October 7, 2011

The Rosary: Pathway of Mercy

Mercy or misericors, St. Thomas explains, is miserum cor, to have heartache over the plight of another as if it were one's own (ST I.21.3).  When we allow our hearts to be pierced by the plight of another in this way, we are moved to act, to do something to address the sorrow.  When it comes to the inner life of God, St. Thomas observes that God perfectly effects mercy - that is, although He does not suffer in Himself, He communicates his perfect loving goodness to address the deep sorrows suffered by in the creatures He has made.  Because He is infinite and we are finite, our misery, the intense absence of love in our hearts which is both the cause and fruit of evil in our lives, is circumscribed by inexhaustible frontiers infinite Love.

You complain that you do not see this love, that the pain is to great?  This is why the Word became flesh - by being born as one of us God Himself blazed a trail from the glorious heights of his eternal unbounded love down into the dark labyrinthine passages of our broken hearts.   He made his Cross the point where the immensity sorrow inflicting the human heart is kissed by the greater immensity of God's love. All we must do is look for this threshold in faith and ask God to help us cross it.  Here we will see the infinite love of God.

Those who glimpse this love start on a pilgrimage.  Repenting of the ways they have hurt others and themselves, they discover a life of ever deeper personal conversion.  It is a journey of forgiveness in which they submit to the Holy Spirit the wounds that others have done to them so that they might learn compassion and intercession.  It is a journey where they allow their hearts to be pierced by the plight of others just as God allowed himself to be pierced by our plight on the Cross.  In this miserum cor we discover the wisdom of God to know what to do in the moment and the power of God to act even when we feel we are at a loss and powerless ourselves.

This pathway of mercy is the journey out of the prison of our own big fat ego and all forms of self-occupation.  It is also a journey into the vast horizons of the heart of Christ Jesus from which flows the very wisdom, love and goodness of God.  The Risen Lord is Christ Crucified in whom we behold the foolishness of God bringing to shame our wisdom and the powerlessness of God overcoming the power of sin.

To help us make this journey, our great patrimony proposes that we fill our imagination by pondering the life of Christ and seeing the connections between his life and ours.  One of the tools which helps us do this is the Rosary - that ancient prayer where we ponder all the mysteries of Christ's mercy in prayerful awareness of his Mother, Mary whose soul always magnifies the Lord.  As St. Bernard says in the Office of Readings today:

He lay in a manger and rested on a virgin's breast, preached on a mountain, and spent the night in prayer.  He hung on a cross, grew pale in death, and roamed free among the dead and ruled over those in hell.  He rose again on the third day, and showed the apostles the wounds of the nails, the signs of victory; and finally in their presence he ascended to the sanctuary of heaven.  How can we not contemplate this story in truth, piety and holiness?  Whatever of all this I consider, it is God I am considering; in all this he is my God.  I have said it is wise to meditate on these truth, and I have thought it right to recall the abundant sweetness, given by the fruits of this priestly root; and Mary, drawing abundantly from heaven has caused this sweetness to overflow for us.