Catholics believe in an active prayer life. Worshipers pray during Mass, at home and in groups. The rosary retains a special position in the canon of prayers. Ordinary Catholics created this unique prayer ritual. Moreover, the rosary is a devotional to Mary, a woman who became holy, according to Catholic tradition, through her obedience to God.
Purpose of the Rosary
The rosary is a set of prayers in which Catholics focus on the life of their savior, Jesus. Laypersons, church members without any officially sanctioned positions, created the rosary during the 2nd century. The goal of these Catholics was to create a ritual prayer similar to those of monks. Christian monks, and others living in religious orders, spend each day praying. Monks, for example, often pray the lengthy Divine Office. Reciting these 150 scriptures consumes a large portion of the day. Unable to allocate so much time to prayer, regular Catholics developed a condensed version.
Prayers in the Rosary
Because most 2nd century Christians were illiterate, the rosary consists of prayers they would have committed to memory. Despite changes over the centuries, this same principle of simplicity still applies. The rosary opens with the “Apostles' Creed,” which Catholics recite, to a degree, almost every Sunday. Next on the list is the “Our Father,” also known as the Lord’s Prayer, that Catholics incorporate into every Mass. The "Hail Mary,” which honors the mother of Jesus, comes next. Last, is the “Glory be to the Father,” a short declaration mentioning the three entities, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that Catholics believe represent God.
In between the prayers that comprise the rosary, there is a statement of the mysteries associated with the lives of Jesus and Mary. Catholics use these assertions as reminders of the gift of salvation available to all Christians. Known as the “Glorious Mysteries,” there are five of them. “The Resurrection” tells the story of Jesus rising from the dead. In “The Ascension,” Jesus, after spending 40 days on earth, leaves again to sit with God in heaven. Since he has left humankind, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, according to “The Descent,” to dwell within his followers. In “The Assumption,” Mary’s soul and body leave earth to be with God. Last, because of her assumption, Mary becomes royalty in “The Coronation.”
Contemplative and Marian Prayer
The repetitious nature of the rosary resembles the quiet chanting performed by monks. Catholics use the rosary as a means to contemplate, or reflect upon, Christian life. This form of contemplation comes recommended by the Vatican as one of the major forms of Christian prayer. The rosary is also significant because its words emphasize the life of Mary. Known as a Marian Prayer, the rosary demonstrates devotion to the mother of Jesus.
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