There are indeed two different ways of contemplating Jesus and his mysteries using our Rosary. One is well known but the other is much less known and understood. The reason we have two ways of saying the Rosary is because we have two types of contemplation.
Contemplation is a supernatural action of God where He gives himself to us as nourishment.
Each type of contemplation nourishes principally (Lat. “principaliter”) a different area of our being. One nourishes essentially our soul (i.e. conscious mind and will) and the other nourishes essentially our spirit (or heart, i.e. supra-conscious part of our mind and will). These two types of food complement each other absolutely.
In the Mass these two types of food – or “breads” – can be found:
1- the first bread is Jesus’ words for us that are “Spirit and Life”, they nourish our soul: our conscious mind and will.
2- the second bread Jesus offers us is his Body and Blood, including his soul, spirit and divinity.
The two moments of manducation, or eating, that follow have, respectively, two moments of digestion: Lectio Divina for the first bread and Prayer of the Heart for the second one.
Those of you who are familiar with the teaching of the “School of Mary” will readily recognise these clarifications about the Spiritual Life, Mass and Contemplation.
Now, to return to the question about the Rosary. The Rosary initially was set up in order to help the poor who could not read in the Middle Ages, to have the possibility of accessing the Gospel. The Gospel was therefore divided into three sets of mysteries, each one dealing with five moments in the life of Jesus. Thus, with Mary, the faithful would be able to remain in contact with the Gospel, with Jesus, his mysteries and be able to benefit from them. So the rosary is not only a “marian devotion”, it is a Gospel; it is about Jesus; contemplation; a listening to the Word. We need to remember this. Of course, Mary is fundamental, because She gives us her eyes and her heart in order to contemplate Jesus and listen in our conscience to his word for us.
Note: the majority of people today have read and heard about Lectio Divina. In light of this would we then have to cancel the Rosary? I think that we need to learn to practise the Lectio Divina “with Mary”, this is fundamental. This means that we need Mary’s heart, mind, will, in order to listen to Jesus and put his word into practice.
Is that all there is to say about the Rosary? What about the second type of contemplation, or food? Would we just omit Mary from this form of contemplation?
I do deeply believe that there is a more silent and quiet way of saying the Rosary, closer in its form to the Prayer of the Heart. In the Prayer of the Heart you have a short prayer that accompanies our movement of lifting our heart to the Lord. Can you bring this to mind? I am convinced, in light of this, that we could use as a prayer the “Hail Mary”, holding our Rosary in our hands. Therefore, in this case we do not “meditate” (or better still: contemplate) one of Jesus’ Mysteries, we are in Jesus, in THE mystery Himself, and we do not need to see or listen to anything, because God, in this type of contemplation pours himself in our heart, directly, while our minds should remain quiet, and in peace.
Note: the Eastern catholic (and orthodox) churches have a different Rosary (chotki), and they use it for the Prayer of the heart (Jesus’ prayer).
It is fundamentally impossible to say the Prayer of the Heart without Mary. As we need to repeat a prayer that has Jesus’ name and/or Mary’s one in it, why then can’t we just hold our (western) rosary in our hands and just say it quietly, silently, having Mary in our heart, with us, She who receives Jesus, and his Holy Spirit?!
Conclusion: we do indeed have two ways of saying the Rosary, and they form a unified whole with the two “Breads” we receive in the Mass, as well as with the extension/prolongation of this manducation in digestion through Lectio Divina and Prayer of the Heart. The two ways are not opposed, or exclusive, but rather they perfectly complement each other. They are both necessary: we need Mary in order to listen to Jesus (contemplate his mysteries in the Gospel) and we also need Mary in order to be immersed in Jesus’ being and receive his Holy Spirit.
It is my hope that this will help and shed an important light for people, as well as liberating many people who would also like to say the Rosary using a type of “contemplation” identical to the type of contemplation involved in the Payer of the Heart, in Adoration and in Communion.
To say that there are two ways of saying the Rosary might be challenging. It is so, simply because we know only one way: divided in two, one is more discursive meditative and one more contemplative (see below *) of saying the Rosary. Many other ways became widespread afterwards, based on just repeating this or that prayer or devotion, composing therefore a “new way” of saying it. But basically it is the same, and it might divert our attention from the original genuine inspiration on how to do it.
Indeed, there is really only one way to say the Rosary: by “meditating” (or contemplating) the Mysteries (3 x 5 mysteries, and recently made 4 x 5 by Pope John Paul II who very cleverly tried to bring us back to its initial meaning. i.e. his Encyclical on the Rosary).
The more we deepen the two types of nourishment we have in our Christian life (“Jesus’ Words” and “His Body and Blood”) the more we will understand these two types of food/Tables of the Mass. Furthermore, we will understand more fully the reasons why we needed two types and not only one. We have two areas in us: the Soul (conscious mind and will,…) and the Spirit (heart, supra-conscious part). Both need to be nourished, and efficiently.
The best way to understand the twofold part of:
1- the human being,
3- the structure of the Gospel,
4- our two foods is to practise two things:
1- Daily Lectio Divina based on the readings of the Mass (in order not to disconnect Lectio from the Mass). During the Mass, we are supposed to receive a personal Word or message from Jesus… through the Readings. We must remain aware that Jesus is amongst us and speaks to us, and that it is not the Priest, or the reader who do so during the Proclamation of the Word.
2- The Prayer of the Heart, or “mental prayer”, or Jesus’ prayer, which is the extension of Communion.
The more one practises these two types of prayer, the more one will enter more and more fully and intimately “into the Mass”. The more one will be able to discern the two different types of Contemplation – “Contemplation” which today is hardly heard of.
The first type of contemplation is an understanding of a word coming from Jesus (showing us His will, today) and putting it into practice (so it becomes incarnate in us, it becomes part of us, a new “knowing”). This contemplation is clear to our minds and understandable by our brains. When Jesus speaks to you and explains His will to you, He is clear. Otherwise your Lectio has not been done properly. Unfortunately, today we tend to mix Lectio with Silent Prayer (Prayer of the Heart); each is a proper manducation.
The second type is exactly what happens to you when you have just received Communion: He is there, He acts, we are immersed in Him. We should remain in this state for a longer time, either immediately after Mass or at another time of the day. Teresa of Avila suggests two hours, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. This “contemplation” is Jesus pouring Himself and His Spirit into us. We need that nourishment. Unfortunately, this form of contemplation is also very rarely heard of.
Now: Most significantly we can, we may, we should undertake both “eating moments” with Mary.
When we repeat “Hail Mary… Pray for us” we are asking Her (see video lesson 2 a and 2 b Course 2011) to lift us, place us in her very being and give us her heart and her mind in order to contemplate Jesus and receive Him and his Spirit.
Therefore, repeating the “Hail Mary” is like having a buoy that maintains us in Mary, at her level, placed in front of Jesus and at His level.
Now, back to our question: the ways of saying the Rosary.
One way follows the Manducation of the first Table of the Mass: meditating the Mysteries of Jesus’ life. The other follows the Manducation of the second Table of the Mass: sinking in Him, being immersed in Him, going back to our last Communion (stored in us) and allowing it to continue its effects in us.
Hopefully this will be of help for even if it looks “new”, it is not new at all. Let us take one simple example which will clarify my meaning:
If you are in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and you hold your Rosary in your hands, would it be wrong? Obviously not. If you Adore Jesus with the Heart of Our Lady, would that be wrong? Would you need to meditate any Mystery of his life, or would you just throw yourself in His Arms, since He is lovingly exposed to you, opening the Furnace of His love (His Heart) to you? At that point your mind does not need any Mystery upon which to meditate as you have chosen the direct way of the heart: He is Here, He is The Mystery of the Mysteries, and you throw all yourself in Him. Wouldn’t you do that with Mary and in her? The obvious answer is, “Yes”.
This is what I mean by “the second contemplative way of saying the Rosary”. You do not meditate on any of his Mysteries which would be more of a Lectio Divina. He is Here in front of you and He is The Mystery of Mysteries.
This is what I do during Mental Prayer: I take my Rosary, and, silently, I say it, but I do not meditate, this would be coming out of the Immersion in THE Mystery: Jesus.
There is a time for Lectio Divina and there is a time for Prayer of the Heart (Mental Prayer). The same and parallel to it there is a time for meditating the Rosary (as we know it: with Mysteries), and there is a time for a more silent way of saying the Rosary: in silence, just holding our Rosary, and being immersed in Jesus.
We need to deepen the practise of daily Lectio Divina, it boosts everything. And we should never forget daily “mental prayer” (Prayer of the Heart). Other devotions should proceed from them and not the opposite. Mary is absolutely present in Lectio Divina and in the Prayer of the Heart, otherwise contemplation could not work. Meeting Jesus happens always in Her Heart, never outside, this is the Logic of Incarnation.
* Some observations on the actual normal most popular way of saying the Rosary
Is it really contemplative or not?
you certainly would have noticed what I mentioned in the beginning of this article when I said: “we know only one way (divided in two, one more discursive meditative and one more contemplative) of saying the Rosary”.
What I meant by “divided in two” is that even the way we know of saying the Rosary drifts toward a non-contemplative way, more discursive if not simply blindly ascetic/moralistic.
Thus, when we say the Rosary, we often focus more on the repetition of the “Hail Mary” and forget that the Rosary is meant to be said: in Mary, with her heart and mind, but focused on Jesus and on one of His Mysteries. The reason we repeat the “Hail Mary” is because we need to receive the gift of her mind and heart in order to be placed in her in front of Jesus. The Mystery we are focusing on will “ooze out”, and something from it will be given to us. This is contemplation.
Then too, we tend to use our mind too much, in more of a discursive meditative way, instead of a “contemplative way”. So what we “contemplate” becomes more the fruit of our mind instead of being the supernatural gift of Our Lord.
It is comparable to a person holding his Bible in his hand and trying to pray. Therefore, he or she can pray in a at least two ways: one supernatural (contemplation), and one just with the normal activity of the brain (meditation) under the general light of faith. The difference is simply huge. No comparison. It is the difference between the “General help of the Grace of God” and the “Particular help of the Grace of God”. Teresa of Avila says that if we do not understand the difference we can’t really dive deeply into Spiritual Life, and that we are missing the point (See Life 14,6). Please see the link to this Article here.
There is a difference between reading and meditating a passage from the Scripture (like a mystery of the Rosary, i.e. contemplating) and doing so just by reading, meditating, thinking, reflecting, deducing, with the normal light of Faith that is given to us.
In sum, listening to God, to Jesus, giving us a Word that is supposed to change and modify our days, is something very different from just “meditating”.
The same applies to the Rosary.