Our Lady of the Rosary
This feast was established in memory of the Christian naval victory over the Turks (at Lepanto 1571). Our Lady is daily honoured in the Rosary, which invites us to meditate the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Christ her son.
Establishing this feast
This feast, focussed on the intercessory power of our Blessed Lady, was instituted by Pope Saint Pius V in thanksgiving for the great naval victory of a Christian fleet over the Turks at Lepanto on October 7, 1571, a favour widely attributed to intense recitation of the Rosary. This crucial battle saved Europe from being overrun by the forces of Islam. This Lepanto victory over the Ottoman Empire, is commemorated by the invocation “Help of Christians,” inserted in the Litany of Loreto. Many years later the Turks were again defeated at Belgrade on the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows, in 1716. Another victory that year on the Octave of the Assumption motivated pope Clement XI have the Feast of the Rosary celebrated by the universal Church. Leo XIII added the invocation “Queen of the most Holy Rosary, pray for us,” to the Litany of Loreto.
In modern times successive popes have urged the faithful to pray the Rosary regularly, as a form of contemplative prayer focussed on the life of Christ. It calls prayerful attention to the saving mysteries of Christ and Mary’s close association with her Son in his mission. Pope St John Paul II called the rosary a “Christocentric prayer” containing the Gospel message in its entirety. His letter (2002) expanded the scope of the rosary to include five extra mysteries (“Mysteries of Light”) to summarise the life and mission of Jesus. These are: 1) The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan. 2) The Wedding Feast of Cana. 3) The Announcement of the Kingdom. 4) The Transfiguration. 5) The Institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Praying the Rosary
The Rosary invites us to reflect on the great mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel presents Mary as a deeply reflective person. In the second chapter of his gospel, in response to the words of the shepherds, Luke says of her that she “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” Again, in response to the words of the child Jesus to her in the temple, Luke says of Mary that she “treasured all these things in her heart.” Luke presents Mary as a contemplative person, reflecting deeply on all that was happening in the life of her Son. To that extent, she embodies the attitude of mind and heart that we are invited to bring to the praying of the Rosary. In praying that prayer, we treasure and ponder upon the key moments in the journey of Jesus in this world and from this world to the Father. Mary not only pondered on what God was doing in the words and deeds of her Son, but she gave herself over to what God was doing, as shown by her response to the visit of Gabriel in today’s gospel, “Let what you have said be done to me” or “Let it be to me according to your word.” As we ponder on all God is doing in the words and deeds of Jesus, we too will hear the call to give ourselves over more fully to God’s purpose for our lives. [MH]