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The Tradition of The Rosary

Part 3

Mysteries and Prayers

By Bruce W. Robida



The Four Glorious Mysteries

The four mysteries of the rosary are said in cycles based on the seasons of the liturgical year.  These seasons are: Advent, Christmas, the First Period of Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, and the Second Period of Ordinary Time. There is no Biblical explanation or even reference to these seasons.  That is not to say there is anything wrong with marking seasons with reference to historical, Biblical events, especially those associated with Christ.  The lack of Biblical precedence is not reason enough to reject such observances, however, when tradition overrides Biblical instruction, precept, or principle, that is where the problem comes in. 

The mysteries of the rosary are called: The Joyful Mysteries; The Sorrowful Mysteries; the Glorious Mysteries; and the Luminous Mysteries or Mysteries of Light (Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries for the rosary on his 24th anniversary in the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae).

The Joyful Mysteries contain five events which took place according to the Scriptures.  They include: The annunciation of Mary (Luke 1:30-33), The visitation of Mary (Luke 1:41-42), The nativity of our Lord (Luke 2:10-11), the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:29-32), and the finding of our Lord in the temple (Luke 2:48-52). 

The Sorrowful Mysteries contain five events which also took place according to the Scriptures.  They include: The agony in the garden ( Matthew 26:38-39), The scourging at the pillar (John 19:1), the crowning with thorns (Mark 15:16-17), the carrying of the cross (John 19:17), and the crucifixion and death of our Lord on the cross (John 19:28-30). 

The Glorious Mysteries contain three events which also took place according to the Scriptures, and two more events which are not at all mentioned there although an attempt is made to tie in Scriptures to validate those last two events. The first three events include, The resurrection of our Lord (Mark 16:6-7), The ascension of our Lord  (Acts 1:10-11), and the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles (Acts 2:1-3). The last two events are: The assumption of the blessed virgin Mary into heaven (Song of Songs 2:3-6), and The coronation of our lady as queen of heaven and earth  (Luke 1:46-48).  We’ll look at these two in a little more detail later.

The Luminous Mysteries contain five events which also took place according to the Scriptures.  They include: The baptism of Christ (Matthew 3:13, 16, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21), the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-11), Christ’s proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36, 2 Peter 1:16-18) and the institution of the Eucharist (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-39).  Although, according to Roman Catholic tradition, the Eucharist actually transforms into the body of Christ, Protestants view the Lord’s supper in a different way, which is a topic for discussion at another time.

We will now consider all of the events that actually took place according to the Scriptures.

It is good and it is right to consider these events and meditate on them as often as possible. I suppose it is also good to do these things as part of a tradition and in cycles so that none of the events that have been classified as either Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious, or Luminous, have been forgotten.  However, we are already taught in the Scriptures to meditate on all of God’s works (see Joshua 1:8, Psalms 48:9, 77:12, 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148, 143:5, and 145:5). We should not fail to remember all of these things. 

But now let’s look at the last two of the Glorious Mysteries in much greater detail.  Once again, they are: The assumption of the blessed virgin Mary into heaven
(Song of Songs 2:3-6), and The coronation of our lady as queen of heaven and earth  (Luke 1:46-48).  As I stated earlier, an attempt is made to tie these last two events to Scriptures in order to validate the claims of these events.  

Song of Songs 2:3-6 is a song of King Solomon which is actually for lovers.  It is a stretch to say that these verses point to Mary, the mother of Jesus being taken up to heaven.  There is no doubt in my mind that Mary will share in the inheritance of all the saints.  She certainly was a special part of God's redemptive plan. But, when Christ died, He died for every person who ever lived, including Mary, His own mother.  Mary was a sinner just like the rest of us and she too needed a Savior (Romans 3:23).  The Assumption of Mary assumes that she did not die, but was taken into heaven without tasting death.  While I’m not saying this is impossible for God, I am saying that if such an event occurred, wouldn’t it be recorded for us in the Scriptures? 

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 2KI 2:11

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. MK 16:19

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. LK 24:50-51

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. AC 1:1-2

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. AC 1:9

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." AC 1:21-22

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:  He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. 1TI 3:14-16

An event of this magnitude would have been recorded, if Mary would have ascended into heaven as it has been suggested. 

John, the apostle according to his own word, whom Jesus loved, was instructed by Jesus just before He died on the cross, to take care of Mary.  The apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, and the book of the Revelation.  If Mary had indeed ascended into heaven, wouldn’t the one who recorded Christ’s ascension into heaven, the one who took care of Mary after Christ died, have recorded such an event?  Why would he omit such a thing from his writings and why wasn’t this event ever mentioned by any of the apostles?  Because I don’t believe it ever happened.

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. JN 19:25-27

The last glorious Mystery, which is the coronation of our lady as queen of heaven and earth, is supposedly validated by Luke 1:46-48.  Again, this is a stretch of these Scriptures to say that they represent the coronation of Mary as queen of heaven on earth.  Mary was visiting her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth said, blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear (Luke 1:42).  Mary later said, and rather prophetically, all generations will call me blessed (Luke 1:48).  Does this mean she was crowned queen of heaven and earth?  There are at least 220 instances where someone is called blessed in the NIV. Does that mean all of those that are called blessed will be crowned as king or queen of heaven and earth?  The truth is, Christ alone will rule the earth.

May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah PS 67:4

He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.
PS 72:8

I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.  He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. ZEC 9:10

And again, Isaiah says,  "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him." ( not two but one will arise... )
RO 15:12

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. EPH 1:18-23

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. REV 12:1-6

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. REV 19:11-16

Notice, there is no mention of Mary ruling with Christ, but there is much mention of Christ ruling alone.  The last two glorious mysteries are created myths which cannot be substantiated by the Bible.  Therefore, credence should not be given to them.

The Prayers of the rosary

The rosary consists of 50 small beads and 4 large beads equally divided and a pendant consisting of 2 large beads, 3 small beads, and a crucifix. The small beads are used to pray the Hail Mary, while the large beads are used to say the Lord’s prayer. The apostles creed is prayed on the crucifix and at the end of each group of Hail Mary’s, a prayer of praise is given. 

The sign of the cross

Although there is no precedence cited in the Bible on the practice of making the sign of the cross, I don’t think there is a problem with doing it. 

The apostles creed

It is important to know what you believe, so for that reason, creeds are good to have.  However, it must be based on what the Bible teaches.  The only drawback to reciting creeds is that it is limited in its scope.  It can’t possibly contain all that a person believes, but it should contain the essentials. 

The Lord’s Prayer

Jesus explained to His disciples how they should pray.  It is interesting to note that He instructs them not to pray like pagans.   

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. MT 6:5-8

"This, then, is how you should pray:  " `Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ' MT 6:9-13

It is good to say the Lords prayer, but I don’t think Christ meant for us to repeat that exact prayer over and over again.  He said, “This is how you should pray.”

Hail Mary

This is a prayer directly to Mary.  This prayer does not suggest the one reciting the prayer worships Mary, it is simply a request for Mary to intercede on behalf of the one making the request.  There is no reference in the Bible for such a prayer. 

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

On the surface, this seems like a perfectly legitimate prayer.  The person praying makes statements that are true, for example: blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. The person is asking Mary to pray for us sinners.  The problem is that we are never told to pray to anyone but God in the Bible.  In fact, there are at least 347 examples of the word pray in the NIV, how prayer was accomplished and who was prayed to and not one of those examples promote prayer to anyone but God or Christ.  We see over and over again, I prayed to God, or pray to the Lord, but there is not one example of prayers in the Bible that are directed to someone else. 

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. JN 14:12-14

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. JN 15:16

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. JN 16:23-27

Jesus tells us to ask anything in His name.  But who do we ask?  These last few verses give us a clue.  Jesus said, “In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf....”  God will give us what we ask in the name of Jesus, even though Jesus says He will not even ask the Father on our behalf, because God hears us, because He loves us, because we love Christ and believe that He came from the Father.  For these reasons, there is no need to pray to anyone on our behalf. 

Another reason we should not pray to anyone else but God is because He wants us to come directly to Him.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. HEB 4:14-16

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. RO 5:1-2

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1JN 5:14

When we don’t even know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us.  Again, there is no need for us to pray to anyone else but God because the Holy Spirit who knows our hearts, intercedes for us.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.RO 8:26-27

Jesus, who is our High Priest, sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. RO 8:33-34

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. HEB 7:23-25

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1JN 2:1-2

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time. 1TI 2:1-6

We can see that God the Father, gives us access to come directly to Him.  The Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray, and Christ, who is our High priest, lives to intercede for us.  The Bible says that there is only one mediator between God and men and that is Christ.  You can see that there are many Scriptures showing us how we should pray, but more importantly, to whom we should pray.  Other religious institutions promote praying to saints and to the virgin Mary, even to dead relatives.  These practices cannot be justified in light of the overwhelming evidence that we should pray directly to God or Christ for all of our needs.   Praying to someone other than God through Christ, makes Christ unnecessary while He sits at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  This is a clear statement of fact.  If we want to get to God, even if we want our prayers to reach Him, we must go through Jesus Christ, no one else.  The tradition of praying the Hail Mary, nullifies the Word of God, and anything that does such a thing, should be avoided.

Prayer of Praise (Glory to the Father)

Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

This prayer is made at the end of each group of Hail Mary’s.  There is nothing wrong with such a prayer, except that like the Lord’s Prayer, and the Hail Mary’s, it is repetitious.  “...do not keep on babbling like pagans...” Matthew 6:7

Oh My Jesus

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have the most need of your mercy.

This prayer was supposedly requested by the virgin Mary at Fatima.  There is no precedence in the Bible for people, after they had died, coming back to speak to us.  In fact, there is a parable which shows us that God does not provide for us someone to speak to us after they had died.  There are also Scriptures that tell us not to contact the dead because it is detestable to God (see Deuteronomy 18:10-13). Some will say that Mary never died and that is how they are able to justify her appearance in places around the world.  However we have already looked at the unlikelihood of that happening since there is no mention of the Assumption in the Bible. 

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' "But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' "He answered, `Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'   "Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' " `No, father Abraham,' he said, `but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' "He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' " LK 16:19-31

Hail, Holy Queen

Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, our hope.

To you we cry, poor banished children of eve; to you we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.  Turn then O most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. O Clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.  Pray for us O Holy Mother of God.


That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, let us pray ; O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech you, that meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy rosary of the blessed virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.

Through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.

This prayer and response are most offensive.   Let’s look at it line by line in the  light of the Scriptures.

1: Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, our hope.

Here we see Mary taking the place of Christ as our life and our hope.  Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (JN 14:6)  Christ is our life, not Mary.  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. (1TI 1:1) Christ is our hope, not Mary. 

2: To you we cry, poor banished children of eve...

Our cries must go out to God, because we are not children of Eve, instead, we are children of God.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. (RO 8:15-16)

3: ...to you we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears...

Just as our cries should go up to God and not Mary, so should our sighs. 

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing (PS 5:1). 

All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you
(PS 38:9)

4: ...Turn then O most gracious advocate...

Can Mary take the place of Christ as our advocate?

Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.  My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; (JOB 16:19-20)

5: ...your eyes of mercy toward us...

Christ is the One who shows us mercy, not Mary.

It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. (RO 9:16)

6: ...Pray for us O Holy Mother of God....

Again, there is no purpose in praying to Mary, to ask her to pray for us, when we already know that we have free access to God who encourages us to come to His throne with confidence.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

7: Response: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, let us pray ; O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech you, that meditating upon these mysteries of the most holy rosary of the blessed virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.

This response is a prayer to God.  On one hand, prayers are to Mary to intercede on our behalf, and on the other, prayers are to God to grant us promises based on meditating on the rosary, which contains prayers to Mary to intercede for us.  Do you see the circular logic involved here?  This kind of logic really is not the issue however.  The real issue is the promise of God.  While meditating on the true mysteries (omitting the last two of the glorious mysteries), is good and can possibly lead someone to salvation through Jesus Christ, praying the rosary while doing so is not.  The promise of salvation is clear in the Bible.  If praying the rosary, or doing anything else could guarantee your salvation, why is it not mentioned in the Bible? John 3:16 makes no mention of the rosary. 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-  not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we could be saved by works, why did Christ have to die on the cross?  The fact is, there is no substitute for faith in Christ to receive salvation, or the promise of God. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life...” ( JN 3:16) This response is asking God to give us what He has already promised, by meditating on these mysteries, again nullifying His Word for the sake of tradition.  This tradition did not come from Christ, Mary, or the apostles.  It came into Christianity in the early middle ages by men who either did not know what the Scriptures say, or they knew but disregarded them.  Either way, it leads people to pray to deaf ears and it also leads people who have devoted themselves to the practice of praying the rosary for the purpose of receiving God’s promise of eternal life, to have a false sense of eternal security.  Praying the rosary cannot save you, but it can have the effect of condemning you because you disregarded the Scriptures and practiced a tradition which was created by men, making God’s Word of no value.

In Part Four we'll take a look at the Fifteen Promises of Mary for those who are dedicated to reciting the Rosary.

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