This point in time, at the beginning of a new liturgical year, always acts as a reminder to me of the temporary nature of this world, which is passing. All things, we are told, pass except God; and so, it is on the Lord that we must keep our eyes firmly fixed, and in Him alone that we should place our hope, since everything else is transitory.
Looking at the world through the eyes of the news, it can often appear to be such an unwholesome place despite all it’s beauty, filled with all manner of darkness and evil – and yet despite this realisation, we know perfectly well that when God looked upon His creation, He determined it to be “very good”. So, no matter the darkness we perceive, there is a divine light illuminating it, a light which cannot be extinguished. Christ is that divine light who comes into the world and into our humanity through the Incarnation, and who illuminates it – and this is what we recall at the start of the liturgical year, in that time which we call ‘Advent’, meaning ‘to come’.
In this period, we seek to prepare ourselves for His coming – but we seek, also, to prepare the world. That is not an easy thing to accomplish – indeed, for us alone it is impossible; however, the grace of God makes all things possible. Advent is a reminder that not only did the Lord come once in the flesh – but He will return one day in glory. And for that, too, we need to prepare both ourselves and the world.
Prayer provides a very powerful form of preparation for this intention. Prayer changes us, little by little, if we are devoted to it and consistent in our practice, praying with confidence and with perseverance. And as we begin to change, so too does the world, even if we do not notice it immediately.
To be authentic, our prayer extends far beyond ourselves and our own personal needs and intentions, and finds itself directed to the needs of the whole world and all those who occupy it along with us – our ‘neighbours’, in other words. Prayer is an act of adoration and praise directed to the Lord, loving Him in this way. And so by praying, we fulfil that most basic command of the divine law which Christ reminds us about – “love God and love your neighbour”.
The particular form of prayer which I personally find most useful in this regard, is that of the holy Rosary.
Comprised of it’s set of twenty distinct ‘Mysteries’, these begin with the invitation to the Blessed Virgin to consent to the plan of the Almighty, that She will bear a Son, the Son of God, who will come to redeem humanity. His mission will culminate in His Passion and Death however it will not end there, but in the glory of His Resurrection from the dead. And He will invite His apostles and disciples – His Church – to go out to the whole world, spreading the message of the Gospel.
Praying the Rosary, then, is a synthesis of what we believe and the One in whom we profess our faith. It is a simple and greatly accessible prayer, open to everyone. And it is a form of prayer to which we can take every intention and need we might have.
All those Mysteries, upon which we meditate when we pray the Rosary, offer a looking-glass of sorts in which we can see reflected the needs of our everyday lives and those we love; in those Mysteries, we find consolation and encouragement, strength and resignation, purpose and meaning. We fix our gaze upon Christ, seeing His life and death and resurrection through the eyes of His own Mother, who accompanies us in this journey of prayer which we undertake.
This prayer of the Rosary, if prayed devoutly each day, enables us to fulfil the injunction of the Gospel to ‘pray without ceasing’. Prayer, then, becomes a real and active part of our daily life, and the divine grace it obtains for us – and for those for whom we pray – touching and gently transforming everything, rather like the gentle rain washing away the dust and detritus of daily life and the sorrows with which it can be adorned.
For all these reasons, and many more besides, the Rosary is my ‘go-to’ prayer, the one I use more than any other; it covers every circumstance and event of life and the lives of those dear to me, as well as the others for whom I pray, from the happy to the sad, from the beginning of life through to it’s end, and every possible moment in between.
If you want to pray, or to pray more, or to pray just a little better, then I greatly recommend the prayer of the holy Rosary – and especially so when prayed in conjunction with the Scriptures, the ‘source material’ upon which the Mysteries of the Rosary are based. It is through the Scriptures that we really begin to come to know the Lord.
But I counsel you to persevere with this prayer of the Rosary in humility and in confidence, rather than thinking you will see an immediate change in anything; while you may do so, more often, the changes come in ways (and at moments) we do not expect and have not foreseen. In the prayer of the Rosary, hand everything over to the Mother of God and have confidence in the efficacy of Her motherly intercession before the Lord.
In Her company, and following Her own example, look always forward to the Lord who comes.