As Catholics, most of us have one of these in our pocket, purse, in a drawer, or sitting on our desk. We use it as a form of prayer and meditation, but do you know the history of the rosary as it is today and how we use it?
While the exact origin of the original rosary is debatable and is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, scholars generally believe that a form of knotted prayer ropes were used in the 3rd and 4th centuries by some of the eastern religious orders as well as in pre-Christian times. Also, the original rosary dated back to the 9th century where Irish monks would recite and chant the 150 Psalms of the Bible as a part of their worship.
The traditional story that many believe centers around St. Dominic. In the early 12th century, St. Dominic received a vision from the Blessed Mother and from that vision, created a new rosary. The rosary as we know it today went through several changes throughout the years. It wasn’t completed until the early 16th century and has remained virtually unchanged ever since.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (971, 2708) state the following; 971) “All generations will call me blessed”: “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion. . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration. The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an “epitome of the whole Gospel,” express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.
2708) Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.
While many non-Catholics believe the rosary is not needed or is solely a devotion to worship Mary, it actually consists of the Joyful, Glorious, Sorrowful, and Luminous Mysteries which are typically prayed on certain days throughout the week. Let us take a closer look at each one.
The Joyful Mysteries
• The Annunciation: The Archangel Gabriel “announces” to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.
• The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.
• The Nativity: Jesus is born.
• The Presentation: Mary and Joseph “present” Jesus in the Temple where they meet Simeon.
• The Finding in the Temple: After losing Him, Mary and Joseph find young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
The Luminous Mysteries (The Mysteries of Light)
• The Baptism in the Jordan: The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.
• The Wedding at Cana: Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.
• The Proclamation of the Kingdom: Jesus calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him.
• The Transfiguration: The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ.
• The Institution of the Eucharist: Jesus offers the first Mass at the Last Supper with his apostles, establishing the sacramental foundation for all Christian living.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
• The Agony in the Garden: Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.
• The Scourging at the Pillar: Pilate has Jesus whipped.
• The Crowning with Thorns: Roman soldiers crown Jesus’ head with thorns.
• The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus meets His mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.
• The Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies before His mother and His apostle John.
The Glorious Mysteries
• The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead.
• The Ascension: Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily “ascends” to heaven.
• The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.
• The Assumption: Mary is taken bodily–assumed–into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.
• The Coronation: Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Mysteries for Certain Weekdays
Traditionally, many people pray the Joyful Mysteries on Monday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday, the Joyful Mysteries again on Saturday and the Glorious Mysteries again Sunday.
As one can see, the rosary does not solely focus on the Blessed Mother, rather, we can use this as a tool to help us meditate and focus on the sacred Mysteries as they relate to both Jesus and Mary.
So let us find our rosary and pray, just as a protestant sings a hymn from a book, or a rabbi lights a menorah for Chanukah, the rosary is just another way in which we can reflect on our own spirituality as we travel down our chosen path to further deepen our faith.