Our Lady of the Rosary
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
It is the most dangerous announcement ever made: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” The angel Gabriel, sent by God to Mary, greets the virgin by telling her that she is most graced, wholly blessed, chosen, and attended to by the Lord. Very, very dangerous. And Mary knew Gabriel's announcement was dangerous. Luke tells us, “. . .[Mary] was greatly troubled…” Greatly troubled?! Troubled…and wise. Mary pondered the angelic greeting with dread. She understood that this particular, unique grace picked her out of all God’s human creatures. She understood that receiving an angel from the Lord meant a mission, a purpose beyond a mortal end; a life of singular graces; an honored life of doing the Father’s will for His glory. Dangerous for Mary? Absolutely! Dangerous for us? O, Yes!
Mary is being asked by the Lord to serve as bearer of the world’s salvation. To be the vessel of the Word, and the Mother of a redeemed nation. Saying yes to this mission places her in that moment of human history where the Divine Son takes on human flesh, and sets out toward a selfless, loving sacrifice so that we may all be healed. In her ministry to all of creation, the Virgin gives her body, her will, for the rest of us so that the Infinite Word might speak Himself as a Finite Word and gather us together into a single heart, a single mind, one voice in witness to the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord. She is the mother of our salvation, the perfected vessel of our eternal healing. Mary is a preacher of the gospel, the first preacher of the Word in a fallen world that has been given over to the Enemy to rule. As the Mother of the Christ Child she has an incredibly dangerous job, giving birth to the Word of God among those who would reject His Word.
When you and I took on the responsibility of bearing the Word to the world – when we became preachers – we took on the dangers of opposing all that the world worships as good. Speaking the Word of Truth against the Lie riles up the worst resentments and the most violent frustrations of those in the world who resent Mary’s Yes, who resent the gift of the Christ Child, and who turn their faces against his invitation to participate in the Divine Life. The danger for us here is twofold: 1) that we are seen as the causes of resentment and frustration among those who reject the Word, and 2) that we succumb to the temptation to see these people as hopeless, beyond reach, and deserving of immediate punishment. The first – that we are blamed – is becoming common enough. The second – our unjust judgment of others – is scandalously common and unworthy of the Virgin-child who made our own Yes to bearing the Word possible.
This feast of Our Lady of the Rosary celebrates the BVM's intervention during the battle between Europe's Christians and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire in 1571 at Lepanto. Calling upon a 500 year old Dominican tradition, the Christians, the Holy League, dedicated their fleet and their fight to the BVM of the Rosary. And the Dominican pope, Pius V, called upon all of Catholic Europe to recite the rosary, praying for the Holy Mother to intercede on behalf of Europe's desperate defense of Christendom. Despite being woefully outnumbered in ships and sailors, the Holy League prevailed, and the Ottoman Empire's dreams of dominating the Mediterranean were crushed forever. This feast was originally named “Our Lady of Victory,” but over time a succession of popes have named and re-named the feast until Pope John XXIII, in 1960, settled on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Imagine for a moment. . .if our Lady of the rosary can intercede and help defeat an armada, how likely is it that she can intercede for you in prayer and help you defeat the temptations that threaten to take you away from her Son? If she help prevent an empire from conquering Christian Europe, surely she can help prevent temptation from conquering one Christian! The rosary is our weapon against the despair that the world pours out on us, and our way out of self-destructive judgment. With the rosary in hand, we can meet the dangers of violent opposition and avoid the dangers of judging others by submitting ourselves in both cases to the ministry of the Virgin Handmaid: “Lord, let your will be done in me according to your Word.”
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