Last Wednesday I returned from Rome where I’d been visiting with seminarians at the North American College. It was my fifth trip to Rome, but each time I visit I’m always reminded of the importance of the transcendent in our lives.
When one walks into St. Peter’s basilica–or other major basilicas or churches in Rome or around the world–one’s heart and mind is drawn to contemplate divine mysteries and eternal truths. The very art and architecture of these sacred spaces propel one’s vision heavenward. Indeed, these places of worship were designed to lift the mind and heart to God.
The Rosary, too, is meant to elevate the mind and heart to God. I believe that this aspect of transcendence is what sets Christian meditation apart from other generic forms of meditation. By “generic” I do not intend to demean other forms of meditation; I simply want to distinguish between Christian meditation and meditation that focuses solely on calming the mind and relaxing the body.
The Rosary, like a great basilica, is meant to draw us out of ourselves. The Rosary leads us deeper into the mysteries of Christ’s life, and therefore deeper into friendship with Christ himself. Whereas some forms of meditation focus on emptying the mind through deep breathing, the meditation of the Rosary fills the mind and heart with thoughts of the divine. The Rosary takes us up into something greater than ourselves.
What’s so healing about this form of meditation is that our own lives are illuminated by the very mysteries we contemplate in the Rosary: the Joyful Mysteries show us how we can bring Christ’s presence into the world; the Sorrowful Mysteries teach us to see the good that can come from our suffering; the Luminous Mysteries enable us to discover our mission in Christ; and the Glorious Mysteries enflame our hearts with the hope of eternal life.
Breathing meditation can be a tool to prepare us to pray the Rosary; but the Rosary itself is meant to lead to communion with God. The paradox is that the more we “lose” ourselves in meditating on Christ’s life, the more we “find” our true selves in Christ.
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