Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sanctity Through the Rosary by Edouard Hugon, O.P.


The Rosary is the epitome of all Christianity. All that we believe is contained in it. In the very first Mysteries we meet with the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation. The Rosary is, like the Blessed Sacrament and Holy Mass, the memorial of the life, passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord. We dwell on the truths of our last end in the Glorious Mysteries, where they are unfolded in a striking and practical manner. The Rosary, then, is theology, but theology which prays, adores, and says by each of its dogmas: Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

Moral theology which treats of sin and virtue is, in a sense, epitomized in this great devotion. We cannot truly realize the infinite malice of mortal sin until we see, by meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries, at how fearful a cost the innocent Christ satisfied the demands of divine justice, what a terrible penalty He had to pay on the Cross, how He was forced to cry out under the weight of our sins: My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Each one of these Mysteries contains for us a sublime lesson of virtue. They are not merely examples of heroism; they are the very highest points of the mystical life. The Rosary, then, is moral theology which prays, weeps, expiates, rises to heroism in crying out to Christ: Thou hast redeemed us to God in Thy Blood, and hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests (Apoc. 9:10).

All history we find recapitulated in the Rosary, because the object of this devotion is He to Whom all history points, Whose radiant figure dominates every page of the Old and the New Testament. Therefore, the Rosary is history, but history that prays and leads all nations to Christ, Who is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Even the social question itself has been solved by the Rosary, as Leo XIII so eloquently proved in his Encyclical, Laetitiae Sanctae. Why are the nations in fear and in trembling? The answer is threefold, according to the Sovereign Pontiff. The first cause is a growing dislike of a simple and laborious life. The remedy for this evil we find in the Joyful Mysteries. The second cause is repugnance to suffering of any kind. The remedy for this evil is found in the Sorrowful Mysteries. The third cause is forgetfulness of our future life and destiny, which ought to be ever present in our minds to inspire us with hope and courage. The remedy for this evil appears in the Glorious Mysteries. Yes, the Rosary gives us the answer to the social problem in that cry of victory: Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat ! Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules.

We see, then, how varied are the aspects of the Rosary. It can adapt itself to every condition, every age, every people. It is a form of prayer so simple in its essence, that anyone, no matter how uneducated or illiterate, can take part in it; in fact, it has been called the psalter of the unlearned. On the other hand, the profundity of its Mysteries makes it the inexhaustible summa of theologians. It is, in truth, the great synthesis of Christianity: all is included in the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, just as all time is encompassed by the two shores of eternity.
It would be interesting to compare the Rosary with the Summa of St. Thomas and with the Christian Churches of the Middle Ages. Each is, in its own way, a compendium of Christianity; each is, as it were, a poem which unfolds before our eyes the plan of the Almighty in all its splendor; each is a monument which has withstood the onslaught of the centuries; each brings us nearer to God and the supernatural; each is quickened by the same divine life. In the Summa, in the ancient cathedral, in the Rosary, the soul experiences that deep joy and contentment which no words can describe; it feels that it has drawn nigh to its true home—to heaven and to God. All three are turned towards the same figure, the dominating figure of Christ; together they form a triple synthesis, a triple teaching, a triple song of love and acknowledgment of the same God and Savior. The first two are examples of human genius, but in the institution of the Rosary divine wisdom has intervened because it is the work of Mary, We should study in detail this great devotion. We wish to show in outline how the Rosary is a summary of all the works of God.
The work of the Almighty may be expressed in two words: creation and redemption. This sums up all the marvels of the real and the ideal. When these two ambitions of God see completion, then the Almighty will be able to rest. In the work of creation God rested after six days, not because His omnipotence was exhausted, but that he might contemplate the work which He had done and reflect that it was good. Et vidit Deus quod esset bonum (Gen. 1:10). But alas! the work of redemption was not to be accomplished so easily or so quickly. The Almighty deferred for a very long time the fulfilment of this cherished desire. He, as it were, allowed Himself to be overcome with fatigue.

To crown a soul with glory or even to endow it with the gift of grace is, in one sense, according to St. Augustine and St. Thomas, a greater act than the creation of heaven and earth. This miracle of grace and of holiness is shown forth in the Rosary. It reveals to us the Author of holiness; it shows us our models in the way of perfection. It instructs us in the practice of holiness. The Author of holiness is Jesus. If we wish to come to a better knowledge and understanding of the Man-God we must study His Heart, His Soul and His Divinity. The Rosary is the book which will teach us all this. Our models in holiness are, after Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph who cooperated with Him in the work of redemption. The Rosary will make us appreciate their true role in the economy of salvation. The practice of holiness comprises the whole ensemble of Christian perfection, from charity in the lowest degree even to heroic charity. The Rosary will initiate us and finally bring us to the highest degree of the spiritual life.

Our work, therefore, will be divided into three parts:
1. The Rosary and the Author of holiness: Jesus.
2. The Rosary and models of holiness : Mary and Joseph.
3. The Rosary and the practice of holiness.
We do not intend to touch on the other aspects of the Rosary as several learned writers have written extensively on these points. Nor is this a deep study of doctrine. We are simply offering to the reader some theological and pious considerations which will be a help to interior souls. We treat the subject from one special viewpoint, so that we may not repeat what has been set forth in previous writings on the Rosary. According to the wishes and in the interest of certain persons, the chapters are so arranged that, while all are logically connected one with the other, each may form in itself a meditation independent of what follows and what precedes. This explains and justifies some repetitions.
May this little book make the Virgin of the Rosary and her Divine Son better known and better loved.

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