When S John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the Holy Rosary, some people with traditionalist instincts were not altogether full of approval. In fact, the history of the Rosary is not as neat and uniform as one might expect. My own unease arose simply from the fact that, by raising the tally of Aves above 150, he spoilt the original notion of the Rosary as a lay 'Psalter'.
But, rather than going into all that, I would like to point out three minor, but suggestive, facts about the 'Method' of saying the Rosary devised by S Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort (1673-1716).
(1) In the First Mystery; we are given
We offer thee, O Lord Jesus, this first decade in honour of thy Incarnation in Mary's womb ...
In other words, it is not precisely the external Lucan picture of Gabriel Annuntiant that is in the forefront here; but the Reality of what has happened within Mary's body. Of course, these are two sides of the same coin; there is a fantastic pair of Tiepolos in the possession of the Duchess of Villahermosa (they went to the Met in 1996) showing Abraham prostrate before the theophanic 'Angels' of Genesis 18; and Gabriel himself prostrate in adoration before Whatever is within the womb of Mary Annuntiate.
(2) In the Second Mystery, the text reads
We offer thee, O Lord Jesus, this second decade in honour of the Visitation of thy holy Mother to her cousin Saint Elizabeth and of the Sanctification of Saint John the Baptist ....
The italics are mine, to draw your attention to the inclusion of the Mystery of S John's Sanctification before his birth, which is the reason why, alone of Saints except for our Lady, he is assigned a liturgical celebration of his Nativity. Without in any way undercutting the cultus of S Joseph, the Mighty Patriarch, I think we have lost something because the Mighty Prophet, S John Baptist, has been un peu side-lined. And, if you query my claim that he has been somewhat side-lined, try doing a statistical survey of how many males were named John in Medieval England; and how many were baptised Joseph in Victorian Ireland!
[So three cheers ... again! ... for the people in the CDF, fine fellows, who have given us a Preface of S John Baptist! Even if it has taken Rome 101 years so to honour S John after S Joseph's Preface was added to the Missal (done, like the Preface for the Departed, under Benedict XV).]
(3) In the Fourteenth Mystery, S Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort gives us
We offer thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, this fourteenth decade in honour of the Resurrection and triumphant Assumption of thy holy Mother into heaven ...
This time, my italics remind you of the common tradition of East and West that the Theotokos died and was raised before her Assumption. This has been rather overlooked in the West; my feeling is that the reductive nature of Pius XII's 'definition' may be to blame here.
I love a picture by Rubens (circa 1611, in the Hermitage; it once paid a visit to the Hermitage Rooms in Somerset House) which in its lower register shows the stone being rolled away from her tomb and the discovery being made that her body is absent; while some of the crowd are having their attention drawn upwards to the heavenly spectacle of Mary being raised to her Divine Redeemer, who waits to crown her. The entire Eschaton of the great Mother of God Mary most Holy on a single canvas!
In these details, S Louis-Marie shows us an earlier and (dare I say it) slightly less tight version of the Western Rosary tradition.
I hope, by the way, that he is declared a Doctor of the Church on the same day as S John Henry Newman!