In 2011 Redemptorist Pastoral Publications issued a little booklet called “The Beauty of the Rosary”. At the very end of the booklet there is a section called “Adapting the Rosary” which makes a few suggestions of how we might personalize the rosary from time to time.
Four examples were given:
The rosary in time of bereavement (e.g. The 5 people raised from the dead)
The rosary in time of sickness (e.g. Chose 5 healing miracles).
The rosary and the teaching of Jesus (Select 5 parables)
The rosary in moments of personal crisis (instances of crisis).
When it comes to a Christmas rosary we already have the five Joyful mysteries which connect to the birth of Jesus:
the finding in the Temple.
The Gospel writings and the traditions surrounding Christmas give us ample scope to adapt the rosary to the mysteries of the Divine Childhood. Still using the traditional structure of the rosary, we can use our religious imagination, rooted in the Gospels, to draw out the beauty and the challenge of the Christmas season.
A suggestion for Divine Childhood Mysteries:
1. The flight into Egypt
2. Teaching Jesus to pray
3. Going on Pilgrimage
4. The Hidden Life
1.THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT:
Like many of the feasts clustered around Christmas Day, the flight into Egypt is a stark reminder of the cost of the Incarnation, not only to the Holy family but to all the victims of Herod’s purge. We are so familiar nowadays with pictures of families fleeing one carnage after another; migrants and refugees have become a world phenomenon. We catch a hint of this in the urgency described by St Matthew:
So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed till Herod was dead. (Mt 2:14-15)
We can pray this mystery of the Divine Childhood for all who are physically uprooted from their homes but also for those who are spiritually adrift and unsure of their bearings in life: spiritual refugees.
2. TEACHING JESUS TO PRAY
St Luke tells us:
And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men (Lk 2:52)
In accepting all the limitations of a child, Jesus had to be taught about his religious tradition, he had to learn to pray in the tradition of his ancestors, he had to be integrated into the daily rhythm of prayer. The Prayer Book of Jesus was the psalms and it doesn’t take much imagination to envisage Mary and Joseph both teaching the little boy Jesus his daily prayers.
Imagine Jesus learning these words:
The Lord is my shepherd;
There is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose’ (Psalm 23)
We can pray this aspect of the Divine Childhood for the gift of prayer, that we too be taught by Mary and Joseph and most of all by Jesus himself, to be attuned to the Holy Spirit praying in us.
3. GOING ON PILGRIMAGE
Again, it is St Luke who tells us:
Every year his parents used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover (Lk 2:41).
In all world religions pilgrimage is a form of prayer: it is a vivid parable of our life’s journey into God. Little Jesus was brought with Mary and Joseph to the Temple every year on pilgrimage. This would involve using those 15 special psalms (known as Pilgrimage Psalms 120-134) which the pilgrims sang on their long walk up to Jerusalem.
At some stage Jesus would have learned psalm 119:
I am a pilgrim in the land (v19)
as the sense of his own unique vocation became clearer to him.
We are all pilgrims; our Church is a pilgrim Church; this mystery of Jesus going on pilgrimage strengthens our weary spirit and helps us continue on the path to the Holy of Holies, the Father of fathers, the God of our salvation.
4.THE HIDDEN LIFE
After one pilgrimage to Jerusalem when the boy Jesus was lost and then found in the Temple, St Luke tells us:
He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority (Lk 2:51)
We speak of the long years in Nazareth as The Hidden Life. Jesus was growing in every way, most especially in his appreciation of his destiny. We see these years of obscurity as significant for us. For the most part our lives are fairly anonymous; we live in relative obscurity but we have, in the Holy Family of Nazareth, a living lesson of domestic life which has important lessons for us.
In recounting what happened on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, St Luke touches on an issue relevant to all of us: questions.
First Mary’s question: My child WHY have you done this to us?
Then Jesus’ questions: WHY were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs? (Lk2: 48-49).
We all live with questions: practical, solvable questions; tricky moral questions; deep religious questions; questions of faith and life, and the candour of the Gospel questions encourages us to face our questions, especially the questions which do not seem to have an answer but with which we learn to live. The mysteries of the Divine Childhood can throw light on the mysteries of our own childhood, on our own prayer, on our own pilgrimage of life and on our own hidden life, never excluding our questions.
Fr Gerard, CSsR