We have two ways of praying the Rosary:
1. As in Lectio Divina: contemplating the different Mysteries of Jesus’ life, with Mary’s eyes. This is the classical usual way of meditating on the mysteries of the Lord’s life.
2. As in the Prayer of the Heart: immersed by Mary in Jesus’ Being. This method, can be used during the Prayer of the Heart, and is a more simple, deeply contemplative way of praying the Rosary. Even if it is less known, it is not of lesser importance.
Just as the Mass has two parts and neither excludes the other with both of equal importance, so also it is with the Rosary and both these methods should be used.
In previous posts (82 and 83) I explained the existence of these two ways of praying the Rosary. In this post I would like to speak more about some aspects of saying the Rosary during Prayer of the Heart. If you want to know more about the two methods, please read posts: “Two ways to say the Rosary” I and II in Post in the section on Our Lady. When in this post I will mention the word “rosary” it will allude to the physical rosary and not to the classical prayer we know with the 4 sets of mysteries.
In a another article, Distractions during “Prayer of the Heart”, we mentioned that during the Prayer of the Heart, in order to reduce the influence of the distractions, it is advisable to pray the decades of the rosary after having made the offering of oneself to Jesus, and placing oneself in the hands of Mary. Here the “hands” are very literal; while your heart is raised in prayer, we are holding the rosary which Mary herself has given to us.
Why and how do we do this? First, we will look at the physical rosary itself and how we should view it and use it.
Holding your own rosary
It is advisable during Prayer of the Heart to hold our very own personal rosary, not one belonging to someone else. A rosary is a personal religious item. In one of her apparitions to St Bernadette, Our Lady noticed that Bernadette wasn’t holding her own rosary – in fact someone else had lent her one. Our Lady noticed this and asked her: “where is your rosary?”
Some people have a fanciful collection of rosaries: one for this, one for that, etc. It is better to unify our habits in our prayer life adopting the simplicity of having only one and just keeping and using the same rosary.
Characteristics of Choosing a Rosary
A good choice would be if our rosary had the following characteristics:
Simple: no excess of size, ornamentation or medals attached to it. It is not its price or its beauty that matters, but the real use we make of it. It is usually blessed by a Priest, and as well blessed and made ours by all the prayers said using it.
Discreet: it is between you and God. No noise (as some are quite noisy), not flashy. One with wooden beads and solid string is quite discreet. Some can have very small beads making it more convenient to carry in a pocket.
Solid: many do break, especially during the night, so it is better to choose one with nylon (or similar) strings and strong beads.
The Meaning of Holding a Rosary in your Hands
What does it mean to hold our rosary physically in our hands? It expresses:
1- A sincere outright dependence on Mary, knowing that we have recourse to her prayers, her fire, and her intimate knowledge of the wisdom and discernment of Jesus.
2- It is our personal Rosary and not that belonging to anyone else. Our body prays. It grounds us.
3- It is comparable to physically holding Mary’s hands. The Rosary is Mary’s prayer given to us. It is Her way of praying with the quality of the fire of her love.
4- It is like receiving the “Good Soil”, the “New Wineskin”, the “New Heart of Flesh” and deciding to use it in order to love God. As long as we are here on earth, with our human condition, our body participates in our prayer and we pray as a unit: body, soul and spirit. We are not three persons, or three beings, we are one being, one person, and our body is part of our prayer. Even at the highest point of our prayer – i.e. the point that is touched by God, our spirit – we are one unit. Therefore, we cannot totally neglect the presence of our body. So holding physically our own rosary is a humble but important part of our prayer. It acknowledges that God’s action and intervention in the world reaches the most humble part of His creation; the Lord has affirmed that even a hair from our head doesn’t fall without God knowing and seeing it (see Gospel Mt 9:30). Therefore by physically holding the rosary, our body confesses that God embraces all that He has created through His Incarnation. All the created world belongs to God. Although we are not angels – heavenly beings – but humans, we are the earthly “mediators” of the work of sanctification, acting for and with Jesus, our real true Mediator.
What is the Meaning of the Beads?
Using the rosary during the Prayer of the Heart, the beads can be seen as:
– Roses sent to God, by the hands of Mary.
– Impulses of Divine Pure Love (by the hands of Mary),
– A more modern comparison we can say that the beads (saying one “Hail Mary”) embody our acts of love for God and that they are like: “sparks” of divine energy” sent to God. Remember the ineffable groans of the Holy Spirit praying in us (Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”).
For instance, every time we say one “Hail Mary”, in fact we send an impulse of love, we make an act of Love, we send an arrow of Love to God. When we say to the Mother of God: “Pray for us sinners” in fact we are asking her to lift us up to God, so our prayers which come from God, through Mary return to God. Lifts us up Mary, so we can love God with your own capacity of Love, with your own Fire of Love.
There is a danger of transforming the physical holding of the rosary or the rosary itself into idolatry by unconsciously falling into mechanical repetition and not internalising our relationship with Jesus, generating true prayer. The rosary is not an idol or a talisman. Mary’s hand is not an idol. Even Jesus’ body is not an idol. We aim for the entire Jesus, who is God. Only He is God. Holding the Rosary is like holding Mary’s Hand. It doesn’t generate prayer. What establishes the contact with God is the fact that we offer ourselves to Jesus in the Hands of Mary.
Holding the rosary in our hands essentially facilitates the silent quiet repetition of the Hail Marys.
Holding it tighter will not increase the intensity of our prayer.
It should not become too tense or stressful for the hand. We relax and rest in God during the Prayer of the Heart. We abandon ourselves (letting go) to God and in God.
Whilst our body participates in our prayer, it is the heart that prays. God is Spirit. It is in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit that we pray truthfully.
While praying in the company with others, when sincerely they pray to Our Lady, when they hold their Rosary in their hand, when they ask her to “pray for them” (“Pray for us sinners”), I always notice a powerful boost in the connection with the Lord: immersion in Him and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
(See the continuation 2/2 next post)
Note: The Eastern Churches’ Rosary (Called чётки – chotki) is used essentially for the Prayer of the Heart – also known as the Jesus Prayer. It is composed of 33 knots (the years of Jesus’ life on earth) or 11 (1/3 x 33) or 99 (3 x 33) knots. In fact the above-mentioned method uses of the the Western Rosary in the same way the Eastern Churches do with theirs.
The repetition of the the Hail Mary goes with the natural rhythm of our breathing. Not faster, not slower.