THE MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY
Dom Columba Marmion, O.S.B., Abbot of Maredsous
"If Christ Jesus is the Son of God by His eternal and ineffable birth in the Bosom of the Father," writes Dom Marmion, "He is also the Son of Man by His temporal birth in the womb of a woman.
"This woman is Mary; but she is also a Virgin. It is from her, and from her alone, that Christ takes His human nature. It is to her that He owes His nature as the Son of Man. She is truly the Mother of God. For this reason Mary occupies a position in Christianity which is unique, exalted and essential. Just as Christ's character as the 'Son of Man' cannot be separated from that of the 'Son of God,' so also is Mary united to Jesus; in fact, the Virgin Mary shares in the mystery of the Incarnation by a claim which belongs to the very essence of that mystery.
"This is why the Virgin Mary is associated by such close ties with the economy of the fundamental mystery of Christianity, and, consequently, with our supernatural life that Divine life which comes to us from Christ, the God-Man, and which Christ gives us as God, but through the instrumentality of His human nature. Like Jesus, we too should be a 'Son of God' and also a 'Son of Mary.' He is both the one and the other in a perfect manner. If we wish to reproduce His likeness in ourselves, we should likewise have this two-fold character.
"Our piety would not be truly Christian if it did not include the Mother of the Incarnate Word. Devotion to the Virgin Mary is not only important, but essential, if we want to draw abundantly from the fountain of Divine life. Separating Christ from His Mother in our devotion is tantamount to dividing Christ. To do this is to lose sight of the essential role of His sacred humanity in the dispensation of Divine grace. When the Mother is abandoned, the Son is no longer understood. Has this not been the fate of Protestant peoples? By rejecting devotion to Mary under the pretext of preserving intact the dignity of the one and sole Mediator, have they not ended by losing their faith even in the Divinity of Christ Himself? If Christ Jesus is Our Savior, our Mediator, our Eldest Brother, inasmuch as He assumed our human nature, how shall we really love Him or attain a perfect likeness to Him unless we have a very special devotion to her from whom He received this human nature?
"We ought to imitate Jesus in all things," Dom Marmion writes. "The Eternal Word chose Mary for His Mother; in like manner we should choose her for our Mother and have a childlike devotion to her."
How was this "childlike devotion" practiced by Dom Marmion?
"In the morning, after Mass," he confided to one of his disciples, "when I have Jesus in my heart, I present myself to the Blessed Virgin in order to consecrate myself to her, and I say to her: 'Behold your Son.' O virgin Mary, I am your child; besides, I share in the Priesthood of Jesus; therefore, accept me as your son as you have accepted Jesus. I am unworthy of your generosity; however, I am a member of the Mystical Body of your Divine Son. And He Himself has said, 'as long as you did it for one of these, the least of My brethren, you did it to Me.' I am one of these 'least brethren'; to refuse me would be to refuse Jesus Himself."
Dom Marmion insisted that everyone should determine for himself the practices of piety best suited to express his confidence in the Mother of Jesus and his reverence and love for her, adding that it is not necessary for anyone to overburden himself with such practices, but that it is important to remain faithful to those which he has selected. In his own case, in addition to his self-oblation each morning after Mass and the recitation of the Angelus, he was devoted most especially to the Rosary.
"There," he wrote, "we praise Mary ever united to her Son; we repeat lovingly and unceasingly the greeting addressed to her by the heavenly messenger of the Incarnation; we contemplate Christ in the whole cycle of His mysteries in order to unite ourselves to Him; we congratulate the Virgin Mary on her intimate association with these mysteries, and we give thanks to the Blessed Trinity in the 'Gloria' for all the privileges of the Mother of Jesus."(See the beautiful conference on "The Mother of the Incarnate Word" in Dom Marmion's "Christ is the Life of the Soul.")
"If ever I come to the end of a day without having said the Rosary," he often declared, "I confess that I feel disappointed. There are some people who say: 'The Rosary is a good thing for women and children.' Granted. But what does our Lord say?ï¿½and here his voice would take on the tones of deep earnestnessï¿½: 'Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven.'ï¿½and for my part, I want to go there!..."
Among the many beautiful pages devoted by Dom Marmion to the mysteries of Christ we have selected the following for the sole purpose of helping devoted souls to recite the Rosary better.
Dom Raymond Thibaut, O.S.B. Maredsous Abbey, Belgium
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THE MYSTERIES OF CHRIST IN THE ROSARY
Christ came to earth to be our model.
The Word became Incarnate, not only to bring us the gospel of salvation and to accomplish our redemption, but also to serve as a pattern for our spiritual lives.
Each of Christ's mysteries is a revelation of His virtues. The humility of the crib, the retirement of His hidden life, the zeal of His public life the self-annihilation of His Sacrifice, the glory of His triumph, all these disclose virtues which we must imitate; they are mysteries in which we should participate.
This is the reason why the contemplation of the mysteries of Christï¿½ for instance, while reciting the Rosaryï¿½is so fruitful for the soul. The life, the death, and the glory of Jesus serve as ideal models for our life and death and glory.
Never forget this truth: the Eternal Father is pleased with us only in so far as we imitate His Son and inasmuch as He sees in us the likeness of His Son, for it is in His image that He has predestined us from all eternity.
For us there is no other form of sanctity than that which Christ has shown us. The degree of our perfection is measured by the degree of our imitation of Jesus and of our union with Him.
I. THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES
1. The Annunciation
Picture the scene of the Annunciation. God proposes the mystery of the Incarnation which He will accomplish in the Virgin Maryï¿½but not until she has given her consent. The accomplishment of the mystery is held in suspense awaiting the free acceptance of Mary. At this moment Mary represents all of us in her own person; it is as if God is waiting for the response of the humanity to which He longs to unite Himself. What a solemn moment this is! For upon this moment depends the decision of the most vital mystery of Christianity.
But see how Mary gives her answer. Full of faith and confidence in the heavenly message and entirely submissive to the Divine Will, the Virgin Mary replies in a spirit of complete and absolute abandonment: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word." This "Fiat" is Mary's consent to the Divine Plan of Redemption. It is like an echo of the "Fiat" of the creation of the world. But this is a new world, a world infinitely superior, a world of grace, which God will cause to arise in consequence of Mary's consent, for at that moment the Divine Word, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, becomes Man in Mary: "And the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us."
2. The Visitation
See how the Holy Spirit greets the Virgin Mary through the mouth of Elizabeth: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoke to thee by the Lord."
Blessed indeed, for by this faith in the word of God the Virgin Mary became the Mother of Christ.
What finite creature has ever received honor such as this from the Infinite Being?
Mary gives all the glory to the Lord for the marvelous things which are accomplished in her. From the moment of the Incarnation the Virgin Mother sings in her heart a canticle full of love and gratitude.
In the presence of her cousin Elizabeth she allows the most profound sentiments of her heart to break forth in song; she intones the "Magnificat" which, in the course of centuries, her children will repeat with her to praise God for having chosen her among all women:
"My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid...
Because He Who is mighty has done great things for me
And holy is His name."
3. The Birth of Jesus
The Virgin Mary sees in the Infant that she has given to the world, a child in appearance like all other children, the very Son of God. Mary's soul was filled with an immense faith which welled up in her and surpassed the faith of all the just men of the Old Testament; this is why she recognized her God in her own Son.
This faith manifests itself externally by an act of adoration. From her very first glance at Jesus, the Virgin prostrated herself interiorly in a spirit of adoration so profound that we can never fathom its depth.
In the heart of Mary are joined in perfect harmony a creature's adoration of her God and a Mother's love for her only Son.
How inconceivably great the joy in the soul of Jesus must have been as He experienced this boundless love of His Mother! Between these two souls took place ceaseless exchanges of love which brought them into ever closer unity. O wonderful exchange: to Mary Jesus gives the greatest gifts and graces, and to Jesus Mary gives her fullest cooperation: after the union of the Divine Persons in the Blessed Trinity and the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the Incarnation, no more glorious or more profound union can be conceived than the union between Jesus and Mary.
4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
On the day of the Presentation God received infinitely more glory than He had hitherto received in the temple from all the sacrifices and all the holocausts of the Old Testament. On this day it is His own Son Jesus Who is offered to Him, and Who offers to the Father the infinite homage of adoration, thanksgiving, expiation and supplication.
This is indeed a gift worthy of God.
And it is from the hands of the Virgin, full of grace, that this offering, so pleasing to God, is received. Mary's faith is perfect. Filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, she has a clear understanding of the value of the offering which she is making to God at this moment; by His inspirations the Holy Spirit brings her soul into harmony with the interior dispositions of the heart of her Divine Son.
Just as Mary had given her consent in the name of all humanity when the angel announced to her the mystery of the Incarnation, so also on this day Mary offers Jesus to the Father in the name of the whole human race. For she knows that her Son is "the King of Glory, the new light enkindled before the dawn, the Master of life and death."
5. Jesus is Found in the Temple
"How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" This is the answer that Jesus gave to His Mother when, after three days' search she had the joy of finding Him in the Temple.
These are the first words coming from the lips of the Word Incarnate to be recorded in the Gospel.
In these words Jesus sums up His whole person, His whole life, His whole mission. They reveal His Divine Sonship; they testify to His supernatural mission. Christ's whole life will only be a clarifying and magnificent exposition of the meaning of these words.
St. Luke goes on to tell us that Mary "did not understand the word that He spoke." But even if Mary did not grasp the full significance of these words, she did not doubt that Jesus was the Son of God. This is why she submitted in silence to that Divine Will which had demanded such a sacrifice of her love.
"Mary kept these words of Jesus carefully in her heart." She kept them in her heart, for there was the tabernacle in which she adored the mystery concealed in the words of he Son, waiting until the full light of understanding would be granted her.
II. THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES
1. The Agony in the Garden
It is for the love of His Father above all else that Jesus willed to undergo His Passion.
Behold Jesus Christ in His agony. For three long hours weariness, grief, fear and anguish sweep in upon His soul like a torrent; the pressure of this interior agony is so immense that blood bursts forth from His sacred veins. What an abyss of suffering is reached in this agony! And what does Jesus say to His Father? "Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me." Can it be that Jesus no longer accepts the Will of His Father? Oh! certainly He does. But this prayer is the cry of the sensitive emotions of poor human nature, crushed by ignominy and suffering. Now is Jesus truly a "Man of Sorrows." Our Savior feels the terrible weight of His agony bearing down upon His shoulders. He wants us to realize this; that is why He utters such a prayer.
But listen to what He immediately adds: "Nevertheless, Father, not My will but Thine be done." Here is the triumph of love. Because He loves His Father, He places the Will of His Father above everything else and accepts every possible suffering in order to redeem us.
2. The Scourging
Christ substituted Himself voluntarily for us as a sacrificial victim without blemish in order to pay our debt, and, by the expiation and the satisfaction which He made for us, to restore the Divine life to us. This was the mission which Christ came to fulfill, the course which He had to run. "God has placed upon Him"ï¿½a man like unto ourselves, of the race of Adam, but entirely just and innocent and without sinï¿½"the iniquity of us all."
Since Christ has become, so to speak, a sharer in our nature and taken upon Himself the debt of our sin, He has merited for us a share in His justice and holiness. In the forceful words of St. Paul, God, "by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin-offering, has condemned sin in the flesh." And with an impact still more stunning, the Apostle writes: "For our sakes He (God) made Him (Christ) to be sin who knew nothing of sin." How startling this expression is: "made Him to be sin"! The Apostle does not say "sinner," butï¿½what is still more strikingï¿½"sin"!
Let us never forget that "we have been redeemed at great price by the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
3. The Crowning with Thorns
Christ Jesus becomes an object of derision and insults at the hands of the temple servants. Behold Him, the all-powerful God, struck by sharp blows; His adorable face, the joy of the saints, is covered with spittle; a crown of thorns is forced down upon His head; a purple robe is placed upon His shoulders as a mock of derision; a reed is thrust into His hand; the servants genuflect insolently before Him in mockery. What an abyss of ignominy! What humiliation and disgrace for One before Whom the angels tremble!
The cowardly Roman governor imagines that the hatred of the Jews will be satisfied by the sight of Christ in this pitiful state. He shows Him to the crowd: "Ecce Homoï¿½Behold the Man!"
Let us contemplate our Divine Master at this moment, plunged into the abyss of suffering and ignominy, and let us realize that the Father also presents Him to us and says to us: "Behold My Son, the splendor of My gloryï¿½but bruised for the sins of My people."
4. Jesus Carries the Cross
Let us meditate upon Jesus Christ on the way to Calvary laden with His cross. He falls under the weight of this burden. To expiate sin, He wills to experience in His own flesh the oppression of sin. Fearing that Jesus will not reach the place of crucifixion alive, the Jews force Simon of Cyrene to help Christ to carry His cross, and Jesus accepts this assistance.
In this Simon represents all of us. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we should all help Jesus to carry His Cross. This is the one sure sign that we belong to Christï¿½if we carry our cross with Him.
But while Jesus carried His cross, He merited for us the strength to bear our trials with generosity. He has placed in His cross a sweetness which makes ours bearable, for when we carry our cross it is really His that we receive. For Christ unites with His own the sufferings, sorrows, pains and burdens which we accept with love from His hand, and by this union He gives them an inestimable value, and they become a source of great merit for us.
It is above all His love for His Father which impels Christ to accept the sufferings of His Passion, but it is also the love which He bears us.
5. Jesus Dies on the Cross
At the Last Supper, when the hour had come to complete His oblation of self, what did Christ say to His Apostles who were gathered around Him? "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And this is the love, surpassing all loves, which Jesus shows us; for, as St. Paul says, "It is for us all that He is delivered up." What greater proof of love could He have given us? None.
Hence the Apostle declares without ceasing that "because He loved us, Christ delivered Himself up for us," and "because of the love He bears for me, He gave Himself up for me."
"Delivered," "given"ï¿½to what extent? Even to the death on the cross!
What enhances this love immeasurably is the sovereign liberty with which Christ delivered Himself up: "He offered Himself because He willed it." These words tell us how spontaneously Jesus accepted His Passion. This freedom with which Jesus delivered Himself up to death for us is one of the aspects of His sacrifice which touch our human hearts most profoundly.
III. THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES
1. The Resurrection of Christ
On the day of His Resurrection Jesus Christ left in the tomb the shroud which is the symbol of our infirmities, our weaknesses, our imperfections. Christ comes from the tomb triumphantï¿½completely free of earthly limitation; He is animated with a life that is intense and perfect, and which vibrates in every fibre of His being. In Him everything that is mortal has been absorbed by His glorified life.
Here is the first element of the sanctity represented in the risen Christ: the elimination of everything that is corruptible, everything that is earthly and created; freedom from all defects, all infirmities, all capacity for suffering.
But there is also another element of sanctity: union with God, self- oblation and consecration to God. Only in heaven shall we be able to understand how completely Jesus lived for His Father during these blessed days. The life of the risen Christ became an infinite source of glory for His Father. Not a single effect of His sufferings was left in Him, for now everything in Him shone with brilliance and beauty and possessed strength and life; every atom of His being sang an unceasing canticle of praise. His holy humanity offered itself in a new manner to the glory of the Father.
2. The Ascension of Our Lord
Our Lord said to His Apostles before He departed from them: "If you loved Me, you would indeed rejoice that I am going to the Father." To us also Christ repeats these words. If we love Him, we shall rejoice in His glorification; we shall rejoice with Him that, after completing His course on earth, He ascends to the right hand of His Father, there to be exalted above all the heavens in infinite glory.
But Jesus goes only to precede us; He does not separate Himself from us, nor does He separate us from Himself. If He enters into His glorious kingdom, it is to prepare a place for us there. He promises to return one day to take us with Him so that, as He says, where He is we also may be. True, we are already there in the glory and happiness of Christ, by our title as His heirs; but we shall one day be there in reality. Has not Christ asked this of His Father? "Father, I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me."
Let us then say to Christ Jesus: "Draw us into Your triumphal march, O glorious and all-powerful Conqueror! Make us live in heaven by faith and hope and love. Help us to detach ourselves from the fleeting things of earth in order that we may seek the true and lasting goods of heaven!"
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles
The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of tongues of fire in order to fill the Apostles with truth and to prepare them to bear witness to Jesus. He also come to fill their hearts with love.
He is the Person of Love in the life of God. He is also like a breath, an aspiration of infinite Love, from which we draw the breath of life.
On the day of Pentecost the Divine Spirit communicated such an abundance of life to the whole Church that to symbolize it "there came a sound from heaven, as of a violent wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they (the Apostles) were sitting."
But it is also for us that the Holy Spirit has come, for the group in the Cenacle represented the whole Church. The Holy Spirit came to remain with the Church forever. This is the promise of Jesus Himself. He dwells in the Church permanently and unfailingly, performing in it without ceasing, His action of life-giving and sanctification. He establishes the Church infallibly in the truth. It is He Who makes the Church blossom forth with a marvelous supernatural fruitfulness, for He brings to life and full fruition in Virgins, Martyrs, Confessors, those heroic virtues which are one of the marks of true sanctity.
4. The Assumption of Mary into Heaven
If Christ Jesus wishes us to love all the members of His Mystical Body, should we not love above all others her who gave Him the very nature by which He became our Head, the same nature which He uses to communicate His grace to us? We cannot doubt but that the love which we show to his Mother is extremely pleasing to Christ.
We shall manifest our love by extolling the sublime privileges which Jesus has bestowed on His Mother, among which the Assumption is one of the most glorious. If we wish to please our Lord very much, we shall admire the wonderful gifts with which He has lovingly adorned the soul of His Mother. He wishes that we should sing the praises of the Virgin, who was chosen among all women to give the Savior to the world.
"Yes, we shall sing your praises, for you alone have delighted the heart of your God. May you be blessed, for you have believed the word of God, and in you the eternal promises have been fulfilled."
5. The Coronation of Mary in Heaven
What is the purpose of all the mysteries of Christ? To be the pattern of our supernatural life, the means of our sanctification, the source of all our holiness. To create an eternal and glorious society of brethren who will be like unto Him. For this reason Christ, the new Adam, has associated with Himself Mary, as the new Eve. But she is, much more than Eve, "the Mother of all the living," the Mother of those who live in the grace of her Son.
And since here below Mary was associated so intimately with all the mysteries of our salvation, at her Assumption into heaven Jesus crowned her not only with glory but also with power; He has placed His Mother on His right hand and has given her the power, in virtue of her unique title of Mother of God, to distribute the treasures of eternal life.
Let us then, full of confidence, pray with the Church: "Show yourself a Mother: Mother of Jesus, by your complete faith in Him, our Mother, by your mercy towards us; ask Christ, Who was born of you, to give us life; and Who willed to be your Son, to receive our prayers through you."
Joseph Marmion was born in Dublin in 1858, the son of an Irish father and a French mother. Brought up in the atmosphere of a good Catholic family, he showed signs of a vocation to the priesthood at an early age. After his preparatory studies in Ireland, he was sent to Rome to complete his education and was ordained there in 1881.
On his return journey to Ireland he visited the newly-founded Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium. So impressed was he by his visit that he promised to enter the monastery as soon as he could make the necessary arrangements. Five years passed before his promise could be fulfilled. Having heard the divine call and having received the permission of his bishop, he left home and country and went into a strange land in order to seek God the more intensely.
At his religious profession Joseph Marmion received the name of Columbaï¿½the name by which he would henceforth be known. His talents as a teacher were soon recognized; he was assigned to teach philosophy at Maredsous and was later entrusted with the double responsibility of Professor of Theology and Prior of the Monastery of Mont Cesar in Louvain. But he became better known for his life of prayer and virtue and for the great skill which he showed in the direction of souls.
In 1909 Dom Columba Marmion was elected Abbot of Maredsous. Following in the footsteps of St. Benedict, he was above all the spiritual father of his community. The spiritual writings which are now famous are the outgrowth of the conferences given by Abbot Marmion to his community and of the retreats which he gave to religious outside of his own community. These writings manifest both a depth of theological thought and the warmth of an intense interior life; they are the masterpieces of one who was truly a master of the spiritual life. He passed to his eternal reward on January 30, 1923.
The principal works of Abbot Marmion are:
Christ the Life of the Soul,
Christ in His Mysteries,
Christ the Ideal of the Monk,
Union with God,
Words of Life,
His biography, written by one of his disciples, Dom Raymond Thibaut, is entitled: "Abbot Columba Marmion: A Master of the Spiritual Life."
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Translated and published by the Monks of Marmion Abbey, Aurora, Illinois
Copyright by Gerald Benkert, 1949
Nihil obstat: Hugh Schuck, O.S.B. Censor deputatus
Imprimi potest: Gerald Benkert, O.S.B. Abbot of Marmion Abbey
Imprimatur: John J. Boylan, D.D. Bishop of Rockford
This translation of Dom Columba Marmion's "Les Mysteres du Rosaire" is published with the permission of the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium
Printed by The Abbey Press, St. Meinrad, Indiana.