by Edgardo C. de Vera
Among things Catholic the Holy Rosary is one of the most misunderstood by our Protestant brethren. Many perceive the devotion to Mary as an overshadowing of Jesus, of giving too much importance to her. Extreme fundamentalist sects accuse it as worship to a Catholic goddess using pagan beads. Others cite the admonition of Jesus against praying like pagans in vain and repetitive babbling.
How sadly mistaken they are. Mary is the Mother of Jesus from whom He took flesh and we honor her because of this singular maternal privilege Adoration is reserved for God alone. Angels gathered around God's throne worship Him unceasingly in repetitious adoration saying "Holy, holy, holy…” (Rev 4:8). Our Lord did not condemn repetitive prayer; what He was against was pagan-like babbling (Mat 6:7) Any prayer that is not from the heart is a form of babbling; it becomes vain repetition when a babbler thinks his absent-minded mechanical praying is meritorious.
Unlike pagan prayer that is rooted in superstition and myth, the Holy Rosary is a Christ-centered, Scripture-based prayer with our Blessed Mother Mary as prayer partner. We emulate the heavenly host - not babbling pagans - as we meditate on the mysteries. Meditation is the soul of the Rosary, minus which we miss out on its power and efficacy. ''To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ," says John Paul the Great.
Mary pondered in her heart and we too focus on Jesus in the Rosary the way she did by viewing Gospel events in sweeping panorama of Salvation History: seeing the Old Testament foreshadowing events and prophecies fulfilled in Christ; contemplating the mysteries in His person and personages associated with Him as we identify ourselves with the Biblical cast who did or rebelled against God's will. Each bead in a progression along the time-line of Redemption, plumbing the depths of the mysteries with the aid of the Holy Spirit Who reveals marvelous insights in the meditations
Jesus is in the Holy Rosary for "where two or three or more are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them'' (Mt. 18:20). The Queen Mother of Heaven links us like beads with the angels and saints in their perpetual adoration. We the Church Militant commune with the Church Triumphant for the Church Suffering, interceding for souls in a Communion of Saints participating in Jesus' sole mediation in this power- house prayer.
We bless ourselves in the Trinity at the Sign of the Cross, profess our Faith in the Creed, address our Father in the prayer that Jesus Himself taught us, repeat the scriptural salutations of the Incarnation, implore and intercede for Jesus' mercy and forgiveness at the Fatima prayer, and glorify the One Triune God with Mary in the perpetual angelic song of praise - the Gloria. We ask for her motherly mediation and invoke God 55 times; Father 15; Son 9; Holy Spirit 10; Jesus 60; Christ once; and Lord 54 times.
A complete Holy Rosary comprised by all four mysteries - Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious - quadruples our invocations of these Most Sacred Names that render Satan and his legions completely powerless, frozen in Hell at each reverential utterance. It is the heavy chain with which the angel binds Satan (cf Rev 20:1-2). With this child- like prayer our Mother crushes the serpent dragon's head.
The Hail Mary is formed of two parts: the first is taken from Archangel Gabriel's greeting - "Hail, full of grace the Lord is with thee" - and Elizabeth's - "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb". The second comes from a chant following the condemnation of heresy of Nestorianism that Jesus possessed two separate persons and natures, Mary being Mother of His human nature only. At the Council of Ephesus (AD 431) the heresy was condemned and the Marian Dogma Teotokos - God bearer or Mother of God - was proclaimed. On hearing the news the faithful joyously paraded about the city crying, "Holy Mary Mother of God." Towards the end of the twelfth and at the start of the thirteenth centuries, St. Dominic received from the Blessed Mother the inspiration for the Holy Rosary to counter another erroneous belief emanating from France and spreading throughout Christendom - Albingensianism, the heresy of dualism of good and evil; a revived form of Manichaeanism that thrived during the third century. Our Blessed Mother has endorsed her Holy Rosary in all her apparitions as the remedy for every false doctrine.
Today, the most insidious heresy is New Age Christianity which has taken on many forms through the syncretistic adulteration of Christian tenets and assimilated beliefs from other religions and secular attitudes. Heterodox-leaning theologians and clergy infected by modernist humanism are compromising the "hard teachings of Christ'' in the Gospels to a relativist outlook. God is not glorified, replaced by the gods of money, power, pleasure, and ego, which have brought about wars, famine, pestilence and death. Abortions have exceeded 100 million deaths annually. Evil thrives. Worst, it is glorified in media.
The spirit of the antichrist John wrote about in his Epistles (1 and 2 John) is upon us, ushering the Great Apostasy. Thus it is all the more imperative now for the faithful to heed our Mother's urging to "Pray, pray, pray, the Rosary". To be fortified and protected by this simple yet potent deterrent against evil. To be a formed Christian in this sublime childlike devotion where she acquaints all her children with her first born and instructs, ''Do whatever He tells you," (Jn 2:5) - an echo of the Father's command, ''Listen to Him'' (Mt 17:5). The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen articulated it best: "As she formed Jesus in her body, so she forms Jesus in our souls."
Battle lines are drawn for the looming apocalyptic confrontation: the prophesied Woman of Genesis 3:15 - present at Cana in Calvary at the foot of the Cross, and in Revelation 12:1 - versus the ancient serpent dragon. Armed with what St. Padre Pio called ''that terrible weapon," we enter the fray in daily spiritual combat, praying to Mary and with Mary for the conversion of sinners and the attainment of world peace, the peace only Jesus can give - a peace where the Holy Spirit is present in every facet of life.
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