Reflections on the Rosary
Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P.
When I saw that I had been asked to talk about the Rosary, I must confess that I had a moment of panic. I have never read about the Rosary or reflected about it ever in my life. I am sure that most of you have much more profound thoughts about the Rosary than I have. The Rosary is simply something that I have done, without thought, like breathing. Breathing is very important to me. I breathe all the time, but I have never given a talk on it. Saying the Rosary, like breathing, is so simple. So what is there to say?
It may seem a little strange that a prayer as simple as the Rosary should be particularly associated with Dominicans. Dominicans are not often thought of as very simple people. We have a reputation for writing long and complex books on theology. And yet, we fought to keep the Rosary ours. The General Chapter of 1574 urged the brethren to preach the Rosary. It is “nostra sacra haereditas”, “our sacred inheritance”. There is a long tradition of pictures of Our Lady giving the Rosary to St Dominic. But at one time, other religious orders grew jealous, and started commissioning paintings of Our Lady giving the Rosary to other saints, to St Francis and even to St Ignatius. But we fought back, and, I think in the seventeenth century, persuaded the Pope to ban the competition. Our Lady was only allowed to be shown giving the Rosary to Dominic! But why is this simple prayer so dear to Dominicans?
Perhaps it is because at the center of our theological tradition is a longing for simplicity. St Thomas Aquinas said that we cannot understand God because God is utterly simple – simple beyond all our conceptions. We study, we wrestle with theological problems, we strain our minds, but the aim is to draw near to the mystery of the One who is totally simple. We have to pass through the complexity so as to arrive at simplicity.
There is a false simplicity, which we must leave behind. It is the simplicity of those who oversimplify, who have too easy answers to everything, who know it all in advance. They are either too lazy or are incapable of thought. And there is the true simplicity, the simplicity of heart, the simplicity of the clear eye. And that we can only arrive at slowly, with God’s grace, as we draw near to God’s blinding simplicity. The Rosary is indeed simple, very simple. But it has the deep and wise simplicity for which we hunger, and in which we will find peace…
(The Identity of Religious Today – An address from the Master of the Order at Lourdes, in October 1998)
…When meditating on The Transfiguration of Jesus it may be helpful to look at a picture of this event or listen to some uplifting music.
The Transfiguration is the fourth of the new Luminous Mysteries rosary and is a key event in the life of Jesus.
It beautifully complements both the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries by adding meditations on the Rosary that gave strength to the apostles during Jesus passion and were a foreshadow of Jesus’ glory that was soon to come.
As you read this retelling of the Transfiguration, keep in mind that the fruit of this mystery is a desire for holiness. Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John on Mount Tabor.
When the three disciples and Jesus reached the top of the mountain, Jesus’ “face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.” Then suddenly Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elias appear. They were talking to Jesus. Peter got very excited and didn’t really understand the significance of what was happening as he called out to Jesus saying… “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”
Jesus did not answer him and a bright cloud came and covered them. A booming voice came from the cloud. It was the voice of God. The words they heard were, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.” This frightened Peter, James and John. Immediately they fell prostrate. Jesus went to them, stooped down, gently touched them then said, “Arise, and fear not.”When they arose, they only saw Jesus and the apparition was over. While they were making their descent from the mountain Jesus gave them this command… “Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.” – Matthew 17:9
Dominican sisters among the Rosary pilgrims in Ireland and Argentina –
R. Youth Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Lujan, Argentina.