In this wonderful little book on the Rosary, Stephen Redmond SJ takes each of the mysteries in turn, re-examines them through Scripture, and reflects on them in verse. Seeing the Rosary as a presentation of high-points of the drama that is the Gospel, Fr Redmond also gives scriptural references for the specific mysteries, allowing scope for further study and examination at the readers leisure. A lovely resource for individual or group use, this book will help reinvigorate the praying of the Rosary and resituate it as a special Catholic tradition.
Stephen Redmond SJ is a Jesuit priest, author and composer. Previously a history teacher, he has a great interest in the lives of saints.
There was some surprise last year when the ‘Hail Mary’ was voted the most popular prayer in Ireland. Despite the onslaught of an invigorated atheism and aggressively proclaimed secularism in the public domain and the virtual disappearance of the family Rosary from the average Irish Catholic home this ancient prayer and the Rosary through which it reaches its prayerful potential continues to permeate the consciousness of devout and occasional Catholics alike.
I have yet to attend a wake or funeral where the overwhelming majority of those present don’t participate fully in this traditional and much loved prayer form even if there is some confusion over the ‘Mysteries’. In his latest publication The Rosary Drama – A Scripture-Based Commentary and Contemplation Stephen Redmond SJ re-examines the Mysteries of the Rosary, including Pope John Paul II’s historic addition of the ‘Luminous Mysteries’.
Each of the four chapters of the 80 page volume examines and illuminates the contents of the specific mystery and provides a suitable reflection and poem as well as scripture references. It should prove to be a useful prayer and liturgical resource for individuals as well as with groups and reaffirms the value and richness of this much loved prayer and tradition.
- Fr Paul Clayton-LeaClogherhead, Co Louth
A prayer to celebrate a Mothers joy
the rose, the lovely flower of ecstasy
and so rosarium, a rose-ringed lawn
to give the prayer its name
The Light-years: now a man, still Marys Boy
the teaching, healing, friendship, majesty
and then the Passion-night, the Easter-dawn
the Spirits wind and flame
A drama surely this, a work of art
a text of Loves achievements, promises
a true-to-life, a hope-filled action-play
whose final act is joy
The Rosary: a prayer of words and heart
dear readers of this book: my prayer is this:
that it may bring you closer day by day
to Mary and her Boy.
Ar theachaireacht an aingil dóbhrais briathar ghr?í
is g?®ill tó f?®in do Ghr?í siora?¡ ó l?í go l?í
An Chuairt, Magnificat, an Bhreith, an ceol san ngaoith
is Seosamh-d?¡l is Simeon is fir an dl?¡
A Mhuire, Maighdean-M?íthair, stó ?ír ngr?í
Announcement and response: be it done to me
the Visit, bringing Christ in courtesy
the Birth, the manger, shepherds, song-filled night
the offering and sword, the nations light
seeking, finding, home, obedient Son
THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES
The first two chapters of Lukes gospel (apart from the short prologue) can be described as mainly a meditation on the infancy and childhood of Jesus: a meditation with a focus on his redemptive mission and destiny, a family life pre-view of elements of his public life. Scholars note that the Greek text of the meditation is strongly based on Aramaic, then widely spoken in Palestine, which indicates Aramaic-speaking sources, one of which could well have been Our Lady. Indeed we could say that Luke shaped his text (some of it poetical) largely out of family memories and traditions.
I like to think that he wrote the Annunciation text with special reverence.
Gabriel (hero/strength of God) is presented as sent by God: the Christ-Event is a divine initiative. Mary translates the Hebrew-Aramaic Miryam, (which perhaps means Beloved) and Greetings, richly engraced/Hail, full of grace translates the Greek Chaire kecharitomene. (Thank you, Luke, for the wordmusic.) Here we have the first of the many gospel titles of Our Lady. The adjective implies that it is God who favours, engraces: another indication of the divine initiative.
She was very upset by the greeting and wondered what it could mean: this is the first gospel glimpse of her mind, her feelings. Gabriel reassures her, proclaims the messianic royalty of her child to be, and in regard to her virginity and motherhood attests the absolute sovereignty and power of God and with impeccable angelic courtesy leaves the last word to her.
It is, of course, Yes. Her reply begins with a self-emphasis (look, I am a servant of the Lord) and ends with a desire, a surrender (let it be done: in Hebrew-Aramaic idiom, let God do it).
In this scene, from the angels name to the angels final statement, with God nothing will be impossible, and Marys Yes, there is quite a remarkable emphasis on the power of God. God does do it.
Kecharitomene: a lovely word
to set you wondering and fill your heart with spring
Kecharitomene: a lovely chord
angelic melody, a song of things to be
Love came your way and Love came to stay
and night turned to day for all who were yearning for Him
Kecharitomene: a Baby stirred
and so a dream came true, Love came in
thanks to you bringing Him
For part of his infancy narrative, Luke gives parallel accounts of Jesus and John the Baptist. In the Visitation he brings them and their mothers together. This is the most joyful of the joyful mysteries of the Rosary. It is a very human, very family, pro-life occasion: the women supporting each other in their welcomed pregnancies, both very aware that the God of life is active in their situations, that their children are children of grace with a destiny altogether special.
Mary set out with haste: the Greek phrase can also mean very thoughtfully. Both translations convey her practical charity. Elizabeth is the Greek form of a Hebrew name meaning God is fulness or God has sworn (to protect us).
The babe leaped in her womb. As Luke the physician would have known, an emotional experience of a mother (and Elizabeth was overjoyed by Marys arrival) can cause a movement of the unborn child. This is probably what happened here. Elizabeth understandably associates her child with her own joy.
Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Here of course is the source of part of the Hail Mary in which millions beyond numbering have echoed Elizabeths praise of Our Lady and her Son. Fruit of your womb is a beautiful description of what a child is: a description that challenges the obscenity of abortion. She gives Our Lady three titles: blessed among women, mother of the Lord, she who believed.
Marys song, called the Magnificat from the first word of the Latin translation, is akin to the Old Testament song of Anna (1 Samuel 2:1-10) but is much more personalised. It can be considered a stylised spelling-out of her hand-maid commitment at the Annunciation. Here she represents all those who humbly, confidently and joyfully celebrate the great deeds of God: the kind of people listed by Jesus in the Beatitudes.
In his encyclical on the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II asked us to consider the Magnificat in a Eucharistic key. Both Song and Eucharist are primarily praise and thanksgiving. The Eucharist has been given to us so that our life, like that of Mary, may become completely a Magnificat.
The most ecumenical prayer of Christians is, of course, the Our Father. Next to it comes the Magnificat. It is in the liturgical evening prayer of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church and the liturgical morning prayer of the Orthodox Church. Whenever we say or sing it, let us invoke Mary as the mediating Mother of Christian unity.
Two women met in a quiet room
each of them carried a child in her womb
lovely their meeting, lovely their greeting
Spirit-wings beating near
Two women wondered and hoped and prayed
two women lifted their hearts and obeyed
joy beyond telling, happiness welling
Spirit dispelling fear
One of them old, Elizabeth
Mary, the girl from Nazareth
both of them felt the Spirits breath
presence, delight, perfume
Two women met in desire to give
two women prayed that the world might live
two hearts united, heaven is sighted
there in that quiet room
A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment when Quirinius was governor of Syria. This census statement that introduces Lukes account of the birth of Jesus has been the subject of much scholarly speculation, none of it conclusive. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus says that Quirinius, who became governor of Syria in ad 6, held a census, but this is too late a date for the Lords birth.
There was an Augustan census in 8 bc and there is some evidence to suggest that Quirinius may have been an important state official (governor in a very loose sense) in Syria at that time. Nazareth and Bethlehem were then in the kingdom of Herod the Great, which was not part of the Roman Empire but was dependent on it. It may be that Herod, in a gesture of loyalty, had a supplementary census, or that Rome had taxation rights in his kingdom (a census was a tool of taxation), so that the Augustan census was operative there.
An alternative translation of the Quirinius text (this census was the one before the one held while Quirinius was governor of Syria) favours the view that the census mentioned by Luke was part of or connected with the general census of 8 bc, which may have lasted into the following year or two. Matthew explicitly and Luke almost explicitly place the birth of Jesus in the reign of Herod, who died in 4 bc.
But enough of census dating. We can take it that Luke is not too worried about exact history here, but is more interested in the paradox of providence that it was through a decree of the political ruler of the immense Roman world that the messianic king of the whole world should be born in Bethlehem. He would doubtless have appreciated (and enjoyed) the irony that the aforementioned political giant had a title, Augustus, of religious connotation.
Nazareth Bethlehem: a distance of about ninety miles. Bethlehem was the home-place of the great king David and the scene of his first royal anointing. A greater king was to be born there with his foster-father of Davidic descent, there to comply with census procedure.
She gave birth to a son: a basic statement of the Christian faith inviting meditation rather than commentary. Her first-born: in biblical Greek this means the child who will continue the family name: it does not necessarily imply other children. Swaddling clothes: long strips used to support limbs.
The manger, a detail mentioned three times, tells us that Mary and Joseph found shelter in a place for livestock, perhaps part of a hostelry. But it may have been a cave. In the Bethlehem area there were (and are) many caves, and sometimes people built a primitive house in front of a cave, using the cave for their animals. Katalyma, the word used for inn or house, can mean a guest-room or dining-room, as in Luke 22:12 for the room of the Last Supper.
Having delicately indicated the circumstances of the Birth, Luke, the evangelist of the poor, introduces the very poor: the shepherds. These poor men are enriched with the glory of the Lord: a biblical expression conveying the dynamic presence of God. They too have their annunciation, their good news (evangelion: gospel). Note how personalised the message is: to you is born a sign for you you will find a babe Jesus is announced in three great titles: Saviour, Christ, Lord. And in his coming the greatness of God is radiantly shown forth (glory) and for those who accept him all is well (peace).
As elsewhere, Luke mentions the mind of Mary: here she remembers and ponders. The shepherds, we gather, did not keep their experience to themselves; we could say that the good news of the Saviour-Christ-Lord got its first airing in the sheep-fields of Bethlehem.
Here is the Lord: gather all around
here is the Child thats born to us
come softly, dont make a sound
for hes asleep and his mother is smiling
he will wake later on
Here is the Lord: all his words are true
here is the light of all the world
he brings a message to you
now hes asleep and his mother is waiting
he will speak later on
Here is the Lord: learn to know your friend
here is the kindness of our God
hell love his own to the end
now hes asleep and his mother is praying
he will die later on
Here is the Lord: just a little boy
here is the glory and the power
hes come to offer you joy
now hes asleep and his mother is singing
he will rise later on