According to St. John Paul II, the Rosary allows us to sit “at the school of Mary” and leads us “to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, par. 1). In the same encyclical, he refers to the rosary as the contemplationis via which trains the Christian in the art of prayer (par. 5). We can penetrate these claims if we look at how the rosary, as a rich and multifaceted form of prayer, corresponds to the three classical degrees of prayer (CCC 2699).
Firstly, as vocal prayer. We focus on the words taught to us, especially that perfect prayer, the Our Father. Its petitions contain every sincere desire of the heart, and its words are made perfect by being the words from the human lips of the Word Incarnate. Not only are they the petitions that Jesus taught and Christians have cherished from the beginning of the Church, but they resemble the intimate prayers of Jesus himself to the Father—we learn to speak as One Son in him, as the totus Christus, head and members. The Hail Mary is the message of the angel Gabriel to the young woman who did not yet know she was his queen. It is the sentence that introduced the salvation of the world, that announced Jesus Christ, and evoked the human response that welcomed him on our behalf.
Secondly, in meditative prayer, we shift to the mysteries of the life of Christ, seeing them through the eyes and with the heart of Mary, where she pondered them all. We slowly learn from Mary’s own contemplation how every act of Christ was salvific and how each of them is also for our instruction in the way of perfection. The word “blessed” takes on a new meaning as we apply it through every mystery. Moving from its joyful context in the mystery of the Incarnation, and persevering in calling the sorrowful mother “blessed” as she follows her Son to Golgotha, we finally see her true blessedness when she joins him in glory, crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.
From all this, should God give the grace, our attention is lifted above the precious words and precious memories to the face of Christ, the human face of the invisible God, which he took from our Lady that it might shine its light upon us as the face of our salvation. The words are still sweet to our lips, the life of Christ still precious to our hearts, but they now form the mountain we have climbed to be with God face to face. This is contemplation, “the simple act of gazing on the truth” (ST II-II q.180 a.3 ad 1). And here is gentle First Truth—the tender name St. Catherine used for our Lord—to whom the rosary has led us, like a pilgrimage of the mind and heart.
Br. Andrew Thomas Kang, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE