REFLECTIONS ON ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE— 10
M. Anna Maria Cànopi, O.S.B.
Benedictine Abbey, Mater Ecclesiae, Island of San Giulio, Orta (Novara)
Rosarium Virginis Mariae
The Rosary brings us closer to Mary, our stairway to Jesus
"You are the fairest of the sons of men / grace is poured upon your lips; / therefore, God has blessed you forever".
We cannot even imagine with what joy and emotion Mary sang this verse of Psalm 45, while she had Jesus before her eyes. No creature more than she, in fact, was able to contemplate so closely the beauty of the face of the Son of God "born of woman", because she was precisely that Woman called to give him flesh and blood.
In his wonderful Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, the Holy Father asserts this with firm conviction:"The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary.... It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she 'wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger' (cf. Lk 2:7). Thereafter, Mary's gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him"(n. 10).
More than any other, Mary leads us to the contemplation of Christ
Every woman who has experienced motherhood knows well how involving the life of the child is, conceived and born in pain and joy; and knows that her existence will be linked forever to its destiny. For this reason Mary, more than any other mother completely preordained for the Person and the mission of that only Son, can guide us to the contemplation of Christ, penetrating in the most hidden depths of his inner nature what is revealed only to the eyes of faith and love. This, in fact, is the most complete and profound form of knowledge of the inner person, able to grasp even the most delicate shades of thought and feeling. Uniting ourselves to her with simplicity and desirous to know the Lord, we can truly make a sure and marvellous journey of authentic contemplation. This will be so only if it does not remain in the abstract, but becomes conformity to Christ, growth in our identity as sons of God, as sons of the Son, called to reproduce in ourselves his own features, his beautiful face of sanctity which is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).
Contemplating the mysteries of Christ is not in fact like looking at pictures in a gallery from which the observer remains detached, drawing from them aesthetic enjoyment at most. To contemplate Jesus means to immerse oneself in Him, in His unfathomable mystery of life and to be imbued with it.
Mary can and wishes to accompany us in this interior journey through the mystery of love which is the Lord Jesus Christ. She does so, as the Holy Father again affirms in his Apostolic Letter, by recounting for us all the "memories" of Jesus she kept carefully enshrined in her maternal heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51).
The Rosary, an exquisitely contemplative prayer, brings before our eyes all of these "memories", which are the "mysteries" of our salvation. Today, in a frenetic civilization, the art of calm recollection and the taste for listening are increasingly being lost, since news is presented at a frenzied pace and often with aggressive language and images. We have all the more need to learn from Mary, therefore, the sweetness of listening, of thoughtfully pausing on what we have heard and of contemplating with ever new wonder what is being revealed to our inner sight.
Mary's 'ecce' and 'fiat' open the doors to heaven and hearts
She begins by recalling the Annunciation brought to her by the angel at Nazareth, and precisely from this "memory" we learn to recognize the announcements of grace which have marked our own spiritual journey as well; we learn above all to welcome the Word of life and to place ourselves — as did the Most Holy Virgin — at His service, to create Him in ourselves and to give Him to others: that is to say, we learn the art of humble and loving adherence in faith to the Word, to God's plan, that our life may become a faithful realization of it.
All of the other mysteries, of joy, of sorrow, and of glory, have their incipit in that ecce and fiat which simultaneously opens the doors of heaven and the doors of our heart, so that the divine and human can meet in an effusion of love which unites for eternity.
If we set out with Mary of Nazareth, it becomes easy for us to understand the mystery of the Visitation as well — in which the solicitude and delicacy of charity towards every creature is expressed — and the Nativity, which leads us to adore the God-with-us in order to be bearers of Him into the world, in the midst of the "distant"; beside Mary, we understand furthermore the mystery of the Presentation in which we ourselves are taught to be both those who offer and the offering; and we arrive at the mystery of the Finding of Jesus in the temple from which we learn the primacy of obedience to the will of the Father in our daily life.
We are thus introduced to the mysteries of the consummation of the sacrifice, and the face of the Suffering Servant appears to us even through the veil of our tears, in the sorrowful events of our lives and those of others. Yet this contemplation, set in the often dark reality of history, receives illumination from the new gem added to the Rosary: the mysteries of light, which Mary interprets with her same silent presence as disciple, Mother and Teacher.
Here we stand before the mystery of the Baptism of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan with the splendid testimony of the Father: "You are my beloved Son;with you I am well pleased" (Lk 3:22). How can we not leap for joy knowing that we too, baptized in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, immersed in the death of Christ and risen with Him, have recovered our resemblance with God, have become sons in the Son, beloved and favoured like Him?
So let us also celebrate, beside Mary, the water transformed into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, understanding that we ourselves are the spouse of the Bridegroom; and with joyous wonder we contemplate in Him the Kingdom already present, which to enter we must be re-born, become children, new men and women. In the same way we are able to ascend Tabor and see for a brief instant — the memory of which endures in our heart — the indescribable light of the face of the transfigured Christ: a ray of His glory before it can be said of Him that "he had no form or comeliness..., a man of sorrows... as one from whom men hide their faces" (Is 53:2-3). But above all we are led to understand — beside Mary — the gift of that Last Supper — the Eucharist— in which is anticipated his death and Resurrection, the coming of the Spirit and our own glorification.
At the end of this journey with Mary, holding fast our gaze upon Jesus, it can truly be exclaimed in choral union with the elect of Heaven: "Now the salvation and power and kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come" (Rev 12:10).
Rosary brings us close to Mary; Mary is our stairway to Jesus
Through the prayer of the Rosary the salvation worked by Christ is truly experienced and strengthened before the recurring assaults of the old adversary who, although already conquered, does not want to give respite to the Son of the Woman and to her descendents. He lays traps, but the Rosary is a chain stronger than his snares; it brings us close to Mary, and Mary is our stairway to Jesus as Jesus is to the Father. This stairway, however, must be climbed without turning back, without shifting our gaze from the shining star.
When children still played innocent games — without monstrous toys and imitation of arms and instruments of war — there was a very meaningful game. One child played the angel at the door of paradise, another played the devil on the side of the road, one or more children played the travellers and the angel called to them one by one: "Little ones of the earth, run here to me!". The child shouted: "I cannot, because of the devil who will catch me.”. Then from the gate of paradise came a soothing voice: "Look neither right nor left and do not turn back, fix your gaze upon me: I will protect you with my wings". Overcoming his fear, the child raced forward and, if he was not caught by the devil, reached the arms of the angel. If, however, he was made prisoner by the devil, he had to be freed. And the angel would run to offer him a hand which he sought to grasp although hindered by the devil.
Could not one see in this game perhaps the role of Mary, who leads us to contemplate her Son? In the sacred Liturgy the Church invokes her as "Morning Star" and luminous "Gate of Heaven": there cannot be a more certain guide for reaching the goal of our "blessed hope" (Ti 2:13). But in order for Mary to help us put on Christ (cf. Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27), to appear before the Father as a spouse "without stain or wrinkle" (Eph 5:27), it is necessary to persevere day after day with her in the “yes" of the Annunciation and in the "yes" of the Cross, to open oneself to the Spirit and to nourish oneself with the Bread of Life, with the food that gives the strength to fight to the last breath the "good fight of faith" (II Tm 4:7).
Mary too had to walk in faith and not with full sight; she too, although living beside Jesus, had to accept the mystery of his Person and believe by seeing beyond appearances. That gaze which was for this reason at times questioning, at others penetrating, saddened, finally radiant and always burning with love, is now turned to us as well. Her gaze reflects the Light which is Christ himself, and so illuminates our way and dissolves the shadows which try to envelop our heart. In this way the sweet chain of the Rosary can become for us a splendid crown of glory.
Weekly Edition in English
25 June 2003, page 9
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