The Scriptural Basis of the Rosary
"Behold, Your Mother"
In October, 2002, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Year of the Rosary in his letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which he encouraged the faithful to pray this ancient prayer often because, as he says, "to recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ." He reminds us that "when prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted." In today's world which is afflicted by violence and hatred and the weakening of families, the Rosary can indeed result in "training in holiness" of the church.
Unfortunately, many non-Catholics do not understand the Rosary, and some claim that it does not have a biblical basis; however, no Catholic teaching can ever contradict what the Bible says. Since the Creed, Our Father, Glory Be, etc., are generally accepted as having a biblical basis, the parts which are most often disputed have to do with Mary.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
The first two sentences of the Hail Mary are quoted directly from Scripture, as both the Angel Gabriel (Lk 1:28) and Elizabeth (Lk 1:42) perhaps speak for all of us as they contemplate in joyful wonder God's "masterpiece". Because of Mary's humble obedience (Lk 1:38), we were given what is without question the greatest miracle of history - the Incarnation of the Son in the womb of our Blessed Mother - Jesus, the Word made Flesh. As Mary herself noted, "generations shall call me blessed." (Lk 1:48)
The word for "saints" is also translated as "holy ones", used by St. Paul to refer to a state into which God calls us with His grace (Phil 4:21) and applied to all fellow believers (Eph 2:19, 1 Cor 16:1), both living and dead (2 Thess 1:9-10, cf. Jude 14-15). As for Mary, she was greeted by the Angel Gabriel with a royal salutation reserved only for her (the Greek word is kecharitomene), which means "FULL of grace". How much more holy can you be if you're already FULL of grace and "the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28)?
...mother of God...
The prophet Isaiah predicted that "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and his name shall be called Emmanuel." (Is 7:14) The Bible clearly identifies Mary as Jesus' mother (Jn 2:1, Gal 4:4), as Elizabeth asked "and how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Lk 1:43). Mary gave birth to a Divine Person who assumed our humanity; therefore she is the mother of God.
...pray for us sinners...
St. Paul wrote that "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;" (1 Tim 2:1). In fact, the Bible is full of reminders to pray for each other (Col 4:3, 1 Thess 5:25), to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), to love one another with mutual affection (Rom 12:10), and to encourage and build up each other (1 Thess 5:11). James 5:16 says that "the prayer of a righteous person is very powerful". Who, then, could be more righteous than Mary, the Blessed Virgin who has been completely and perfectly endowed with grace?
...now and at the hour of our death.
St. Paul taught that we are all part of the Body of Christ, individually parts of one another (Rom 12:5). We are in Christ, and death cannot separate us from Him (Rom 8:28) in the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22-24); therefore, we always offer prayers and petitions for each other (Eph 6:18-19). Mary is in heaven, but she is still united with us, unhindered by sin (James 4:3) and with full knowledge (1 Cor 13:8-13, 1 Jn 3:2) by sharing in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), so that she is indeed our most gracious advocate.
QUESTION: Is the Rosary an example of the "vain repetition" condemned in Matthew 6:7?
Not at all. When asked how to pray, Jesus taught us to say what is called The Lord's Prayer (Lk 11:1-4), and Paul wrote that we are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). Psalm 136 contains the phrase "God's love endures forever" which is repeated 26 times. During His Agony in the Garden, our Lord "prayed a third time, saying the same thing again" (Mt 26:44). Clearly, the issue is not whether a particular prayer is repeated but rather how much thought is put into that prayer.
QUESTION: Why is Mary called Queen of Heaven?
If Jesus is King of kings (2 Sam 7:12-14, Rev 19:16), then Mary, His mother, rightfully takes her place at his side as Queen. This is why in Revelation 12 Mary is depicted as a queen clothed in the sun, wearing a crown of 12 stars around her head, a symbol of royalty. Why does this matter? Scripture shows that from the earliest days, the Queen of the Kingdom was the king's mother, and she held special influence and favor with the king; for example, after paying homage to his mother, King Solomon said, "ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you." (1 Kgs 2:19). In Esther 7:2-3, Esther interceded for the people before King Ahasuerus, who listened to her and granted her request for mercy. The Old Testament prefigures things in the New Testament; therefore, it is indeed quite biblical to think of Mary as mother of Jesus the King, who is loved by her son who pays attention to her requests, just like at the wedding at Cana (John 2). This fact is what led St. Anselm to exclaim, "Our Lord, O holy Mary, has exalted you to such an extent that by his favor all things that are possible to him should be possible to you!"
Mary was not just the mother of Jesus, she is our mother. As He was dying on the cross, Jesus told the beloved disciple to "behold, your mother" (Jn 19:27). This is important because John already had his own mother; therefore, Jesus was entrusting us all to the care of his Blessed Mother. We are one with Christ (Eph 4:4, Col 3:15) and so Mary also became the spiritual Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. As St. Bernardine of Siena says, Mary became mother not only to Saint John, but also to all, because of the love she bore them. This is how we know with confidence that we can approach our most gracious advocate, Mary, who is our life, our sweetness, and our hope, sending up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears because we know that she will intercede for us as Queen of Heaven.
The Year of the Rosary will end in October, 2003; however, let us have a continued resolve to pray the Rosary on a regular basis, asking our Blessed Mother for the advancing of peace and strengthening of families, including the Church as family, as "members of the household of God" (Eph 2:19) and the "family of faith" (Gal 6:10). As St. John Vianney said, "When our hands have touched spices, they give fragrance to all they handle. Let us make our prayers pass through the hands of the Blessed Virgin. She will make them fragrant."