THE HOLY ROSARY
by Luigi Giussani
The Holy Rosary, the most widespread prayer that popular tradition has handed down to us, has over the centuries consecrated the most humble aspect of the Virgins life. As we recite it, the figure of Mary rises up, as it were, in its simplest and most recondite aspect. But in urging you to live the Rosary with a special rediscovery of awareness of what Our Lady is in the life of man and the world, I am led above all by the strongest impression I received during my journey through the Holy Land. The thing that amazed me most and in a sense paralyzed my spiritparalyzed in the sense of awestruckwas when I saw the little, remaining grotto-house where the Virgin lived and I read an unassuming little plaque on which was written: Verbum caro hic factum estThe Word was made flesh here. I was as though petrified by the sudden evidence of the method of God, who took something that was nothing, really nothing.
How familiar joy was to Marys heart, even in the incomparable depth of the sensation of mystery, of obscurity into which she penetrated day by day. What sustains this apparent contradiction? Faith. The certainty that everything is Gods, that God is the Father of everyone, that the world is destined to everlasting positivity. If she had not had this in her mind every day, if she had not gotten up every morning thinking about this, if she had not moved through her day thinking about this, if she had not gone to bed at night thinking about this, it would have been an abstract theory, it would have been just thoughts.
The mystery that is proposed to us here is the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus, of His Birth. In this is specified the general remembrance, the general memory of our relationship with Him, of having been called by Him. He was born; conceived and born of a woman.
1. The Angels Annunciation to Mary
The Angels words could have astounded with wonder and humility the young woman to whom they were addressed. But they were not so astounding as to be totally unintelligible; they contained something that made them intelligible to the heart of that young girl who was living her religious duties. The Virgin embraced them to herself: I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word. Not because she understood but, in the confusion that had become boundless because of the Mystery that announced itself by vibrating in her flesh, the Virgin opened her arms wide, the arms of her freedom, and said, Yes. And she stayed alert every day, every hour, every minute of her life.
The Virgin Marys state of mind, that state of mind which determines an attitude and decides for it in the face of the occasion and the moment, how can we better describe the Virgins state of mind than with the word silence? Silence as memory filled to overflowing. Two things contributed to this memory, two things determined this silence. The first was remembering what had happened. What had happened preserved its marvelousness, its true mystery, its mystery of truth intact becauseand this is the second thingit had something that was present: that Child, that present young Man, that Son who was present.
2. Marys Visitation to Elizabeth
The Word of God is not a literary expression, but is the indication of an event, it is always a fact: the Word of God is Christ. His word starts from the promise of an event. The figure of the Virgin is completely filled with memory, the word of her people, stretching completely toward the meaning of these events (the Angels announcement, Elizabeths greeting). This is why Elizabeth used the highest form of address: Blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of the Word of the Lord.
To each one of us, too, with the transmission of faith, it has been said that life has a destiny. In the sincerity of our hearts, the Magnificat can resonate in a true way. Whatever condition of life we find ourselves in right now is gratitude because it is a journey to that destiny in which we shall see God.
The day after the Annunciation, Our Lady, in that new light of early morning, that light made new, decided to go immediately to help her cousin Elizabeth, who the Angel had told her was six months pregnant. She walked all of the 90 miles of mountain road, swiftly, as the Gospel tells us. Charity is what is born of this new morning light, with which we too will get up every morning, with which we will face the 11 am of our day or the 4 pm of our day or the 11 pm of our day. This new morning light gives us a tenderness toward men, toward the men we dont know and toward the men who are hostile to us, toward the men who are foreign to usno longer foreign, but part of us.
3. The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
Christmas forces us to sink our gaze to the root, all the way to that point where things well up, where things burst forth, where Being breaks through the veil of nothingness or, rather, in that nothingness that is covered by the veil of appearance, and nests in the tent which the shepherd pulls up after using it for a day and then throws away so as not to be burdened by its weight on his journey. He came to dwell among us. This is the event of the presence of Him who alone can reveal the mystery of things, the mystery of Being, that is, the mystery of life. Revealing the Mystery means revealing something that remains a mystery. No man has ever seen His face, the face of Beingno man! But You, o Child who comes, You came to reveal this Mystery, the Mystery that no man has ever seen.
With joy in our hearts may we adore Christ who is born, every day from the mystery of today, from the mystery of a today. Christ is born. With the joy of our hearts, may our memory be fixed on Him and burst forth in a new song; may our life become new, because the song of life is life itself. May it become new, new every day; may it be renewed. This is the fruit of the certainty of His mercy, of the certainty that His power is greater than our weakness, certainty of God with us. Only from this certainty can joy come, only from the certainty of God with us can joy come. There is no other source.
Consciousness of this Presence is greater than anything that we can do for others. We have been called to be conscious of this. Therefore, besides the desire for daily affection for Him, we must desire with all our hearts that our lives may give testimony of this to the world, that through us the world may become awarein other words, that our lives may be truly, consciously immanent, participant in the life of the people of God, of His people who belongs to Him, filled to the brim with good works.
4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
When Our Lady went to the temple, eight days later, to offer her first-born Son, in the great temple which every Jew identified with the majesty of God, she certainly felt in a sense nullified by the grandeur and majesty of God. But, in her perception of the greatness of the temple, a feeling penetrated and prevailed: the greatness of God was the Baby she held in her arms; it was the Baby who cried, it was the Baby she nursed. Seeing in what God caused to be born the decisive factor of history and the world, as the elderly Simeon would say, which splits the world in twobecause it is a proposal in front of which mans heart splits in two and all mens hearts split in twoseeing from what He was born, He whom the gates of hell can no longer destroy, the human strength that is the greatest of all human strengths, seeing from what He rose up, we are as though petrified by wonder.
All the rest can be understood by everyonethe religious sense, they call itbut this impact, this event, is totally unthinkable, unforeseeable, totally new, totally and truly incomprehensible: God made a part of our experience, of the experience of our I, of the experience of the Virgins maternity, of the experience of every one of our actions.
5. The Finding of Jesus Among the Scholars in the Temple
Lets try to immerse ourselves in Marys reality. Who was the authority for her, for her and her husband, Joseph? The presence of that Child, who maybe wasnt talking yet, but who when He began to talk and to act came out with that astounding remark at the age of 12, as astounding as Mystery for an instant lifting Its veil; the authority was that Presence, so that the rule for them was living with that Child, with their Child. All this lives as consciousness. Consciousness is an eye wide open onto reality, which by its very nature never ends. Factum infectum fieri nequit; something which has been made cannot be kept from existing. What has been made remains forever. For the Virgin, the rule was the presence of that Child. Thus we pray to Our Lady to help us take part in this consciousness by which she lived, that a Presence may constitute the rule of our life and thus the companionship of our life and the authority of our life and the sweetness of our life. This ideal must be the ideal that is prayed for, asked for, requested, begged for; the ideal of every day.
We return to you, o Virgin Mary; dispel from our hearts all this fog that normally enwraps them and that keeps our eyes from seeing you in all your power and the inevitability of your presence, which determines the meaning, the sense, the substance of whatever we touch, in whatever way we bow.
Blessed Virgin, keep us faithful in looking toward your presence every time that you shake us up, every time we need it; for this reason, recitation of the Angelus in the morning, at noon, and in the evening constitutes the sustaining arches of our beauty and constructiveness in the world.
May it come about in us, o Spirit of God, as it did in Marythe mystery of the Word was made flesh in her, It became part of her flesh and one with her expressions. Thus, may the memory of Christ become flesh of our flesh, part of all our actions, counsel for every thought and flame for every affection, and move in us with all our moves, from morning to evening, as we eat and drink, and in all our living and in our dying.
he Virgin felt that the creature she was carrying in her womb would have, one day, to die (every mother feels this, even as she tries not to think about it), but she did not feel that He would rise again. This is the event which is uniquely comparable to the mystery of the beginning. Just as the seed took shape within her womb, so, in the fullness of time, He would rise again; that Man would rise again. But she didnt know this. Let it be done to me according to Your word, on the Virgins lips, is the same as, Lord, Your will be done, on the lips of Christ. The correspondence between the Angelus and the Cross lies in the fact that both say, Let it be done to me according to Your word. This is the gesture of obedience in its pure essentiality. Its pure essentiality makes you tear away from something that God asksto then pass through a cross and resurrection from which a limitless fecundity springs forth, a fecundity whose boundary is the boundary of Gods plan. Fecundity springs forth from virginity. Virginity can be conceived of only this way.
1. Jesus Agony in the Garden
Now my soul is sorrowful; and what must I say, Father, save me from this hour [faced with the thought of sacrifice, the thought of death, of self-denial ]? But it is for this that I have come to this hour [for this, for this condition have I been chosen, called, lovingly taught by the mystery of the Father, by the charity of the Son, by the warm light of the Spirit. Now my soul is sorrowful and what must I say, Father, save me from this hour? Take away this condition, Father, take away this condition. Must I say this? But it is precisely for this that I have come to this hour!]. Thus I can say at the end, Father, glorify Your name [glorify Your will, bring about, realize Your plan], which I do not comprehend [because He did not comprehend the great injustice]. Father, glorify Your name in front of which I stand in fear and trembling, in obediencethat is to say, in love. My life is Your plan, it is Your will.
How many timespraying to the Spirit and the Virgin Marywill we have to reread this passage in order to identify with the most lucid and fascinating instant in which the consciousness of the Man Christ, Jesus, expressed itself. We can come upon this by surprise, from its deepest recesses to the highest peaks of His example of love for Being, of respect for the objectivity of Being, of love for His origin and His destiny, and for the contents of the plan of time, of history. Father, if possible, let me not die; however, not my but Your will be done. This is the supreme application of our acknowledgment of Mystery, adhering to the Man-Christ kneeling and sweating blood from the pores of His skin in His agony in Gethsemanethe condition for being true in a relationship is sacrifice.
2. The Scourging of Jesus at the Pillar
The companionship of the God-Man in our life has become inconceivable, unimaginable tragedy, one that defies anyones imagination. In all the centuries of history there cannot be imaginednot even in play, like a fairy talea tragedy greater than this: the companionship of God-made-flesh was forgotten, outraged by man; a tragedy that arises from the cynicism of our pursuit of our instincts. Around this wood coagulate the evil of man who fails the call of the Infinite and the disasters caused by this crime, so that the death of the God-Man is the sum and symbol of all these disasters. And, at the same time, here too is met the irresistible power of God, because just that supreme disaster and that evil become the instrument for its conquest and redemption. This is the enigma that God maintains in life, because this great plan of goodness, wisdom, knowledge, and love must be a trial, must put into action the idea of trial. Why a trial? Because the world is in evil, the world lies in the Evil One.
3. Jesus Crowned with Thorns
That little head which Mary, like every mother with her newborn child, would have enfolded close to her without squeezing it, and caressed delicately as every mother does, and looked at in wonder and admiration, would one day have to wear a crown of thorns. Salve caput cruentatum. How the Virgin felt echoing inside her this evil of the world, without details and without accusations, but as an already boundless grief that would culminate in watching her Son die!
4. Jesus on the Way to Calvary
God who came among men goes to the scaffold: defeated, a failure; a moment, a day, three days of nothingness, in which everything is finished. This is the condition, the condition of sacrifice in its most profound meaning: it appears to be a failure, it appears not to succeed, it appears that the others are right. Remaining with Him even when it seems that everything is finished or has finished; staying next to Him as His Mother didonly this faithfulness brings us, sooner or later, to the experience that no one outside the Christian community can have in this world, the experience of the Resurrection.
And we can leave for another love this Christ who moves into death to deliver us from evil so that we may change, so that the Eternal Father may regenerate in us what the crime of forgetfulness has outstripped! This man throws himself onto the cross to brandish it, to embrace it, to be nailed on it, to die, to be one with that wood: Will we leave him for another love? This Man pours out his blood for us and shall we leave him for another love?
5. Jesus Dies on the Cross
We are sinners, and Christs death saves us. Christs death turns any past of ours into good, but our past is full of darkness that is called sin. And it is Christs death that saves us. We cannot acknowledge Christ on the cross without immediately understanding and feeling that this cross must touch us, that we can no longer object to sacrifice; there has no longer been room for objection to sacrifice since the moment when Christ died.
Precisely through our gaze fixed on the crosswhere hangs the One who looks at us with the fixed gaze of eternity, fixed with pity and the will to save us, having pity on us and our nothingnessthrough the gaze fixed on the cross, what would be something so foreign as to seem to us abstract, arbitrarily created, becomes the experience of redemption. It is by fixing our gaze on the cross that we learn to perceive experientially the invading Presence and the unavoidable need for grace that gives our life perfection, and gives it joy. It is in Mary that the adoration of our heart finds its example and its form. For the condition of the cross was not just for Christ; Christs death on the cross saves the world but not in isolation. It is not alone that Christ saves the world, but by the adherence of each and every one of us to suffering and the cross. St. Paul says it: In my own body I make up all the hardships that still have to be undergone by Christ, in His Cross and Passion.
With you, o Mary, we recognize that the renouncement that is asked of our life is not a punishment, but the condition for its salvation, for its exaltation, for its increase. Mary, make our offering, the offering of our lives, help the poor world, this poor world, to be enriched in the knowledge of Christ and to rejoice in Christs love.
The Blessed Virgin, when she prayed using the words of the prophets, when she waited like a humble and faithful Jewish maiden, could not imagine that that seed would be conceived and how it would be conceived. She would not have been able to think, when she saw Him playing as a little boy, when she began to see Him clash with the prevailing mentality, what would have happened after death, in death. That seed placed in her womb, that seed that was later placed in the womb of death, just as it made of her the Queen of the World, so did it make death its ultimate slave, it vanquished death. It is the victory over death.
We must pray to the Virgin with all our heart, because in her all the Mystery began, and since God is the only One who treats man in accordance with the totality of his I, she began to understand when she began to be a mother, when she said, Yes. Then she began to understand. Began. It was still an infinitesimal amount, but she began to understand. What did she begin to do? To bear, to gestate. What? The Reality of everything there is in the world. By conceiving Christ, beginning to gestate Christ, she began to conceive, she began to gestate everything there is in the world because everything there is in the world is made of Christ. Everything consists of Him.
1. Jesus Rises from the Dead
He died to rise again, because the glory of God through His coming into the world is not the cross, but the resurrection. He died to rise again and He rose to stay. The miracle by which we understand that it is really God who remains among us is unity, the impossible unity among men.
The Paschal mystery, above all, is a reminder to us of the greatest event that the time of history can contain. All time and history are made for this: so that there may be people who are reborn in Baptism, reborn by the death and resurrection of Christ. Faith in Christ who died and rose again makes us new creatures. This is the true subject of the life of the world, the true subject, the one that listens to the voice of truth, of Him who is the Truth, of Him who died to testify to the Truth which He is; whoever lives the consciousness of being a new creature. This new creature that Baptism instills within usdespite the fact that it leaves all the traces of the old man in us and thus sets up a contrast, a struggle which we cannot escape every dayin this newness, however, brought by Baptism, our I slowly merges more and more with Christ. Saying I means more and more saying You, You, o Christ, and judging in a different way means judging according to His way of looking at things: metanoeite, change your mentality. And loving means, more and more, loving what Christ loves in the way Christ loves it, because Christ loves it: the identity between us and Christ, that is to say, life as memory.
2. Jesus Ascent into Heaven
The Ascension is the feast of the human. With Jesus, physical, carnal humanity enters into the total dominion with which God makes all things. It is Christ who goes to the root of everything. It is the feast of the miracle, an event which by its strength recalls the mystery of God.
This is why the Ascension is the feast where all of Mystery gathers together and where all of the evidence of things is gathered together. It is an extraordinary and very strange feast, where all the faces of all things meet to cry out to unaware, inattentive, obscure, and unseeing man the light of which they are made, to give him back the meaning by which he entered into relationship with everything, to shout out to him the task he has in things, his role among things. Everything depends on him; all things were made for man.
Whoever tries to render witness to the Lord with his life is already part of the mystery of His Ascension, because Christ who ascended into heaven is Man for whom everything is made, Man who has begun to take possession of the things of the world.
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit on Mary and the Apostles
Veni Sancte Spiritus, veni per Mariam. Come Holy Spirit [the Creator]. Come through Mary. Through the flesh of time and space, because the Virgin is the beginning of flesh as time and spaceit is through her that He comes.
All the renewal of the world passes through Our Lady; just as the choice of the Chosen People passed through Abraham, thus the new and definitive Chosen Peopleof which we have been called to be a partcomes through the womb of a girl, through the flesh of a woman. This is why the closeness to and affection for you, Mother of God and our Mother, is great, as great as that for your Son.
The Spirit is the energy with which the Origin, Destiny, and Making of all thingsmobilizing everything according to His planhas impacted our life and brought it into the heart of that plan, whether we were willing or not. The only condition is that we didnt refuse it, i.e., that we not refuse it, i.e., that it not be something we refuse. The Spirit has revealed to us that Christ died and rose again, and this is the exhaustive meaning of your life.
This is the gift of the risen Christ, the gift of the Spirit, that heals at the root and restores to us the great possibility, which is to recognize that everything comes from God through Christ. This is the method used by God.
4. Marys Assumption into Heaven
In the Ascension, the Lord, with His Resurrection, has become the Master of the World. Therefore, there is One among us who will save everything that we are, who is so powerful as to save our life, as to preserve it entire in order to give it back to us whole by forgiving our sins. The demonstration of this is the mystery of the Assumption, when He took Our Ladys humanity and did not leave her in the clutches of death even for an instant.
With the mystery of the Assumption, the Lord says, You see, I will not let you lose anything of what I have given you, of what you have used, of what you have tasted, even of what you have misused, if you are humble with me. Blessed are the poor in spirit, that is to say: if you acknowledge that everything is grace, that everything is mercy, because your criteria are nothing, my criterion will be everything. Our Lady is already at this ultimate, profound level of Being from which all beings draw substance, life, and destiny. This is why she was bodily lifted into heaven, where the Mystery of God dwells: so that she would be for us, daily, the Mother of the event.
The glorification of Our Ladys body indicates the ideal of Christian morality, the valuing of every moment, every instant. Therefore it is the prizing of life, of our existence, the life of the worlds body, it is the exaltation of matter lived by the soul, lived by the consciousness which is relationship with God. It is the prizing of our earthly life, not because it is a lucky one due to particular circumstances, but because through even the smallest things is borne our relationship with the Infinite, with the mystery of God.
5. Marys Coronation as Queen in the Glory of Paradise
Queen of Heaven means Queen of Earth, Queen of the Truth of earth, of earth in its permanent truth, because veritas Domini manet: the truth of Being endures.
The wait for Christs returnand each of us is called to experience thisis the passion and the joy, the joyous hope for that day when all the world will be truly itself, all mankind will acknowledge Him, and Christ will truly be everything in everyone. That moment is the meaning of everything that is, the meaning of the whole of time, of all that we do, and the apex, the heart of hope, because mans glory depends on this; in this adherence man begins to cry out Gods glory. Our life seeks glory because it is made for this. Glory is not something promised for the future, but is a promise already begun and already fulfilled. To the extent that we offer ourselves and acknowledge that the substance of everything is Christ, this promise is accomplished for us. Paradise is not somewhere else; it will be here. Paradise is the total truth between you and me, in the relationship between you and me; it is the total truth in the relationship between me and the image that comes to me through thought, between me and things. Paradise is a feast which fulfills every feast the heart has desired.
May the hand of Our Lady introduce us into the Mystery, because this is the meaning of our days, the meaning of time that passes. May her gaze guide us on our journey, may her example teach us, may her figure be the plan of our purpose. Generous Mother, who generates for us the great presence of Christ, we want to be consoled, comforted, nourished, enriched, and gladdened by that Presence which was born again from your flesh, and for this reason we ask you to make us participate in your freedom, your readiness to help, your life.