The image is a detail from Dürer’s Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1519). I especially like Saint Anne’s motherly hand resting on Our Lady’s shoulder.
For some years now, especially around the Marian feasts of September 8th, September 12th, November 21st, and December 8th, I have “told my beads” while dwelling on five mysteries of the first part of Our Lady’s life. These five mysteries of the Blessed Virgin Mary are:
— the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne (feast December 8th);
— the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (feast September 8th);
— the Most Holy Name of Mary (feast September 12th);
— the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple (feast November 21st);
— the Betrothal of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Joseph (feast January 23rd).
There is a particular sweetness in dwelling on these mysteries of Maria Bambina, the Infant Mary, the Child Mary. They distill graces of purity, of childlike simplicity, and of littleness.
All five mysteries are commemorated in the Sacred Liturgy. The liturgical books are rich in texts to nourish the meditation of each one. It is enough to take an antiphon, a verse, a single phrase, and to hold it in the heart while telling one’s beads. The Rosary corresponds to the meditatio and the oratio of monastic prayer; it begins necessarily in lectio divina, the hearing of the Word, and then, gently, almost imperceptibly, draws the soul into contemplatio.
The Rosary is, I am convinced, the surest and easiest school of contemplative prayer. The Rosary decapitates pride, the single greatest obstacle to union with God. The repetition of the Aves, like a stream of pure water, cleanses the heart.