“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” – Ernest Hemingway
When we hear a story, we often skim the details and immediately attempt to figure out the takeaway message. Our modern minds are trained to quickly scan narratives for motifs so we can efficiently extract a moral. But glossing over the details can inadvertently lead us to forget that some stories are true and not merely fables. They truly happened, just as truly as you woke up this morning. And it is those very details that give the story its deeper meaning.
As Catholics, we can fall into this habit even as we’re praying. The Holy Rosary is particularly susceptible. It’s a repetitive prayer by its nature. As another mystery is recited, we can settle into a familiar moral. That’s certainly not wrong, but to grow in our spiritual life we must delve into the details.
One method of submerging our minds in specifics is to consider the physicality of Jesus and Mary. This method is always effective but most palpable when praying the Sorrowful Mysteries. The details starkly unveil the reality of what happened to Jesus’ body on Golgotha, commanding our attention to consider what it was like. You can focus on any physical detail. For now, let’s briefly consider the hands of Jesus which are just like our hands: fingernails, knuckles, fingerprints, hair, freckles, and all.
The Agony in the Garden is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. He has just come from the Last Supper where he broke bread and dipped it in the dish. He now folds his hands to pray by himself. Due to the stress of anticipating Good Friday, he is sweating blood. A few moments later he is arrested, his hands are tied with a rope, and he is put in jail.
He is questioned by Pilate and scourged at the pillar. Consider his hands as they were tied to that pillar. Maybe they were open in supplication to the Father for the forgiveness of the soldiers. Maybe they were closed tight around His cold chains and rough ropes.
As He received His crown of thorns, His hands may have still been bound but as he slightly adjusted the crown, his fingers may have caught the thorns.
He is untied not out of mercy but so He can receive the cross. And he receives it with open arms. His hands touch the wood which is the means of our salvation.
And finally, as He is crucified, His hands are nailed to that wood. But the nails were not what kept him on the cross. It was his love.
By ruminating on the details of the mysteries we enkindle our affections and stoke the fire of charity within us. Let us reconsider the particulars of the mysteries of the most Holy Rosary so as to remember the reality of Christ’s deep love for us.