The Rosary: Looking at Mary

An article from Fr. Noel Molloy, published in Dominican Ashram, Vol. 3, No. 4, December 1984
Fr. Noel Molloy, OP is an Irish Dominican Priest of the Indian Province who arrived in India in 1969. He is well known Retreat Preacher and teaches Dogmatic Theology in St. Charles Seminary, Nagpur

Corresponding to the second level of vocal prayer in which we fix our attention on the meaning of what we are saying, there is a second way of saying the Rosary in which we now speak directly to Mary, making our own for this purpose the words addressed to her by Gabriel, by Elizabeth and by the Church, as they are found in the ‘Hail Mary’. But the Mary to whom we address ourselves is not visualized in an abstract way, divorced from all circumstances of time and place. Just as when we think about any absent person who is dear to us we normally visualize that person in a very concrete way, engaged in some very definite occupation or involved in some very definite situation, so too the Mary to whom we speak in the Rosary is very firmly ‘contextualized’, that is so say, visualized in a very definite way. And the context in which we situate her is that indicated by the mystery we are commemorating during that particular decade. The Mary to whom we speak, whom we praise, for whose help we ask, is precisely the Mary of the Visitation or the Mary of the first Pentecost. In this way we are led into a harmonious integration of the Marian and salvation-history dimensions of the Rosary. The Mary to whom we speak in the ‘Hail Mary’ is the Mary who has lived that particular mystery of salvation indicated by the decade we are reciting.

One might object at this point that this is all very well for mysteries such as the Annunciation and the Assumption, where Mary is directly involved, but how are we to situate her in the context of the Agony in the Garden, or of the Resurrection? Here we must remind ourselves that the vocation of every Christian is to allow the significant events of the life of Christ to be reproduced in his own life. Every Christian must be conformed to him in his incarnate existence as Son of God by being born from above of the Spirit. Every Christian must be conformed to him in his suffering by drinking the cup that he drank. Every Christian must be conformed to him in his glorification by an inferior transfiguration and life to God that will one day overflow in bodily resurrection. Every Christian must become, to use the expression of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, an additional humanity of Christ in which he can renew his whole mystery. Every Christian, therefore, must share in the mystery of grace as it is displayed and unfolded in the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries. And this is supremely true of Mary. She is ‘the’ Christian, she is ‘the’ graced one. As the type of the Church she, in a unique way, sums up and lives out in her own person the vocation of all Christians. Hence she too experienced the mystery of submission to the difficult will of God, of human pain, of humiliation and of all the other sufferings commemorated in the Sorrowful Mysteries, by which she completed what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the Church. She certainly, and most intensely, experienced the Sorrowful Mysteries by way of compassion. But in addition to that we may be sure that many times in the circumstances of her own life she had her share in the Agony, in the Scourging, in the Mocking etc. The fact that the New Testament does not always permit us to specify precisely the ways in which Mary lived out the vocation of sharing in Christ’s suffering does not prevent us from affirming as certain that she did. The same applies too where the mysteries of totally God-centred life implied by the Resurrection, and of dwelling in spirit in the heavenly places implied by the Ascension, are concerned. Mary lived these too simply because she is supremely the Christian. Even in the case of those Mysteries where Mary is directly involved, we do not contemplate her in a purely personal capacity. In her openness to the will of God at the Annunciation, she incarnates the attitude to which the whole church is invited. In her Magnificat at the Visitation, the whole Church is invited to sing of the mercies of the Lord. In the consummated sanctity of her Assumption, we have an initial realization of that sanctity of her Assumption, we have an initial realization of that sanctity without blemish which is the vocation of the whole Church. In her Coronation in heaven, the whole Church rejoices at that blessed vision of God which is her destiny. And so all the Mysteries of the rosary without exception are Mary’s mysteries, because Mary is the Christian; she lived each Mystery, and in her each Mystery produced its most perfect fruit.

When we say the Rosary, then, in this second way we look directly at Mary, we speak to her as she lived out the particular Mystery in question in her own life. In the first part of the ‘Hail Mary’ we praise her for the fact that the Mystery has borne such abundant fruit in her life. Then, in the second part, recognizing that, because she is the type of the Church, her living out of this Mystery is an invitation from God to all of us to follow in her steps, we humbly ask her to intercede with God on behalf of us sinners that the grace of the Mystery may bear fruit in our lives now and at the hour of our death.

This second way of saying the Rosary I describe as looking at Mary.