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The Beads of October

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It is the month of October. For us Catholics in the Philippines at least, it is the month of the Holy Rosary. The theme of the month comes from the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7) which was instituted to commemorate Christian victory in the Battle of Lepanto. All wars are externalizations of the inner struggle against sin and the Devil. The Battle of Lepanto was a singular victory achieved through the rosary. The memory of that battle is a monument to the triumph that the Christian can have in his/her personal "agonia" through the power of prayer, especially in the meditation of the Rosary.

I learned to pray the rosary at school. I wasn’t particularly pious, but a lot of my classmates were. We used to pray the rosary during the religious education hour, once a week. It was the rosary hour, and we prayed all the mysteries, from the joyful ones to the glorious mysteries. That was the time too when I heard the word "mystery" for the first time applied to the events in the life of Jesus and Mary. I had a classmate whom the teacher always called upon to lead the rosary, and he would in very distinct English announce each of the mysteries and what those mysteries contained. In that way, even before I read anything from the Bible, I already had an idea of what the Gospels contained.  

"Mystery" is a big word. Now we associate it to something that could not be perceived nor understood in a human way. That is just one of the nuances of the word. In fact, it originally meant a secret of God that can only be known by human beings to whom God reveals it. The secret is about the end times and is tied up with the future that God plans for His people. In the New Testament, Paul writes that this secret has been revealed by God in Christ. It is now Christ that reveals all the Wisdom of God. In fact, He is the Wisdom of God.

In the Liturgy of the Church, the word "mysterion" acquired two further nuances: translated into Latin, it became "sacramentum", the sign that purveys the grace of God contained in the mystery. Translated as "mysterium", it meant the grace of God itself. So now we talk of the "sacramentum" (external sign) which conveys the "mysterium" (divine grace). It is from this latter meaning that the word "mystery" can now be used in reference to the events of Christ’s life. If Christ is "The Mystery", then His whole life is shot through with God’s grace, and meditating on these events allow one to access the graces proper to each one. And so at the end of the recitation of the rosary we pray" 

O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
Grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries in the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise: through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Before Rosarium Virginis (2002), there were only the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries which were assigned to different days of the week. On Mondays and Thursdays, we prayed the Joyful Mysteries; on Tuesdays and Fridays, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Glorious mysteries. Now that Pope John Paul II has added the Mysteries of Light, I now have a mystery that I can pray before sleeping in addition to the mysteries of the day.

One of the things that I like about meditating on the mysteries of the rosary is that I can use each mystery as a kind of catalogue to which I can attach related bible passages, remarkable sermons, ideas picked from books… That way, the mystery of the Annunciation can be associated not only with Mary’s "fiat" but also with the way she began to share with God’s project. That way too, the mystery of Christ’s Agony in the Garden is associated not only with Jesus’ "fiat" but also with every Christian’s "yes" to the will of God that is discerned in one’s life. In this way, whether joyful, sorrowful or glorious, the rosary becomes a means to meditate on one’s life and human existence in general in the light of the events of the life of Mary and Jesus.


Perhaps people may think that I am cerebral in my meditation of the rosary. The fact is, it has been often the mysteries of the rosary that make me sensitive to certain ideas that I hear or read from others. One of the things that has made the Mysteries of Light my favorite meditation is the wealth of insights I gain whenever I pray it. From the Baptism of Jesus until the Institution of the Eucharist, there is such a rich variety of materials present that even the preparation of a sermon or a platica becomes easy after meditating on the Mysteries of Light.  

I think that one of the reasons why people who have gotten used to praying the rosary are also attentive to the Gospel reading at Mass and find it unnecessary to read the Scriptures by themselves. The mysteries of the rosary are mental images that have stories, stories which are purveyed by the liturgy through the seasons of Christmas (Joyful), Lent (Sorrowful,) Easter (Glorious) and Ordinary Time (Light). So one who really prays the rosary and is at-home in it, are or will eventually, find him/herself at home in the Mass and in the liturgy of the Church. It is also for this reason that fundamentalists would find it difficult to recruit Catholics who continually grow in their prayer of the rosary.  

Not many people realize this, but for several centuries, average Catholics — Catholics who were not monks or priests or religious — were listening to the Scriptures as these were proclaimed during the Mass. "Faith comes from hearing" after all. For these devotees, the mysteries of the rosary were like mental organizers that helped them sort the scripture passages that they have heard at different times of the year. Catholics may confuse Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and think that they were born after the Exodus. But they never confuse the events of Jesus’ life. It is also for this reason that the rosary is a great pastoral tool. Children and old people who are uncomfortable with the printed page can be taught the catechism through the rosary.  

October is the month of the Holy Rosary. It is not only about Mary. It is about Jesus and Mary, the New Adam and the New Eve, she whom the Lord addressed as "Woman." To meditate on its mysteries is to immerse oneself in the events of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Mary. It is a school of prayer, and a portable one too; one can pray it anywhere, anytime. Paul VI called it the "epitome of the whole Gospel " (Marialis cultus, 42). It is meditation that should lead to contemplation, what Teresa of Avila calls "a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. (CCC 2709)." It is a means for getting to know the Lord and of being united with Him (CCC 2708-09). If you haven’t learned how to pray the rosary, October is a good month to start.

Originally posted 2011-10-07 22:09:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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