Friday, October 22, 2010

Glorious Mysteries

The special Relevant Radio two day retreat continues today and this afternoon I was on the "On Call" show with Wendy Wiese, talking about the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Rosary was Pope John Paul II's favorite prayer. He said so in his Apostolic Letter, "On the Most Holy Rosary," where he also quoted Pope Paul VI who said: "without contemplation, the Rosary is a soul without a body." Thus, in order for the Rosary to be alive, to breathe life into our prayer lives, we need to reflect on the Mysteries. Such reflection can involve reading a Scripture passage for each Mystery, visualizing the scene described, and applying the Mystery to one's life. Looking at the Glorious Mysteries as a whole, Pope John Paul II said that they help people to "rediscover the reasons for their own faith." They are Mysteries of hope and joy.

The First Glorious Mystery is The Resurrection. According to St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 15, the Resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith. If we don't believe in the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus then we are the sorriest of people. Our Christian faith is in vain. Though the Gospel scenes of the Jesus' appearances after His Resurrection are very confusing, one thing is very clear: Jesus comes to console and strengthen people. The apostles, except for John, had abandoned Jesus in His hour of need and were cowering behind locked doors. When Jesus appeared, they were afraid. Was He a ghost? Was He there to condemn them? The first words out of Jesus' mouth were, "Peace be with you."

Do you need peace? Do you need hope? Do you need the Lord's consolation as you struggle with loss and grief. Invite Jesus into the tomb of your heart. He has power over death and He can be with you in your grief to give you hope. Because He died and rose, we too will rise. We were not created to be angels, bodiless spirits, but human beings, body and soul. When death separates our bodies and souls, we know that we continue in existence and that one day, as the Creed we recite at Mass on Sunday says, we will experience a resurrection like that of Jesus. As Jesus' body and soul came together and His body was glorified, so will ours.

The Second Glorious Mystery is The Ascension. For this Mystery we turn to the Acts of the Apostles 1: 8-11. After the Resurrection, Jesus returned to the right hand of His Father in heaven. He who is fully divine and fully human, now sits with the Father in glory. Human nature is in glory where God intended it to be from the beginning. Jesus, as St. Paul taught, is the Head and we are members of His Body. The Head is now in heaven. Where the Head has gone the Body will follow.

And so we keep our sights set on our ultimate destination. But this doesn't distract us from the business of life on earth. We are on a journey and like any journey it's important for us to know our destination so that we can follow the best route to get there. Jesus has blazed a trail for us and shown us the way to arrive at our heavenly destination. As we keep our goal in mind, we also watch our steps on earth to make sure that we are on track and headed in the right direction.

The Third Glorious Mystery is The Descent of the Holy Spirit. From Ascension Thursday until Pentecost Sunday was nine days. During that interval Mary and the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held and they prayed for the Holy Spirit to be given to them. This was the first novena or nine days of prayer in history. Though Mary is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit who overshadowed her at the Annunciation, and though the Holy Spirit had been active in the work of creation and the life of Israel--inspiring prophets and anointing kings--Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit in a new and wonderful way. He even said at the Last Supper that it was better for Him to go so that He could send the Holy Spirit from the Father. With Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes not only to guide people through an external influence. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to dwell within people. Now we have not only a destination and a map, but an internal guide to lead us to heaven.

Christians receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism. The presence and power of the Spirit are further confirmed and further enhanced in the Sacrament of Confirmation. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul said, and the Spirit dwells within us. God is not far away but very near. As near as our own breath. And just as our breath gives us life, so does the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, give us spiritual and eternal life.

The Fourth Glorious Mystery is The Assumption of Mary. Though we do not have this event in the Gospels, it is a dogma of the Catholic Church. This Mystery follows upon the preceding three. Jesus has power over life and death. He has risen and ascended and has sent the Holy Spirit to make us Temples. Mary was the purest of Temples because she was preserved from all sin from the very moment of her conception. Her body was a tabernacle in which Jesus was conceived and in which He developed for nine months. Since He has the power, doesn't it make sense that Jesus would preserve His Mother's sinless body from one of the effects of sin, bodily corruption and decay after death?

This Mystery reinforces our hope. Mary's Assumption body and soul into heaven is another example of what God intends for all of us--that we shall be body and soul in heaven one day. This Mystery also challenges us to be sinless in our bodies and to use our bodies to give glory to God as Mary did.

The Fifth Glorious Mystery is The Coronation of Mary. Again, we don't have this in the Gospels, but it makes sense that Christ the King would crown His Mother as Queen when she arrived in heaven. She is the Mother of the King, our Queen Mother. She is Queen of heaven and earth. She reigns with Jesus and so is a powerful intercessor for us. As our Queen Mother we turn to her in need and we also offer ourselves in her service.

It shouldn't be so strange to think of Mary as sharing in Christ's royal dignity. We too, through Baptism, share in His royal dignity. In the anointing with sacred chrism at Baptism, we hear that as Jesus was anointed to be a priest, prophet, and king, so are we. We begin to share in this royal dignity and it will reach its fulfillment in heaven when we will share in the glory of Jesus and His Mother Mary. But again we are challenged. In the Our Father we pray that Jesus will reign over us, asking "Thy Kingdom come." Mary surrendered her life to the service of the Kingdom and now she shares fully in the glory. We too must surrender and let Jesus and Mary reign over us so that one day we will share in their glory.


  1. I love the words you chose for the Resurrection: Invite Jesus into the tomb of my heart-that's so comforting!

    And I can't help but smile when I read your words about the Ascension:it's important for us to know our destination so that we can follow the best route to get there. That's advice I can surely use! :)

  2. Thank you for your reflections. I am leading a Rosary tonight for a 19 year old boy in our parish who died of brain cancer. Today is a Wednesday, so it is Glorious mysteries. I was trying to come up with relevant reflections to use for each decade, and your blog came up in my Google search. I plan to use some of what you wrote, hoping you don't mind.
    Do you know of any books that have meditations on the Rosary fit for certain occasions--like grief, for instance, but could cover other life aspects? If not, you'd be great at writing one!