What is the Rosary?
The Rosary is a traditional way of praying while meditating on certain key events that define the Christian faith, called “mysteries”. Because of this, the vast majority of the Rosary is based on the recitation of verses from the Scriptures. For example, the Our Father, which is said before the recitation of each decade, is the prayer Jesus himself taught to us – the Lord’s own Prayer indeed; whilst the first part of the Hail Mary is an amalgamation of the Angel's words announcing Christ's birth and Elizabeth's greeting to Mary found in the first chapter Luke’s gospel.
The word Rosary derives from the Latin word for a “crown of roses”. And in this sense, the Rosary is an offering we make to God and Our Lady, as if by crafting beautiful and fragrant flower-chains with our prayers. The Mysteries of the Rosary then are the “gems” in our crowns; the events though which God redeemed us in Jesus Christ, and demonstrated his unmeasured love for us. The beads which many people hold whilst praying the Rosary are also sometimes called “Rosary crowns” for this reason.
You do not have to be a Roman Catholic – in fact, one of the best books the Rosary was written by a Methodist minister, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy: Meditations on the Rosary (J.N.Ward).
Where do I start?
Praying the Rosary is one of those practical things that take more time to explain how they’re done, than actually doing them. But to put it simply, anyone who knows few easy prayers can pray a Rosary; you will also need to follow the Mysteries to meditate as you pray. If you do not have Rosary beads, it is perfectly okay to count with your fingers. Counting beads frees your mind to help you meditate. Let the beads do the counting, and immerse yourself in the scene described by each mystery, whilst quietly saying the prayers.
The Mysteries of the Rosary
There are four sets of Mysteries: Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, and the Luminous.
The repetition in the Rosary is meant to lead us into restful and contemplative prayer related to each Mystery; it also helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ's spirit dwells.
The Five Joyful Mysteries (prayed on Mondays and Saturdays)
1. The Annunciation of the Lord to Mary:
The Archangel Gabriel "announces" to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.
2. The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth:
Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.
3. The Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ:
The Word of God made flesh, God-with-us, is born in Bethlehem.
4. The Presentation of Jesus:
Mary and Joseph "present" Jesus in the Temple where they meet Simeon.
5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple:
Mary and Joseph find young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
The Five Luminous Mysteries (prayed on Thursdays)
1. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan:
The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.
2. The Wedding at Cana:
Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.
3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom:
Jesus calls to conversion and forgives those who draw near to him.
. The Transfiguration of the Lord:
The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ.
5. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist:
Jesus establishes the Eucharist; “Do this in memory of me”.
The Five Sorrowful Mysteries (prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays)
1. Jesus’ Agony in the Garden:
Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.
2. The Scourging of Jesus at the Pillar:
Pilate has Jesus whipped.
3. The Crowning with Thorns:
Roman soldiers crown Jesus' head with thorns.
4. The Carrying of the Cross:
Jesus meets His mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.
5. The Crucifixion of the Lord:
Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies before His mother and His apostle John.
The Five Glorious Mysteries (prayed on Wednesdays and Sundays)
1. The Resurrection of Jesus:
Jesus rises from the dead.
2. The Ascension of the Lord:
Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily "ascends" to heaven.
3. The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:
The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.
4. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Mary is taken bodily (assumed) into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.
5. The Coronation of Mary and the triumph of all the Saints and Angels in heaven:
Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth; and the Saints rejoices for ever in the presence of God.