instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Five Crosses of the Holy Rosary

A rosary, as you know, is a loop of beads with a short tail of additional beads, at the end of which is a crucifix. When you "pray a Rosary," you start and end with a cross. If you pray all twenty decades of the Rosary at once, you will come to the crucifix (or at least the tail on which the crucifix hangs) five times.
  1. The first cross is the cross of mankind without a savior. "Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong. And most of these are emptiness and pain. They pass swiftly and we are gone." It is from this cross that we first hear the good news: "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
  2. The joy of the Incarnation, of God-with-us as our Savior, is everlasting, but in this life it is a joy mixed with sorrow. The Savior Himself is destined to suffer, and so are His disciples who help Him in His work. The shadow of Jesus' cross falls upon the joy of His reunion with His parents in the Temple. Jesus' mother kept these things in her heart, including her experience of the cross of discipleship, the suffering that comes from surrendering oneself altogether to God's will, a suffering joined to Jesus' own passion, the baptism for which He came into the world.
  3. "The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him." Jesus revealed Himself, and the Father's glory, but He was not known or accepted. On the night He was betrayed, He gave those who did know and accept Him the incomparable gift of the Eucharist, by which His Church is joined to His passion until His return. This union is only realized in a fruitful way, though, if we each individually take up the cross of daily obedience, joining our thoughts, words, and actions to Jesus' perfect act of obedience unto death.
  4. The sorrowful mysteries bring us at last to the Cross. Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, hangs dead, blood and water from His side poured out upon the earth as His mother and the beloved disciple stand before Him. "It is finished." This horror is the perfect image of perfect love, and we who would become other Christs must form this image in our hearts.
  5. But death on a cross is not Jesus' last act. All proceeds from the Father, all must return to the Father. The love of Jesus is the image of the love of His Father, Who will not leave His Son in death. Nor will the Father leave His adopted sons and daughters -- adopted through the blood of the Son -- in death, but will draw them to Him as well. And most gloriously will He draw His most glorious daughter Mary, who was united with Jesus from the beginning. And having gone through this whole journey of Jesus and His mother, the disciple of Jesus and child of Mary will rush with renewed enthusiasm to embrace the cross of evangelization, the sufferings of the children of God through which His salvation is brought to the world and He Himself is glorified in His saints.
All that said, ultimately there are only two crosses: the cross of Jesus, unto life, and the cross without Jesus, unto death. We shall each be crucified on one or the other. The Rosary, as the recapitulation of the Gospel, encourages us to take up -- daily, right now -- the cross of Jesus, in all the dimensions it presents in our lives.