Sunday, 8 October 2017

Guardini on the Rosary

MAGNIFICAT's "Meditation of the Day" yesterday, for the Feast of the Holy Rosary, has directed me to Romano Guardini's short book The Rosary of Our Lady. It is a book that contains both very practical advice to enrich the way in which we pray the Rosary and theological/catechetical instruction that places the manner of our praying of the Rosary within the context of salvation history and of a genuine human dynamic of prayer.

The chapter entitled "Mary", for example, offers an explanation of how the Christian relates uniquely among the saints to Mary, without compromising the orientation towards Christ:
It is Mary on whom the Rosary is centred in a focus ever new. This prayer means a lingering in the world of Mary, whose essence was Christ.
It is this chapter which precedes the chapter entitled "Christ in us" from which the MAGNIFICAT meditation was taken:
To linger in the domain of Mary is a divinely great thing. One does not ask about the utility of truly noble things, because they have their meaning within themselves. So it is of infinite meaning to draw a deep breath of this purity, to be secure in the peace of the union with God ...
All prayer begins by man becoming silent - recollecting his scattered thoughts, feeling remorse at his trespasses, and directing his thoughts toward God. If man does this, this place is thrown open, not only as a domain of spiritual tranquillity and mental concentration, but as something that comes from God.
We are always in need of this place, especially when the convulsions of the times make clear something that has always existed but which is sometimes hidden by outward well-being and a prevailing peace of mind: namely, the homelessness of our lives. In such times, a great courage is demanded from us; not only to dispense with more and to accomplish more than usual, but to persevere in a vacuum we do not otherwise notice. So we require more than ever this place of which we speak, not to creep into as a hiding place, but as a place to find the core of things, to become calm and confident once more.
For this reason the rosary is so important in times like ours - assuming , of course, that all slackness and exaggeration are done away with, and that it is used in its clear and original forcefulness. This is all the more important because the rosary does not require any special preparation, and the petitioner does not need to generate thoughts of which he is not capable at the moment or at any other time. Rather, he steps into a well-ordered world, meets familiar images, and finds roads that lead him to the essential.
[So far as I can tell, this book was first published in German in 1940 - so Guardini's reference to "times like ours" is a reference to war time conditions in Germany.]

Guardini offers an explanation of the part played by each of the prayers in the structure of the Rosary. This is what he says about the Our Father, prayed at the beginning of each decade:
The start and the goal of all spiritual movement is the Father. So the prayer to Him is placed at the beginning of each decade, to ask Him for the things that are really vital. The meditation that follows is thus made in the sight of the Father; like the seer in the Revelation of St John we look at all the different events that pass before the eyes of Him "who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever".
And on the Glory be:
And finally, with the "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" at the end of each decade, he who prays bows before the triune God, from whom everything comes and to whom everything returns.
Guardini has already spoken about the role of the Hail Mary in representing for us the mystery that is the subject of each decade. He assumes a practice that is not well known in the English speaking world, of introducing into the Hail Mary a reference to the mystery being prayed:
...the Rosary is, in its deepest sense, a prayer of Christ. The first part of the Hail Mary ends with His name: "And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus". After this name follow the so-called mysteries (for example, "Whom thou, O Virgin, dids't conceive of the Holy Spirit, "Whom though didst bear with thee to Elizabeth", "Who was born to thee in Bethlehem"). Every decade of the Rosary contains such a mystery.
It is worth noting, too, Guardini's suggestion that the Rosary needs to be both given the time that it needs by the one who prays, and also to be allowed to take the time that of its own nature it will ask:
The Rosary is a prayer of lingering. One must take one's time for it, putting the necessary time at its disposal, not only externally but internally..... It is not necessary to ramble through the whole Rosary; it is better to say only one or two decades, and to say them right.

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