Today's memorial is special to me because I was ordained deacon on this day three years ago. So a little bit later this morning I'll be embarking on my fourth year of the clerical state.
I remember learning the rosary as a catechumen. I had bought one at good old St. Jude's on Campbell Ave. in West Haven, Connecticut--how little I could have imagined then that only five years later, after many twists and turns, I would be living the hermit life in a little apartment around the corner! I had received a little tri-fold pamphlet of instructions with the rest of my catechetical materials. I remember how, for each of the fifteen mysteries (this was before the Luminous Mysteries) there was a little picture with one of the virtues listed under it. Each of these virtues had the label, "fruit of the mystery."
I guessed that it meant that by meditating on the various mysteries, one could obtain the various virtues. For example, meditation on the Visitation was associated with charity, the carrying of the Cross with patience, the Resurrection with faith, etc. I remember being intrigued but perplexed, and I wondered how this was supposed to work. What was the mechanism by which meditation on the mysteries was supposed to produce virtues?
Praying the rosary over the years, and reflecting on the meaning and purpose of discursive meditation, I think I have come to understand. Too often we treat the mysteries of faith, or the events of the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady as if we were merely spectators. They become beautiful and miraculous spectacles which we admire and love for their sublimity. Not that there is anything wrong with this in itself, but we are called to a much deeper place than this. Meditation on the mysteries of the rosary is meant to help us understand ourselves and our own deepest identity; we are to step into the mysteries with our minds, hearts, and lives. Perhaps better, we are meant to allow the mysteries to step into us.
After all, this is why the Eternal Word borrowed human flesh from the virgin motherhood of Mary and became man, so that our humanity--by being joined to the humanity of Christ through baptism and Holy Communion--might have the opportunity to be caught up into the joy, delight, and communion of the Life of the Blessed Trinity. Thus we bear virtuous fruit when we fulfill our vocation as Christ-ians, as those who are formed into the human members of the humanity of Christ.
This is what we pray for in the prayer that concludes the rosary, when we ask that we who meditate on these mysteries might "imitate what they contain, and obtain what they promise."