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A Contemplative Prayer

Written by Fr. Alan Joseph Adami

Contemplation, as the Angelic Doctor St Thomas asserts, is found first and foremost in our intelligence, because by means of contemplation we understand the saintly mysteries.  But contemplation, goes on the Dominican saint, reaches its fullness in the animation of our will, because contemplation cannot be separated from the love of God.  As a fact, St Gregory the Great links contemplative life wholly God’s love.  Hear the sweet words written in his commentary on the book of Isais the Prophet, “contemplative life despises the preoccupation on worldly matters, and stimulates itself to look at the face of its creator. In contemplative life, one looks at the divine mysteries and animates himself with love toward God.  But, for one to look at another, he needs to be in his presence.    


And who, if not the Blessed Virgin could be the most perfect model of contemplation, when at the home in Nazareth, she looked at her creator in the person of Jesus Christ.  As the Saint Pope John Paul II writes concerning the Rosary of the Virgin Mary, “the contemplation of Christ has in Mary an boundless example.  The face of Christ belongs solely to Mary.  It was in her womb that Christ was formed.  No one was made to contemplate the face of Christ so faithfully as Mary,” (1).  Therefore, we can rightly say with Pope John Paul II that the rosary is “the school of contemplation” once the rosary is a Marian prayer.


The Blessed Virgin was the model “par excellence” of contemplation because her love of God was a crown of perfumed roses “rosarium odorata”.  St Gregory the Great believes that the heart kindled with the love of God (God’s charity) is the beginning of contemplation, and lays as bliss (delectationem) the end or the fullness of contemplation, the joy of this same love, that is God Himself who, as St John teaches, is love.


As every love of man is enkindled the more the lover is near to  whom he loves, so also the love of Mary toward God was inflamed the more it set into his great mysteries.  The more the flame is near the fuel, the more the fuel enflames.  Similarly, the more God moved near  the Blessed Virgin, the more her heart was enlightened toward him; in charity.  And what kind of approach exceeds that of a mother toward her children when these are in her womb?  Could Mary’s charity not be inflamed when God was taking on human nature in that temple of her womb?


It is only when we realise the vicinity of God with Mary that we can appreciate her intense love of God.  It is only when we realise the level of intensity of her love that we can appreciate the extent of her contemplation.  What model of contemplation! The mother inflamed with love is brooding, day and night, over the mysteries of God.  Therefore, it’s not without reason that the holy rosary is named the school of contemplation because, who prays the rosary like Mary does, spends his time in contemplation of the life of Christ.  That which Mary used to do sensibly while watching the life of her son Jesus developing in front of her eyes, we do it using the beads of the Rosary.  Therefore, this prayer is the teacher of Marian Contemplation.  Because like Mary, in the Rosary we again visualise the most profound mysteries of our Saviour, the Incarnation, Redemption, and Eternal Life.    


And the prayer of the Rosary, in a marvellous way, teaches us contemplation in three stages, according to our progress in Christian life.


The first step is to understand the final destination of Christian life.  In the first stage of contemplative life, man receives knowledge, revelation, that the scope of his existence is the total union with God in the Beatific Vision in heaven.  This divine wisdom we received through the human life of Christ.  It is precisely this revelation of happiness that we contemplate in the Joyful Mysteries.


The second step is the road by which we get to a total union with God.  This road in nothing more except the exercise in the life of virtue.  This is the contemplative level of travellers, that is our step on the road to sainthood.  This stage has two aspects.  The first aspect we see in the Mysteries of Light where we remember the tools that shape in us virtues that turn us in to a lively image of Christ.  The second aspect we see in the the Sorrowful Mysteries through which our guilt is cleared and we become an image of the Crucified Christ.


The final step in spiritual life is the stage of comprehension, that is the stage of those that have already arrived at the Beatific Vision and are enjoying God.  This the stage of the saints who are relishing God.  In spiritual life, this stage is symbolized by the Mysteries of Glory through which we are relieved and strengthened in the hope of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that of the first fruit of the Blessed Virgin is seen also in us rising from the death by means of his grace.  How just then are the words of Blessed Bartolo Longo who calls the Rosary a sweet chain that joins us to God.  Because who prays the Rosary walks the way of contemplation that leads to perfection.


Therefore, the Rosary is an accompaniment for everyone in whatever stage of Christian life he is: everyone can be a contemplative when he recites the Rosary.  Therefore the Rosary is a means of salvation, because through contemplation that offers and prepares us for the Beatific Vision, when we look at the image of the face of God forever.  Thus, it is not in vain that, in the feast of the Rosary, we pray “meditating the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary...we imitate all they have, and we receive all they promise.”



1. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 10.

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