical origins of today’s great festival challenge our conception of the Mother of God as merely “gentle, meek and mild”. Christ’s Mother may have been gentle, but to call her meek and mild means that we have not considered who she really is, or really thought about the meaning of her tremendous Magnificat, which is really best understood as a call to arms, and the proclamation that God comes into this world, and he comes into this world to set a world gone wrong right.
The Mother of God submits herself to the divine plan so that she might become, for God, the means by which he liberates his people from the power of sin and rescues his people from the power of death. Through her, God in Christ sneaks himself behind enemy lines and into occupied territory. In this regard, the Mother of God acts in a way similar to the way a secret resistance movement might act.
God in Christ will have to fight the powers of sin, death and the devil in order to save us. Christ does this on the cross, and his Holy Mother will remain with him in this battle, taking her place at his side.
The prayer of the Rosary has the potential and power to set us right and in setting us right, set a world gone wrong right.
This is why the Rosary should be our prayer and why we should pray the Rosary not just today, but every day.