After reciting the Creed the first bead after the cross is held while the Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father” prayer is recited. It would be impossible to overstate the value of this prayer taught to us by the Lord himself when his Apostles asked Him to teach them how to pray. (Matthew 6:9-13). In this prayer are contained the essentials of the Christian life: Honoring God the Father; petitioning God for our needs; asking pardon for sin; and acknowledging our need to practice forgiveness in regard to our neighbors. We also pray for the help to avoid temptation, and to be delivered from evil. Every disciple of Jesus Christ should treasure these words and speak them from their heart with love, and trust that they are very pleasing to God. The “Pater” bead (Our Father = Pater Noster in Latin) is usually separated by a little space before and after it to distinguish it from the other beads. Sometimes it is of a different size or material, often a more precious material than the other beads.
“Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.”
What do you think of as the most important thing that has ever happened in history? Is it the Creation? Is it the Redemption? The Birth of Jesus Christ? A good case can be made for any those. Consider however, a key event that links all of those together. Nine months before the Birth of Jesus, He was conceived, we call this the Incarnation. That moment when Jesus, who is the Eternal Son of God, entered into His creation and took our human nature and joined it to His Divine nature so that he could be born, and suffer to redeem us from sin and death. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) So the Incarnation, which is the taking on of flesh in the womb of His mother, Mary, is the key to understanding who Jesus is (True God and true Man), why he came (that we might have life) and how he saved us (by suffering in the flesh) dying and rising Bodily. Consider this passage of scripture: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So, you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. “ (Galatians 4:4-7)
Bear with me! This lesson was crucial because if you see the Incarnation of Jesus as the pivotal point in all of Salvation History, you will understand why we pray the rosary. We pray it to Honor that most precious of all moments, to thank Him for it, and to drill into our minds and hearts what he has done for us so that we never forget. It is not an empty repetition; it is a constant reminder.
The Angelic salutation, or “Ave Maria”
Having established the unique importance of the Incarnation of Jesus in the womb of His mother, we will pause to look at that awesome moment. What does Scripture say of it? Luke 1:26-38 relates the encounter of the Angel Gabriel, who was sent to the Virgin Mary. He said, “Hail, [Mary] full of Grace! The Lord is with Thee.” (Lk 1:28) Those words accompany the entry of the Creator of the Universe into His creation to save it. A short time after this we hear Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit declare, “Blessed are thou among women And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, [Jesus].” Lk 1:42 So this is the first half of the “Ave Maria”. It is a combination of two passages of Scripture. Connected to the salutations of Gabriel and Elizabeth is a petition. In the petition, we ask the mother of Our Lord Jesus to pray for us, in the same manner as we ask for prayers from each other. If I said to you, “pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death” I’m confident that you would!
When we give Mary the title “Mother of God” we mean that Jesus is God, and Mary is His Mother. Jesus has a Divine Father in Heaven from all eternity, but he had a human mother on earth who is now with him in Heaven. So the petition we make is: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” This salutation with its petition is proclaimed 10 times while meditating on each of the mysterious events in the life of Jesus. (His birth, death, Resurrection, etc.) The “Ave” beads on the rosary are in groups of 10 called “decades”. They make up the bulk of the prayers.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen. -Fr. Keller