Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Rosary, "Luke on a chain"


October 18th, Feast of St. Luke
During the month of October, we thank God for giving us the Most Holy Rosary through our Blessed Lady. Have you ever noticed that the Rosary is based more on the writings of St. Luke than on those of any other biblical author?
This is part of what makes the Rosary such a precious prayer – it is one of the best ways of meditating upon Sacred Scripture and is, thereby, a means of entering into truly contemplative prayer. Recognizing the scriptural roots of the Rosary, we might even call it “St. Luke on a chain”.

The Rosary and the Psalms
There can be no doubt that the Rosary is “the layman’s psalter”, i.e. it developed as a means of prayer for those lay persons who wanted to imitated the monastic practice of praying the 150 psalms every day (among the Desert Fathers), or at least every week.
This is why there are three sets of five decades in the traditional Rosary. The meditation on the mysteries surrounding our Savior’s birth and hidden years, his Passion and death, and his resurrection and glory are consider through the recitation of 150 Hail Marys.
Now, even granting that Bl. John Paul II has given the Church an additional five luminous mysteries upon which we may meditate, the tradition of 150 remains as valid as ever. Indeed, considering that the fifteen decades of the Rosary were given to St. Dominic by Blessed Mary herself, we ought to rest secure.
In any case, the Church still speaks of “one-third of the Rosary” or “a third part of the Rosary”, meaning five decades (which is one-third of fifteen) and not six and two-third’s decades (which is one-third of twenty). 150 Hail Marys, or fifteen decades, suffice for the complete recitation of the Rosary.
The Hail Mary prayer
While it is true that the particular form of the “Our Father” prayer which is used both in the Mass and in the Rosary comes from St. Matthew, it is also true that the “Our Father” is found in St. Luke’s Gospel (though in a slightly modified form).
However, the scriptural elements of the “Hail Mary” come from St. Luke alone. “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!” These are the words of St. Gabriel the Archangel, and only St. Luke records them (Luke 1:28)
“Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the Fruit of your womb!” Again, the words of St. Elizabeth are transcribed solely by St. Luke (Luke 1:42) – the first words are also spoken by the Angel (Luke 1:28).
Hence, it should be clear that the very Hail Mary prayer itself comes to the Church through St. Luke’s cooperation with God’s gift of inspiration. Hence, the prayer is “Lucan”, being written first by this Evangelist.
The Joyful Mysteries
The Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary are entirely from the Gospel according to St. Luke. The Annunciation of Gabriel unto Mary is found only in St. Luke – since, in Matthew, only the Angel’s visit to St. Joseph is recorded. See Luke 1:26-38.
The Visitation, likewise, is recorded only by St. Luke. See Luke 1:39-56.
Even the Nativity, when considering the mystery of the birth of Jesus itself, is found only in St. Luke’s Gospel. The Gospel according to St. Matthew certainly mentions the Nativity, but then immediately proceeds to recount the Epiphany (which happened some thirteen days later) when the Wise Men came to visit the Christ Child (cf. Matthew 2:1). St. Luke, on the other hand, records the birth of Jesus and the visit of the shepherds which took place on the very first Christmas night. See Luke 2:1-20.
Certainly, the Presentation of the Child in the Temple and the Finding of Jesus are both found only in the Gospel of St. Luke. See Luke 2:22-40 and Luke 2:41-52.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
While the Gospel of St. Luke gives some of the greatest detail regarding the mystery of the Agony in the Garden, we must admit that there is nothing but the slightest reference to the Scourging at the Pillar (when Pilot says, I find no cause of death in him. I will chastise him therefore, and let him go. Luke 23:22) and nothing at all of the Crowning with Thorns.
Thus, it seems, the Sorrowful Mysteries are probably not any more closely connected to Luke than to the other Evangelists.
The Glorious Mysteries
The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, on the other hand, are deeply rooted in the writings of St. Luke. The Resurrection is, of course, recorded in all the Gospels – and by St. Luke as well (Luke 24:1-10).
The Ascension, however, is recorded only by St. Luke (among the Evangelists), and this in two places – Luke 24:51-53 and Acts 2:6-12.
Likewise, the Descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost is found only in the writings of St. Luke – namely, Acts 2:1-41.
The Assumption and the Coronation of Mary are not explicitly recorded in any place of Scripture, but they are most clearly found in Song of Songs (by way of prophecy) and Revelation (in apocalyptic vision). Thus, these mysteries are not particularly indebted to St. Luke. Still, two of the five Glorious mysteries come solely from Luke’s pen, hence he may well be called the human “author” of the Glorious mysteries – at least, the Glorious mysteries come more from St. Luke than from any other biblical writer.
St. Luke on a chain
On the feast of St. Luke, we do well to recall the scriptural roots of the Rosary and especially to recognize the special role which this Evangelist played in transmitting to us the prayers and mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of our Lady.
Because the Rosary is so much based on the writings of St. Luke (especially considering the Joyful and Glorious mysteries, as well as the Hail Mary prayer itself), I have heard it called “St. Luke on a chain”. The point of this little phrase is to emphasize that the Rosary is not in any way divorced from Scripture, but is very much a means of praying with and meditating upon the Word of God revealed in the Bible.
If you desire to pray the Rosary with greater devotion, consider asking St. Luke to assist you – if God first gave us both the prayers and the mysteries of the Rosary through St. Luke, he will surely give us the grace to pray the Rosary well through the same good physician.

St. Luke, Pray for us!

4 comments:

Gaudium said...

According to a tradition St. Luke was the first person to make a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary which makes his connection with the Rosary more sensible.

Fr Levi said...

Thanks Father - I had previously noted how much of St Luke is used in the Rosary, but I had never come across the expression 'Luke on a Chain' - a very vivid description!

I am not Spartacus said...

Saint Luke on a chain...fantastic

mmatins said...

Thank you for this perspective! This invigorates me to pray the rosary more often.

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