The Rosary: Heaven Here and Now

This is the practical battle, the victorious warfare that we wage, and it is done through mystical prayer, and then I am reminded that these meditations are called mysteries of the rosary. They are mysteries because great is the mystery of God entering this world and taking this flesh and transforming the physical realm and everything in it from the inside out.

The beauty of this is that mysticism is, for so many, an arcane and difficult concept. We think of seven stages of mystical prayer or we think it comes only through hours spent in contemplation. We think mysticism involves extreme asceticism or, falling into the trap of Eastern religions, that it means cutting ourselves off from the physical world through extreme meditation and physical disciplines. We think mysticism is only for the spiritual elite or those who are on a higher plane of consciousness.

If I am correct, however, the Catholic faith puts mysticism within the reach of any ordinary Catholic who decides to pray the rosary. Furthermore, this mysticism is not abstract or otherworldly. Instead, by virtue of the incarnation, it is rooted here and now in this ordinary reality. It may be given when walking through the neighborhood praying our rosary. It may be given in the quiet fifteen minutes in church. To find this we are not cut off from the ordinary world, instead we enter it through a deeper experience of the ordinary world.

This mystical prayer is for ordinary people everyone from an illiterate peasant woman to a theology professor who is trying again to say his rosary. It is for children and grandparents, every Catholic of every nation, age and background. This is mysticism for the masses, ecstasy for everyone, heaven to earth come down  and the other side opened up in the midst of an ordinary day.  This is mysticism which is as ordinary as any Catholic faithfully saying their beads. It is not required to enter a monastery or cut yourself off from the world, but through prayer to enter more deeply into the whole created world and work with the world and wrestle the angels and work with God for the redemption of the whole created order.

Mystical prayer of the rosary is also solidly grounded. We do not enter the abstract space of a formless inner consciousness. We do not enter a place of emptiness, void of thought, void of emotion, void of reality. Instead we enter, through the mysteries of the rosary into the solid, real life events of our redemption. Through the gospel mysteries our mysticism is grounded in the events of Nazareth and Jerusalem and Bethlehem. They are grounded in the realities of a mother and child, a cruel death and a glorious victory. They are grounded in the dust and dirt of the gospels, for as the poet Henry Vaughn writes, “It is here in dust and dirt, O here that the lilies of Thy love appear.”

So take up again your rosary and enter into a level of prayer which is deeper and more mysterious than you know. Enter that realm with faithfulness and simplicity and accomplish great things in co operation with God through the mysteries of his Grace.

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