PREFACE: THE GRANDEUR OF THE ROSARY (Part I)
Notas facite in populis adinventiones ejus. Make His works KNOWN AMONG THE PEOPLE (Is. 12:4). In these words the prophet Isaias urges us to make known to all people the works of God. We are often unable to praise the works of genius as we should, but when it is a question of praising God’s works we cannot do so; we are reduced to silence and are lost in admiration. Among the works of God there are three so manifestly divine that the human mind can do nothing but abase itself before them: the Incarnation, the Divine Maternity and the Blessed Eucharist.
Next to the works of God are those of Mary and these are all sublime since they are the outcome of love. They are manifold since they are to be found in every age and amongst every people. One of the most sublime of Our Lady’s manifestations of love is, without question, the Rosary which has been made known to the whole world by the Order of Preachers and which, since its institution in the Xlllth century, has been an uninterrupted song of praise to Mary.
The institution of the Rosary is much more than a work of genius, for we see in it that supernatural wisdom which theologians reverence in the institution of the Sacraments. We have no intention of putting the Rosary and the Sacraments on the same level, but it is permissible to point out the striking analogy that exists between them.
The Sacraments are in perfect harmony with our human nature which is at once material and spiritual. To desire that human beings should perform only purely intellectual acts would be to exclude a necessary element of their happiness. Man’s religion and worship requires exterior assistance. Hence the Sacraments, like man, are composed of a body and soul. They have a body in that they are external signs; they have a soul for they possess the invisible power of the Most High. A few words are spoken and immediately the outward sign is encompassed by the might of God, Who passes into the Sacraments since His grace passes into them. When grace takes possession of the soul, at that same moment the soul comes into contact with God.
In the same way true prayer engages the whole man. Now the Rosary is composed of a soul and a body; the body of the Rosary is the vocal prayer; its soul is the consideration of each mystery and the spiritual energy which results from this consideration. Like the Sacraments, the Rosary has, as it were, matter and form. It puts before our imagination the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord and in this way speaks to our bodily nature. By its sublime mysteries the divinity of Christ is set before us and in this way it appeals to our higher nature, wherein we resemble the angels and are like to God Himself.
In the Sacraments the outward sign and the miraculous power of the words combine in the formation of one thing, just as the human nature and the divine nature of Christ are united in one person; so also in the Rosary the vocal prayer and the meditation on the mystery form one indivisible whole. To separate the form of the Sacrament from the matter would be to destroy the Sacrament; to separate the mystery from the vocal recitation would be to destroy the very essence of the Rosary.
The Sacraments are, as it were, the extension and the continuation of the Incarnation. Jesus comes to us in the Sacraments to bless us and to restore us to life. As in the days of His mortal life, He allows that virtue which heals to escape from Him: Virtue went out from Him and healed all (Luke 6:19). In the Rosary also it is Jesus Who comes to us. At the commencement of each mystery we can say in all truth that the Son of David is about to pass by. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
The Sacraments are those outward marks which distinguish the Christian from the infidel; the Rosary is the distinctive devotion of every true Catholic. The Sacraments are the sweet yet powerful bonds that unite the Children of Christ; by partaking of the same Sacraments the faithful evince their communion in the same faith, the same hope, the same love. By means of the Rosary the children of Mary unite throughout the world and blend their voices in the expression of their common hope and love. The Rosary is like the standard which God raises up before the nations to assemble them from every corner of the universe. Elevabit signum in nationibus . . . et . . . colliget a quatuor plagis terrae. He shall set up a standard unto the nations . . . and gather together the dispersed from the four quarters of the earth (Is. 11:12).
It would be easy to develop at some length this comparison between the Sacraments, instituted by Jesus, and the Rosary, the work of Mary. To sum it up in a few words: the condition of human nature is such that it has to be led by things corporeal and sensible to things spiritual; the Sacraments and the Rosary are signs which help the soul to rise to the contemplation of God and eternity. Man wishes to feed his mind with things spiritual; he thirsts after the infinite; the Sacraments and the Rosary help him to satisfy that desire.
Man, by reason of his bodily nature and its inherent weaknesses, is a creature of time; but because of the powers of his soul and his supernatural destiny, he is also of eternity. Now the Rosary is vast enough to embrace both time and eternity. It includes every period of time because it contains those unfathomable mysteries to which all history converges, whose realization constitutes what St. Paul calls the fullness of time: plentitudo temporis (Gal. 4:4). It includes eternity. The Rosary begins with heaven and ends in eternity with the Mysteries of the Ascension of Jesus and the Crowning of Mary. We commence in the bosom of the Adorable Trinity, we end in the bosom of the Blessed Virgin.