While serving Jesus in the sick, their families and all the inspiring hospital staff at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre, uncessantly, day and night, starting from March 26 2020, I am having the marvellous grace of tasting, first-hand, God’s unfothamble wisdom, as presented to me, on a golden plate, in the well written book by Cardinal and Pope Emeritus, Joseph Ratzinger: The spirit of the Liturgy.
When speaking about the liturgical assembly as looking together “toward the Lord,” this eminent theologian and successor of St Peter, wrote: “They (the Christians) did not close themselves into a circle; they did not gaze at one another; but as the pilgrim people of God they set off for the Oriens, for the Christ who comes to meet us” page 80.
It was this very passage, which has nothing to do with the Rosary per se, and yet it powerfully led me to it, that the Holy Spirit skilfully used to teach and stress with me the point that this Marian prayer is, in fact, the pilgrim’s prayer. Christianity has been higlighting the fact that we, in this world, are on an ongoing pilgrimage towards the Heavenly Jerusalem. The Letter to the Hebrews accentuates, with much clarity and persuasion, this reality when it says: But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel (Heb 12:22-24).
How consoling is the end state of the journey! But this journey is a demanding one indeed. In an interesting comment concerning the biblical verse: And Moses said to Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law, We are journeying to the place of which the Lord said (Num 10:29), the Preacher’s Analyst help book in preparation for the pulpit presents three stages of this journey for the Christian:
“I. THE CHRISTIAN’S DESTINATION. He is not at home on earth, but is a stranger and a pilgrim. He desires something better, and this desire is not to be disappointed. Heaven is something promised. The prospect is delightful. II. THE CHRISTIAN’S JOURNEY. Heaven is not only a place we desire, but one to which we are rapidly advancing. Travelling does not mean a quiescent state of ease and rest; it means active exertion. The different stages of Christian life do not represent simply advancing age, but the attainment of higher degrees of Christian character and perfection. III. THE CHRISTIAN’S DESIRE — that others should accompany him. More especially is this the case as regards relations and friends. It is his duty to invite them. It is part of his Christian work. Well may he be eloquent when a matter of so grave importance is in the balance. Let us seek company as we journey to heaven. It will be better for us here and hereafter.”
The month of May, the month dedicated to the Rosary, offers us the sterling opportunity of realising, once more, that our definite abode is not this world. Furthermore, it helps us realise that to go to heaven we must be active in practising the virtue of charity towards those who are suffering. Finally, we are called to lovingly invite others, who are themselves on the journey towards eternity like us, to embark with us on praying the Rosary.
Let us remember that that from its very nature, the Rosary is this journey towards our heavenly Jerusalem. The magnificent apostolic letter on the most holy Rosary, written by St John Paul II, entitled Rosarium Virginis Mariae, has some very deep insights on them of journey and journeying.
“It (the Rosary) blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, … and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to ‘set out into the deep’ (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, ‘the way, and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6), ‘the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn’” (no.1). “In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation – in Mary’s company – of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship” (no. 15). “The glorious mysteries thus lead the faithful to greater hope for the eschatological goal towards which they journey as members of the pilgrim People of God in history” (no.23). “The Rosary begins with the recitation of the Creed, as if to make the profession of faith the basis of the contemplative journey about to be undertaken” (no.37). The Salve Regina or in the Litany of Loreto … is the crowning moment of an inner journey which has brought the faithful into living contact with the mystery of Christ and his Blessed Mother” (no.37). “In the Rosary, in a way similar to what takes place in the Liturgy, the Christian week, centred on Sunday, the day of Resurrection, becomes a journey through the mysteries of the life of Christ, and he is revealed in the lives of his disciples as the Lord of time and of history” (no.38).
In these quotes, taken from Rosarium Virginis Mariae, we have a solid basis for the thesis that the Rosary is, in fact, a pilgrim’s prayer on his and her way to Heaven. First, the Rosary is a pilgrim prayer because it makes us witnesses that Christ is the way, the truth and the life. And no one is saved except through Him. Second, the spiritual journey of the Rosary conforms us, more and more, to Christ, our Saviour. Third, by the Rosary we get ever more focused on the Father’s House, the goal of our journey. Fourth, the Rosary is our earthly pilgrimage prayer because it strengthens us in our Christian faith. Fifth, the Rosary invites in our lives Mary, Christ’s and Our Mother, to support us on our way to Heaven. Sixth, thanks to the Rosary, Christ’s life, the Lord of time and history, is incarnated into our own lives, as his disciples.
The latter aspect is particularly underlined by the letter of Pope Francis for the Month of May 2020, when he says: “The month of May is … a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this ‘family’ aspect, also from a spiritual point of view. For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow… Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.”
Let us resort, once again, to the Rosary by praying it daily. By contemplating Christ’s face at the school of Mary we get that much-needed stamina to face and be victorious over the Covid-19 and any kind of pandemic, especially the one over sin and evil. The Rosary is our number one weapon and the pilgrim’s prayer in this hidden war we are waging as we are progressively approaching the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap