Iris Plena Laetitia
News | Below you can find Br Bede’s reflection for the Rosary Vigil that took place in Blackfriars Oxford on 7th October, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The link to the live stream can be found at the end of the post.
Like all good friars, Dominicans have a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is a famous tradition that the Rosary was given first of all to St Dominic. Lesser known is the Dominican litany of our Lady. Many of the titles employed by our litany are striking for the exuberance of their praise; one of the more vivid is ‘Iris plena laetitia’. Its colourfulness is masked by the dignity of the Latin. Rendered in English, however, ‘Rainbow full of joy’ – well, it’s a bit flamboyant.
That’s a shame, because it is a title with profound biblical resonances. The rainbow of the Bible is that which the Lord set up as a mark of his covenant with Noah:
‘And God said, “This is a sign of the covenant which I am setting up between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for generations unending: my bow I have set up in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I mass up clouds over the earth, my bow shall appear in the clouds; and I shall remember the covenant I made between me and you and every living creature, of all flesh; and the waters shall not again become a Flood to wipe out all flesh.”’ (Gen. 9.13-15)
We have to understand that the Flood ushered in a work of re-creation. That rain was not just lots of rain. It is the primeval water over which the Spirit of the Lord hovered before he formed the world and gave it structure; waters held up above the firmament and pressed down below the earth, which poured out when the windows of heaven were opened. God, ‘regretted’ his creation, we are told, but he did not give it up utterly. The Flood was unimaginably catastrophic, literally an end of the world. But a way of salvation was provided, and the new world that emerged was not wholly other, wholly disconnected from the old. On the other side of the Ark, the rainbow is the mark of a new and (this time) permanent creation. It is therefore a reminder to us of God’s mercy, which is able to bring good out of evil and life out of death; and since God’s mercy redounds even more impressively to his glory than does his justice, the rainbow is elsewhere in the Bible always associated with the glory of the Lord. ‘Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendour all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord,’ we read in Ezekiel (1.28); the Book of Sirach (43.11) exhorts us to ‘Look at the rainbow, and praise him who made it; it is exceedingly beautiful in its brightness’.
Mary heralds the really new and definitive creation that comes about in Christ. The Holy Spirit overshadowed her like he overshadowed the waters in the beginning, and her virginal conceiving is a sign that God is, as the prophet Isaiah so frequently foretells, doing ‘a new thing’. Her bodily assumption into heaven shows completed in her what is promised to us all – not merely a life of the soul after death, but a new and more glorious existence even of our bodies. And the mystery of her coronation is joined with the rejoicing of all the saints in glory, shining like stars in the firmament: she reminds us of the end to which all the creation is called, giving praise to God in heaven, exulting in his wonderful works.
As we meditate upon the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, we shall be accompanied by the praises of God that are the Psalms of Israel. Let us ask God to increase hope in us, so that we can declare these praises more faithfully: so that, even where the world seems to be so much chaos, and humanity is in so much confusion, we may trust that God is tending to his creation, ever completing the work of its renewal.
1st Mystery: The Resurrection
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all his blessings – who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with mercy and compassion, who satisfies you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Ps. 103.2-5)
2nd Mystery: The Ascension
“The Lord is king, let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.” (Ps. 99.1-2)
3rd Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, upon the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! There the Lord has commanded his blessing, life for evermore.” (Ps. 133.1-2, 3b)
4th Mystery: The Assumption
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the Lord’s house!’ Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.” (Ps. 122.1-2)
5th Mystery: The Coronation of our Lady and the Glory of all the Saints
“We have thought on your mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple. As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with victory; let Mount Zion be glad! Let the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments!” (Ps. 48.9-11)
The live stream of the Vigil can be found here: