Relevant Radio is doing a special Marian retreat today and tomorrow. Today I was on "The Morning Air Show" talking about the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.
For centuries people have added mysteries to the Rosary's traditional three sets. The Joyful Mysteries end with Jesus at the age of twelve in the Temple and the Sorrowful Mysteries begin with Jesus' Agony in the Garden after the Last Supper. People have filled in the public life of Jesus with reflections on His Parables or Miracles. In his 2002 Apostolic Letter "On the Most Holy Rosary," Pope John Paul II proposed the addition of the "Mysteries of Light" or the "Luminous Mysteries." Why? In #19 of his Letter, the Holy Father wrote: "This addition of these new mysteries ... is meant to give it [the Rosary] fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary's place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory."
It is good to consider the meditations that compose the Rosary as "mysteries." They invite us to approach the events of Jesus' life with a humble and open heart, the only way to truly approach a mystery. We don't try to "figure out" the mystery. We try to open ourselves up, in prayer, to what God wants to reveal to us about Himself through the mystery.
The First Luminous Mystery is The Baptism of the Lord. Each of the four Gospels speaks of this event in Jesus' life when He went to the Jordan River and John the Baptist baptized Him. At first John resisted. He was baptizing people as part of a purification ceremony in which people declared their desire to change, to let go of sin. But Jesus is the Sinless One, the completely innocent Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. Why does Jesus submit Himself to this purification rite? He tells John that it is "to fulfill all righteousness." Jesus became human and entered into our sinful world. He took upon Himself the sins of the world. In entering into the darkness of the water, Jesus prefigures what He will do on the Cross. In the words of 2 Corinthians 5: 21, God "made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him."
What happened at Jesus' Baptism happened to each of us at our Baptism. The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit came upon each of us, making us Temples. At Baptism we were filled with Sanctifying Grace; we were made holy as God is holy because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. And the Father declared to us, as He declared to Jesus: "You are my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." At our Baptism the Father claimed us as His own beloved children, sons and daughters, pleasing in His sight.
The Second Luminous Mystery is The Wedding Feast at Cana. This comes to us from John's Gospel, Chapter 2 where we read that Jesus and His Mother and His disciples were all invited to a wedding feast. Some people have the idea that if you are holy, you aren't any fun. Jesus shows us that He, the All-Holy Son of God, enjoys a party. He enjoys good wine. He enjoys the legitimate pleasures of life. No doubt this miracle of turning water into abundant and good wine led to the many invitations to the parties with sinners and tax collectors that are so common in the Gospels.
At first Jesus seems to be reluctant to help. After His Mother Mary tells Him that the wine has run out, Jesus says: "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." In John's Gospel the "hour" of Jesus is the time of His suffering, death, and resurrection. By performing this, the first sign of His divine power, Jesus will begin the journey that will lead to the Cross.
Mary tells the servers: "Do whatever he tells you." This is always Mary's role. She points us to Jesus and tells us to obey Him. This is what the servers do and the miracle occurs. Ordinary water is transformed into extraordinary wine. We can apply this to ourselves as well. It's the spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer. Every day we offer the moments of our day to God. They are very ordinary moments of prayer and work, joy and sorrow. But when joined to the perfect offering of Jesus on Calvary and in the Mass, they become extraordinary. Like the water turned to wine, our lives are transformed.
The Third Luminous Mystery is The Proclamation of the Kingdom. At the beginning of Mark's Gospel, Chapter 1, verse 15, we read: "Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 'This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'" Jesus comes proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God and calling for repentance so that sins may be forgiven. When he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Benedict XVI said that the message of Fatima is right in line with this message of Jesus.
In the history of Israel there came a time when the people tired of having judges and prophets lead them. They wanted to be like other nations. They wanted to have a king. God said that the people weren't rejecting the judges and prophets but Him. This has been the sad history of humanity: the rejection of God and His lordship. Rather than following the Law which was designed to bring peace and harmony, humans have tended to declare themselves to be kings and lords of their lives. We have rejected God's Law and become laws unto ourselves.
Jesus calls for a conversion from this rebellious attitude. In every "Our Father" that we pray, we accept the kingship of Jesus Christ. We pray that His Kingdom may come, that He may reign over us, that God's will may be done in our lives.
The Fourth Luminous Mystery is The Transfiguration. Three of the Gospels tell how Jesus once took His closest disciples--Peter, James, and John--and went up a mountain where Moses and the Prophet Elijah appeared and Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. The glory of Jesus' divinity shines forth through Him and the Father's voice echoes the words spoken at the Baptism: "This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." This is what Mary told the servers to do at Cana. This is what the Father tells us to do. This is what it means to accept the kingship of Jesus.
This moment of glory was given to the disciples to prepare them for the trial that would come when Jesus would be arrested, spat upon, forced to carry a cross and then nailed to it. But at this moment the disciples don't understand. Peter, it seems, wants to hold on to the glory by building tents for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
In our lives we often want to hold on to the moments of glory--the consolations and joys of prayer. God knows us so well and doesn't allow us to become attached to those feelings. He hides them and we enter into darkness and a desert. This is the normal rhythm of the spiritual life: consolation succeeded by desolation succeeded by consolation. In times of desolation, St. Ignatius Loyola taught, God is purifying us and our desires, challenging us: are you seeking the consolations of God or the God of consolations? We are given consolations, little tastes of glory, to strengthen us for the trials that are part of life. They are a little foretaste of our own future glory. They are appetizers of the heavenly banquet.
The Fifth Luminous Mystery is The Institution of the Eucharist. All four Gospels give us an account of the Last Supper that Jesus had with His disciples before going to Gethsemane where He underwent His Agony in the Garden. Pope Benedict has a wonderful reflection on what happened at the Last Supper. It's the Homily he gave at the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany. The Holy Father says that there, at the Last Supper, the "hour" of Jesus arrives. He anticipates what He is going to do the next day on the Cross on Calvary, when He will transform hatred into love, and death into life. He anticipates this change at the Last Supper. As the Holy Father said: "This first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life, brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine become his Body and Blood."
It is in the Eucharist that we receive a true taste of heaven. At the Eucharist we are given the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus who unites Himself to our flesh so that the two may become one. This is what we were made for--union with God. It begins here on earth most particularly in the Holy Eucharist. This is the greatest gift Jesus could have given us--Himself to always be with us and to be one with us.