Monday, July 7, 2008

"Mystical Rose"

The "Mystical Rose," or Rosa Mystica, is one of the many titles by which the Blessed Mother has come to be known. Here is a little more about this "name" of Mary.

Her Story:

For all of recorded history, the rose has been called the queen of flowers, so it is no surprise that the rose has come to be identified with the Blessed Mother.

There are three references in Scripture that support this link. In the first, from the book of Sirach, Wisdom explains that the Creator told her to take root in Jacob and Israel, with the result that "I grew tall like a palm tree in Engedi, and like rosebushes in Jericho..." (24:14 NRSV). Commentators have interpreted this verse as a reference to the mysterious Incarnation of Christ in Mary's womb.

The second reference is from the book of Isaiah, who prophesies, "A shoot will spring from the stock of Jesse, a new shoot will grow from his roots. On him will rest the spirit of Yahweh..." (11:1-2 NJB). Commentators have explained these verses as predicting the Christ as the heavenly flower (rose) coming forth from the rosebush, his mother.

The third is from the Song of Solomon: "I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys" (2:1 NRSV). The reference is to the examplary bride and, symbolically, to Mary, the perfect bride of God who will bring forth from the Spirit the anointed one.

The early Christians embraced these metaphors. They saw the red rose as symbolic of Christ's blood, and thus it came to represent charity and martyrdom. And they saw the white rose as symbolic of purity, innocence, and chastity and thus associated it with the Blessed Mother.

As gardeners know, the beautiful rose also has many painful thorns. Here is a symbolic union of opposites: in the blossoms, beauty, life, hope, resurrection; in the thorns, pain, martyrdom, blood, death. Mary embodies this union, having suffered the martyrdom of seeing her own flesh and blood die on the cross, yet also having experienced the hope of the Resurrection.

Christians believe that God gave the Mystical Rose, alone among humankind, a special insight into these mysteries--of the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and her own role in the Redemption. The church thus appeals to Mary for the grace of her mystical wisdom.

Traditional Prayer:
O Mary, mystic rose, whose lovable heart, burning with the living fire of love, adopted us as thy children at the foot of the Cross, becoming thus our most tender Mother, make me experience the sweetness of thy motherly heart and the power of thine intercession with Jesus, in all the dangers that beset me during life, and especially at the dread hour of my death; in such wise may my heart be ever united to thine, and love Jesus both now and through endless ages. Amen.
--The Raccolta

New Prayer:
O Mystical Rose, my existence often seems a complete mystery to me. Where am I going? and Why am I here? are questions for which I have found no satisfactory answers. I pray you, grace me with your mystical wisdom, that I may begin to find the answers I seek. But more than that, keep me from questioning life to death. Inspire me to accept the answers that are right in front of me, in the poetry and symbols and metaphors that surround me, in the people I encounter, in the beauty of creation, in the God-events that surprise me daily. Teach me to enjoy life's mystery, to embrace its uncertainty, to caress its holy secrets, placing myself completely in God's hands and trusting the Holy Spirit to make of my most mysterious life something beautiful. Amen.

(From 100 Names of Mary: Stories and Prayers by Anthony F. Chiffolo. Published by St. Anthony Messenger Press, $12.95; if unavailable via the publisher or other internet resellers, please contact me directly.)