An Aside: On Meditating while “Saying the Rosary”

There are a myriad of ways to “say the rosary,” that is to say all the prayers while contemplating on the various mysteries. While on my own I may not be able to come up with a new way to approach today’s mystery for the umpteenth hundred time, if I start out asking the help of Mary and the Holy Spirit in offering my prayer to the Father for His glory, they pull out of their bag of tricks amazing insights each and every time.

For example, one such that they shared with me is an Allegory of the Sorrowful Mysteries. You need to pull way, way, way back to see this one, and go with the flow. And please realize that my description will not in any way do justice to the real contemplation. Nor does it plumb even the shallows of these mysteries, for that is what they are, not just human, but Divine Mysteries, played out on our human stage. Therefore, we shall never be able to grok them in their entirety.

The Agony in the Garden is just what it says, an individual’s “struggle for victory in the games”[1] of life. Jesus prayer and our prayer is to avert the inevitable in one form or another. It is for relief from this constant struggle and especially for the much more horrific ultimate struggles yet to come. If I follow Christ, if I take up my cross daily, then I, too, must end in ultimate obedience to the Father’s will, no matter where or to what it leads.

The Trial before the Jews[2] from an eschatological or end-time perspective, is the continuous avoidance and denunciation of God by the so-called righteous. They will not recognize who Jesus really is, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah, until ultimately He comes again in power and majesty, our Judge and our Savior, the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. [Mk 14:62] This rejection, this mangling of the gift of revelation in an attempt to fit our meager understandings, our petty power schemes, will be reenacted over and over again until the ultimate revelation. And it will be amazing who will not get it, who will not truly believe, who will so distort the image of the true God as to make idols of their own imagination. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” [Mt 7:21-23] Lord, help me not fall into that trap.

The Trial before the Gentiles, also from an eschatological perspective, is the continual lack of recognition and acceptance by society and in particular, by those political and social powers in society of the reality of God, the reality of Jesus as the King of Creation, of the Universe, of the Cosmos. Like Pilate, even understanding, though accompanied by a refusal and rejections of the implications thereof, will come in stages, first of Jesus, of God as a criminal without charge other than being what the Jews did not want, “What charge do you bring [against] this man?”…“If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” [Jn 18:29-30] Separation of Church and State has its good points, e.g. non-interference, the freedom to practice one’s religion, but it also has its bad points, e.g. by implication, separation of Morals and State, Conscience and State, Divinely instituted ethics and State, regardless of the fact that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them. [Rom 2:15] The State and society also recognizes that the Church, by giving bread, hope and healing to the masses, he threatened their ability to rule, their status quo. Note the echo of Jesus first temptation in desert just after his Baptism before the beginning of his ministry . [Mt 4:3-4]

Then Pilate acknowledges Him as a King, but “My kingdom does not belong to this world,” [Jn 18:36] an echo of the third temptation. [Mt 4:8-10] Finally, the Jews tell Pilate: We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God, [Mt 19:7] the final echo of the second temptation.[3] [Mt 4:5-7] [4]

The Carrying of the Cross Here, Jesus has already invited us to join Him. If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Following Jesus requires self-denial and the steadfastness in accepting life as God’s will unfolding one moment at a time, one joy, one sorrow at a time. This is the cross, the constant fluctuation, the control in God’s hands, the suffering, derision, rejection, being counted among the outcast, the marginalized. We will be called upon to witness to Christ, to testify with our actions, our words, our thoughts, our way of life that we follow Him. To be strong, resilient, faithful in His service is the life to which we are called.

But I cannot carry my cross alone. I will stumble, fall, sink beneath its weight, the weight of my sins, my sinfulness, the sinfulness of the world. Humanities realization of our own frailty may explain the addition of the three falls in the Stations of the Cross. Though not based on Scripture, these resonate with the reality of our own experience in carrying our crosses. We will need the help of our loved ones, our family, our friends, the Church, even strangers as in Jesus case. From Veronicas who wipe our face to Simons who help carry our cross, our journey up Calvary’s hill of life must be populated with caring strangers who lend us a hand on our way.

The Crucifixion The final scene of each life. The top of Calvary. Death come to us all. And no matter what form it may take, to the person involved, it is her or his Calvary. It is time to wrap up one’s life. It is time to forgive and be forgiven. It is time to come to terms with heaven and hell. It is time to hand over all to others. It is time to put loved ones for whom we have cared in the hands of God and of each other. It is time to confront God, ask Him where He is and demand He come. It is time to eat and drink one last time this side of eternity. It is time to place myself in the only hands that can lead me through the door of death into life eternal. It is a time of sadness, yes, but also joy. It is a time of faith. It is a time of hope. It is a time of love. It is time for time to become eternity. This is the Eternal Now.

[1] The original meaning in the Greek according to the online etymology dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php? term=agony

[2] I have substituted this and the “Trial before the Gentiles” in the second and third sorrowful mystery slots to give a more complete Scriptural recounting of all that went on in the passion, not just the particularly brutal Scourging and the sadistic Crowning which, though certainly worthy of contemplation on their own merit, are only parts of the event.

[3] Luke concludes his version of the temptations in the desert with the teaser: When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. [Lk 4:13] Luke reminds us of this in the Garden: this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness. [Lk 22:53]

[4] The abrupt ending of this decade without satisfactory closure is both realistic and a lesson in prayer. The underlying prayers come to an end and, according to them, I am to move on to consider the next mystery. It is rather like a museum tour where the guide rushes you through from exhibit to exhibit, but you paid for the tour so you feel compelled to keep up. But, in reality, there is no hurry. It is best to take Ignatius’ recommendation to heart: “I will remain quietly meditating upon the point in which I have found what I desire, without any eagerness to go on till I have been satisfied.”
Ignatius of Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Kindle Locations 341-342). Kindle Edition.

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