February 9, 2007

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Prayer: The Hail Mary and the rosary

John F. Fink(Sixteenth in a series)

Bible Christians should be attracted to the Catholic Church’s prayer to Mary, the Hail Mary, because the first part of the prayer is taken directly from the Bible.

“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” were the words of the Archangel Gabriel when he appeared to ask Mary to be the mother of God.

“Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus” are the words of Elizabeth when Mary visited her.

In the second half of the prayer, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death,” we confess our faith that Mary is indeed the mother of God because Jesus is God and she is his mother. Since Jesus is only one person, with both a human and a divine nature, Mary is the mother of that one person.

The prayer asks Mary to pray for us, to intercede with God for us. Catholics believe that all the saints in heaven can pray for us; it is belief in the communion of saints that Christians say they believe when they recite the Apostles’ Creed.

Mary, as the mother of God, is honored as the greatest of saints so it is natural that we would ask for her intercession.

The rosary is considered a Marian prayer because we pray the Hail Mary 10 times for each decade. Actually, the entire rosary includes 150 Hail Marys, divided into 15 decades with an Our Father between each decade, but the rosary most of us are familiar with is only one-third of the entire rosary.

It’s not easy to say the rosary if one does it properly. The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the mysteries of our salvation, on the events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Although the prayer said most often with the rosary is the Hail Mary, the main focus is on the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. These are the “mysteries” or events that the pray-er thinks about while praying the rosary.

The rosary has been called the perfect Christian prayer because it combines prayer, meditation and Scripture. The repetition of prayers is meant to create an atmosphere in which to meditate on the mysteries of our salvation as revealed in Scripture.

Pope Paul VI said, “By its nature the recitation of the rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord’s life as grasped by the heart of her who was closer to the Lord than all others.”

The meditations are usually divided into four groups, the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of our salvation. Besides these mysteries, some people meditate on other events in the life of Christ.

The rosary has been a popular devotion through the centuries. It’s a devotion that honors Mary but, as all true devotion to Mary must do, it leads us to her Son. †

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