October 15, 2017
Last week I began to write about the rosary as a meditation device that allows us to enter deeply into the lives of Jesus and Mary. I want to continue with that, as I have spoken with people this week who were not taught the Mysteries of the Rosary and are not familiar with how to pray them.
Traditionally, there were three sets of five so-called Mysteries of the Rosary. These were the Joyful Mysteries, which focus on the birth and childhood of Jesus; the Sorrowful Mysteries, which focus on the Passion and death of Jesus; and the Glorious Mysteries, which focus on the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, and the death and crowning of Mary.
Pope John Paul II, in 2002, wrote a letter to the faithful entitled, “The Most Holy Rosary.” In this letter the Holy Father not only reaffirmed the Church’s love for the rosary, and faith in the power of the rosary as prayer, but introduced some new elements—specifically the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. He noted that what was missing from the rosary was any mention of his adult life and ministry. It was as though Jesus was born, died, rose, and that was all that mattered. What about the three years of his active ministry? What about the content of his preaching? So much was missing.
The Luminous Mysteries are also called the Mysteries of Light, for these five images illuminate who Christ is and what he is all about. As we reflect upon them, we are led deeper and deeper into the mystery of Christ himself.
- The Baptism of Jesus—Our first encounter with the adult Jesus in the Scriptures is at his baptism. He has come to his cousin, John, and asked for baptism. John’s baptism was one of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, so it was shocking to John, and it is shocking to us, that the sinless Son of God would request such a baptism. Whose sins was Jesus confessing? Ours! As we are told, “He who was without sin became sin for our sake.” Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. He is anointed (Messiah/Christ mean “the anointed one”) by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the voice of God the Father proclaims, “This is My beloved Son on whom My favor rests.” This is the only scene in the Bible in which all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are actively present.
- The Wedding Feast of Cana—Jesus worked the first of his miracles (or “signs”) when he attended the wedding at Cana with his disciples and his Blessed Mother. At the intercession of Mary, Jesus responded to the needs of the family who had run out of wine. He changed water into wine. This Mystery reminds us of all of the miracles of Jesus. These include healings (physical healings, exorcisms, and raising from the dead), as well as nature miracles (walking on water, multiplication of loaves and fishes, etc.).
- The Preaching of the Kingdom of God—Jesus came as the Word of God, and his most important work was as a preacher. The central message of his preaching was that the Kingdom of God is at hand, the Kingdom of God is within, the Kingdom of God is coming. All of his preaching and teaching ministry finds its centrality in this message.
- The Transfiguration of Jesus—After having scandalized the Twelve by speaking to them of his coming Passion and death, Jesus took three of his Apostles (Peter, James and John) up onto Mount Tabor. There he was transfigured before their eyes, appearing for the moment in the form of his Glorious Body, that would become permanent after the Resurrection. Moses, the great Lawgiver, and Elijah, the great Prophet, appear with him, assuring that suffering, dying and rising, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets (the Old Testament). Finally, the voice of the Heavenly Father speaks from the cloud, “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him.” The Transfiguration strengthened them for the horror and scandal of the Cross.
- The Institution of the Eucharist—At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “Take this and eat. This is my Body.” He then took the cup of wine, blessed it and gave it to them, saying, “Take and drink. This is my Blood.” In this way Jesus gave himself to us in a way that would allow him to be truly and substantially present to us throughout all of time. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Jesus himself. When we enter a church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, it is truly Jesus who is there, waiting for us to come and to spend time with him.
The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary are prayed on Thursdays.
Fr. Mike Comer