Our Lady of the Rosary

by Fr. Basil Harnish, O.Praem.


Sometimes in our petitions to our Lady we can be a little unenthusiastic. We can lack a certain boldness out of fear that we might actually get what we want. But the devotion of the rosary teaches us to lay it all on the line and to be bold. We ought to go beyond the confines of our rigid imaginations, the mathematical exactitude of reasoned-out-syllogisms, and let the mysteries of the rosary illuminate the mysteries of our hearts.

Stretching this premise a little further, we might be so bold as to use the didactic action of our Savior in today’s Gospel to show in what way he could honor this most worthy Queen of the rosary on her feast day. First His disciples say, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” And then [Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee…. pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.’

The first request from the disciples to their master is to teach them to pray like St. John the Baptist and his followers. Recall that this ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ was the first to proclaim the greatness of our Lady by leaping for joy in his mother’s womb. He then becomes the effective cause of his mother’s proclamation that Mary is “blessed among all women.” In other words, St. John’s hyperdulia1 towards the Virgin most holy, sparks devotion among his followers and teaches them to rejoice at the person of Mary. The fruit of our love for the Mother of our redeemer is to ignite that same love in the hearts of others, whether through the flesh, as with blessed Elizabeth, or through the all-penetrating Spirit of God through the gift of the rosary.

Certainly we can say that our Lord taught the ‘Our Father’ to His disciples. This most holy prayer is said to encompass all our petitions and prayers such that if any were to fall outside the scope of the ‘Our Father’ they would hardly be prayer at all. But did our Lord say the ‘Hail Mary’? Could he pray the ‘Hail Mary’? In a way ‘yes’ and in a way ‘no.’

The Incarnate Word was free from all personal sin so it would be rather complicated if He were to ask His blessed mother to pray for us sinners, here including our Lord in the list of sinners. This ‘us’ implies that the Word made flesh might have some culpability for sin and therefore this would obfuscate the purpose of His Incarnation.

But if we understand this plea from our Lord to mean, pray for us sinners, as ‘the Mystical Body of Christ’ which is united to its head, Jesus our Lord; then we can reconcile any apparent contradictions. As members of the Body of Christ, we are flawed and fallen. We are sinners from the moment of our conception and in need of a mediator to justify us in the presence of the Father. Still, our Lord cries out, “I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfectly united, so that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them just as You loved Me.” He prays in every member for the intercession of the Immaculate Conception. So we can say with a certain ease that we pray the Hail Mary with and in Christ.

This union in Christ is accomplished by the ‘fiat’ of a humble handmaid from whose hands all graces flow. As the pre-eminent member of the Mystical Body she dispenses graces to each and all of its members. Truly there is not a single grace that does not flow through her maternal hands. But how did she obtain such a lofty grace? In her acceptance of the Incarnate God, within her ever virginal womb, she broke open the doors of paradise. She suffered with a co-redeeming agony unparalleled by mere creatures and she redeemed the world. If it were possible for God, He would not merely bow down and adore her, but dare I say, He would exalt her even above the Trinity. Such is the humility of God. Lastly, He spared nothing in order to make Himself so small so as to save the world from within the confines of a hidden cave in the house of bread, Mary the true Bethlehem, tabernacle of the Most High. Maybe I am wrong…I suppose that one can address any complaints to her ‘Who comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, more terrible than an army set in array.’

1The superlative form of veneration to the saints.

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