Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Light From the Rosary (Part 5)

Light From the Rosary (Part 5)

Light From the Rosary (Part 1)
Light From the Rosary (Part 2)
Light From the Rosary (Part 3)
Light From the Rosary (Part 4)
Light From the Rosary "back cover"

Up another level – Tertiary and higher structures

In the chemistry underlying molecular biology, other connections or linkages may occur as the properly linked molecule folds and makes new contacts with itself – or even with other molecules. The amazing apparatus called the ribosome is made up of three separate strands of RNA and several dozen small protein molecules, all folded and linked together. From the molecular viewpoint, it is large and complex: so large it can be seen as a tiny dot under a microscope! (I mention the ribosome in particular because it is the cellular machine which actually "reads" the message obtained from DNA and builds a protein corresponding to it – and we will see more of this protein building later.)
Again the Rosary can be seen to have more complex links – both with itself and also with other prayers.

The Rosary in the Rosary
Yes, it is indeed possible to contemplate the Rosary itself in praying it. This sounds like some kind of liturgical pun – a prayer which contains itself? But like two mirrors placed across from each other, the Rosary has a self-referential character: the image both refers to, and is referred to by, its original. This character always existed, but it has also been strengthened by the Johanno-Pauline mysteries.
One of the marvellous self-referential aspects of the Rosary concerns the "Hail Mary": the prayer which is the "backbone" – the ostinato or drone music – on or over which the meditation is woven. [The musical analogy is apt, and deserves a longer treatment which probably ought to be done poetically, or better, musically. Another musical analogy, even more apt, is a passacaglia – "a slow dance with divisions on a ground bass in triple rhythm." A ground bass is a musical line consisting of "a few simple notes, intended as a theme, on which, at each repetition, a new melody is constructed." This seems clear enough.] The prayer itself is formed (at least its first half) from the words of the Angel Gabriel: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." (Lk 1:28) and of Mary's cousin Elizabeth: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb." (Lk 1:42) Hence, the meditations for mysteries J1 and J2 contain (or refer to) the prayer itself as a starting point, a means, and also an ending point.
Likewise, another mystery contains part of the formula for the "Glory Be," which has been said for centuries as the Trinitarian Doxology in psalmody and other forms of prayer. In G2, we recall our Lord's final words before ascending to Heaven: "Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." (Mt 28:19)
By some stretch of the mystical imagination we might claim the introductory Apostle's Creed to be linked with G3 (Pentecost) or even (with the new mysteries) with L5 for it was at the last Supper that Jesus told them: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. " (John 16:13) And we might also link the concluding "Hail Holy Queen" to the Magnificat in J2, for as Luke records Mary's words: "for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." (Lk 1:48)
But in the traditional 15 mysteries we do not find the Lord's Prayer. Hence, it is a truly satisfying fact that, with John Paul II's addition of L3, we can now also meditate on the words we were taught by our Lord Himself, in which we dare to say "Our Father." For included within the meditations of the "Proclamation of the Kingdom of God" we may surely spend the whole decade in pondering Luke's report on how the disciples came to Jesus saying "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." (See Lk 11:1-4)

The Rosary and the Office
We have already mentioned the "Glory Be" and the Lord's Prayer, both of which are important elements of the Divine Office. The three great Gospel Canticles are found in the Joyful Mysteries: the "Benedictus" and the "Magnificat" in J2, the "Nunc Dimittis" in J4. The Psalms appear in many places, quoted even in the Magnificat itself – but perhaps it might be well to see a few examples of their other appearances in the Gospels. The following, appearing as they do in various discourses of our Lord, obviously relate to L3:

Mt 5:4 Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Ps 36:11 But the meek shall inherit the land, and shall delight in abundance of peace.

Mt 5:8. Blessed are the clean of heart: they shall see God.
Ps 23:3-4 Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place? The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who hath not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbour.

Mt 5:35. [Swear not] by the earth, for it is His footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king.
Ps 47:3. With the joy of the whole earth is Mount Sion founded, on the sides of the north, the city of the great king.

Mt 7:23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
Ps 6:9. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity: for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.

Mt 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then will he render to every man according to his works.
Ps 61:13. And mercy to thee, O Lord; for thou wilt render to every man according to his works.

This next, however, is at the Transfiguration (L4):

Mt 17:5. And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.
Ps 2:7. The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.
The Sorrowful Mysteries are also involved, as there are psalm references during the Passion as well:

Mt 26:38. Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch with me.
Ps 41:6. Why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou trouble me? Hope in God, for I will still give praise to him: the salvation of my countenance.

In particular, we should recall that on the cross Jesus quotes the beginning of Psalm 21: "O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me?"
Also on the cross He utters the first phrase of the beautiful Night Prayer responsory: "Into thy hands I commend my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth." (Ps 30:6)

Perhaps the most dramatic of all references to the psalms is this one, because Jesus acted it as is indicated (Mt 13:34-35) rather than only quoting it:

Ps 77:2. I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter propositions from the beginning.

Indeed, this single verse might be considered a Psalm commentary on the Third Luminous Mystery.

Another, and much more complex, point to examine is the way in which the entire liturgical year is mirrored and mirrors the chronological structure of the twenty mysteries. If the cosmic plan for the astronomical bodies that God specifed in Gn 1:14 ("let them [the sun and moon] be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.") has its ultimate implementation in the Canonical Hours of the Day and the Liturgical Year, then the Rosary (true to its origin in the Office) is its microscopic – or perhaps we might call it the "handheld" (palmtop?) version. In a little over an hour, one can "celebrate" all the major events which the Liturgy recalls in a whole year, spanning the whole life of our Lord!

The Way of the Cross
Clearly, S4 contains the first nine Stations and S5 contains Stations 10 through 12. The final two may either be included in S5 or in G1.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
Since the Mass is the "unbloody" re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, the Mass was always intimately connected with S5. With the addition of L5, the connection between the Mass and the Rosary is brought to a deep intimacy. We have already discussed the connections to the Trinitarian formula "In the name of the Father..." (G2) and the Lord's Prayer (L3). But there are other, less obvious, links to the Mass – some of which we will indicate.

The Gloria, now sung on solemnities and most Sundays, clearly has its origin in the song of the angels which the shepherds heard (Lk 2:14) at Christmas (J3).

The Gospel
The proclamation of the Gospel itself spans the entire Rosary (or at least all the mysteries from J1 to G2; G3 is in Acts, and appears in the other readings). As the Liturgical Year proceeds, the Scripture readings associated with every mystery will be encountered. Hence, there is a very strong link here, and one to which the rituals (of the Rosary or of the Mass) have yet to take into account.

Water Added to Wine
There is a more subtle link with J3 in the prayer which is said as the water is added to the wine at the Offertory:
"By this mingling of water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity."
This prayer is, according to the liturgists, derives from an old Collect for Christmas. But this might also link to L2, in which we see the water changed into good wine.

In the Canon, the name of Mary is always mentioned, thus fulfilling her prophecy in the Magnificat (J2). The Apostles are also mentioned; this might be linked to our Lord's call (L3) or even to Pentecost (G3).

Unde et memores
Immediately after the Consecration, the "memorial" being accomplished is stated: this includes the Passion (S1-S4), Death (S5), Resurrection (G1) and Ascension (G2).

Agnus Dei, Lavabo
The triply repeated "Lamb of God" is an echo of the words of John the Baptist the day after he baptized Jesus (L1): "The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him; and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who taketh away the sin of the world." (Jn 1:29) These words are also echoed by the priest as he shows the Host to the people. Another link to L1 might be seen as the priest washes his hands, and the innocence of baptism is recalled.

Domine non sum dignus
I always like to ask people what part of the Mass is based on a pagan prayer. Of course it is unknown whether the centurion (Mt 8:5-13) really was a pagan – though it is rather likely. Also it is unknown whether he actually spoke in Latin and had an interpretor, or if he was speaking the common Greek, or even if he had managed to acquire some Aramaic. But it is a very comforting thing to think of how Jesus praised the faith of this Roman, and we might ask for the same faith, whether we are meditating on L3 or saying "Lord I am not worthy" just before receiving Holy Communion.

Ite, missa est
As the Mass is completed, the command "Go" (ite in Latin) recalls the "great commission" our Lord made just before ascending to His Father (G2). We have a job to do; so we "go forth."

(to be concluded...)


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