Sunday, September 8, 2013

Reflections on the Rosary - Part IV (The Glorious Mysteries)

In so many ways, the Catholic faith goes against the grain of our common notions of what it means to be successful and victorious in this life. One small example of this is the processions of the Church which are led by an elevated Crucifix. By doing this, the Church takes the ignominious symbol of the Crucifix – a symbol of pain, suffering, and defeat – and turns it into an ensign of glory and victory!
Why does the Church do this? Why does the Church hold the idea of suffering in such high regard? Is it simply for the sake of being contradictory? Or is there something more to it?
The Mission of Christ did not end with His humiliation on the Cross. As humiliating as His death was, it was not the end of the story – rather, it was just the beginning. That’s because three days later He rose again victorious from the grave – and His Glorious Resurrection is the crowning truth of our faith.
So it is that, as Catholics, we profess our constant faith in the Resurrection of Our Lord, and glory in our sufferings – not only because our suffering has been redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ and so becomes redemptive itself...but also because Jesus Christ has made our suffering necessary for us to share in His own glory (Phil 1:28-29).
And this is where the Glorious Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary come in…we don’t end our meditations with the events of Good Friday; rather, we go on to fill our minds and hearts with hope as we meditate on the glorious events which followed...
The First Glorious Mystery - the Resurrection of Our Lord
After having breathed His last, Our Lord was taken down from the Cross and laid in the arms of His Blessed Mother. Because the Sabbath was drawing near, proper preparations for the burial of Christ’s Body could not take place. As a temporary measure, His lifeless Body was wrapped in a linen shroud and placed in a tomb – and the embalming process would have to follow after the Sabbath. But when the women who had prepared the embalming spices and ointments came to Jesus’ tomb at the first opportunity (i.e. at dawn on the Sunday morning), they found the tomb open and no sign of Jesus’ Body because He had gloriously risen from the dead.
The Resurrection proved that Jesus was who He claimed to be – the Son of God. But it did more than simply vindicate Him and His message. Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven; and He rose again so that death could be swallowed up in victory. This victory is applied to us when we are made partakers of His Death and Resurrection through our rebirth in the waters of baptism – that moment when our sins are washed and we rise to new life in Jesus Christ (Rom 6:1-4).
As we meditate with Our Blessed Mother on the events surrounding the Resurrection of Our Lord, may she intercede for us so that we can learn to walk more faithfully as new creatures in this truly awesome power of the Resurrection.

The Second Glorious Mystery – the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven
Following His Resurrection, Our Lord spent 40 days with the Apostles instructing them concerning the kingdom (Acts 1:3). Sacred Scripture only gives us a few accounts of His post-Resurrection appearances; and even then, only a few details are provided. And that is one area where we rely on Holy Tradition – because not everything that Jesus taught and did was recorded in the Scriptures (e.g. Jn 21:25).
But one thing that was recorded was Jesus’ teaching that it was necessary for Him to depart bodily from this earth so that the Holy Spirit could be sent (Jn 16:7) which would guide the Church in all truth (Jn 16:12). And so, forty days after His Resurrection, the Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven to take up His throne at the Father’s right hand, where He reigns over all that He has redeemed. The Church, as His Body, shares in His reign through the powerful proclamation of the Gospel by which souls are won for Christ, and sin is gradually defeated in our lives.
As we meditate on this Glorious Mystery, let us ask Our Lady to show us by her example how we may live victoriously in and through Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Third Glorious Mystery – the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit which would be sent (Acts 1:4-5). After seeing Jesus ascend into heaven, they returned with joy to Jerusalem; and for the next nine days they prayed in the Upper Room with the Blessed Virgin for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:12-14).
On the Day of Pentecost (the same day that the Law was given to Israel), the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles with the sound of a mighty wind and in appearance as tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-3). And from that moment, they were never the same again because they had now been filled with Fire from Heaven and proclaimed the Gospel with passion and conviction. In one sense, that was the birth of the Church – and just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit has remained with the Church through the ages to lead her into all truth. The same Spirit that inspired the Apostles in the inerrancy of the New Testament also continues to lead the Church so that she will never depart into error.
As we meditate upon this Mystery, let us ask Our Mother to pray with us that we might continually walk in the grace that was given to us at our Confirmation – the day that we were sealed with the Holy Spirit and given the strength to fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12, 2 Tim 4:7).

The Fourth Glorious Mystery – the Assumption of Mary into Heaven
The last time the Scriptures speak of Mary in her earthly life is when we see her in the midst of the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost. The next time any allusion is made to her, it is when St. John sees her in his great vision of the Apocalypse (Rev 11:19 – 12:1). It is especially fitting that Our Lord would grant for St. John to behold her in this way, since it was he who had been given the charge of caring for her following Our Lord’s death on the Cross (Jn 19:26-27).
According to tradition, St. John and Mary remained at Jerusalem for some time. But remaining in Jerusalem would not be safe especially as the persecution of Christians intensified and the Jewish religious leaders tried to take out the most prominent people within the Christian community (e.g. Acts 8:1; 9:1-2; 23:12). St. John then moved with Our Lady to Ephesus to ensure her safety – and it was probably for the same reason that the authors of the New Testament remained silent on her whereabouts. Given their track record, if the Jewish religious leaders knew where Mary was, they would not have rested until they had found and either imprisoned or killed her.
So, according to Tradition, the Blessed Virgin remained in Ephesus until she died a natural death in the presence of the Apostles. When the Apostles later came to visit her tomb they found that it was empty; and so it has been held as Apostolic Tradition ever since that she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven by the Lord. In affirmation of this, St. John records the vision of her in heaven, the New Ark of the Covenant.
What relevance does the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin hold for us? Why is it important? Mary is a “type” of the Church – not only in her example of holiness and obedience, but also in all that happens to her. By assuming her up into heaven, God gave Mary as a sign to us that if we walk in humility and obedience as she did, then we can be sure in the hope that we too will share the Beatific Vision with Our Blessed Mother.
So, as we meditate on this Mystery, may we ask Mary to point us to Christ; and to show us, by her example, how to walk in humble obedience to His will.

The Fifth Glorious Mystery – the Coronation of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth
When our Lord ascended into heaven, He sat down on the right of the Father as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This was in fulfilment of the promise that the Messiah would sit upon the throne of David for all eternity (Lk 1:32-33). In the Davidic kingdom of old, the queen was not usually the wife of the king – rather, it was the mother of king who was considered the queen [which is why the Old Testament line of Davidic kings makes such a big fuss of mentioning the mothers in their geneaologies]. The title that the queen assumed was Gebirah – or Queen Mother.
Since Jesus fulfils the Davidic kingdom in every sense, it is only fitting that His Kingdom has His Mother for its Queen. Thus, upon her assumption into heaven, Our Lord – who is King of Heaven and Earth – bestowed upon Our Lady the honour of being crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
The vision of Our Lady that St. John saw is a most striking one. He sees her resplendent in glory as the Queen of Heaven – clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars upon her head (Rev 12:1). But he also reminds us that she is our Mother – the Mother of all those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12:17).
So as we meditate upon this Mystery – indeed, whenever we pray the Rosary – may we be reminded of the efficacy of the prayers of the Most Chaste Virgin (e.g. Jms 5:16 b). May we be reminded that as our Mother, her intercession for us is most loving; and as our Queen, her intercession for us is most powerful.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
To thee do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, O most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us;
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.



For related posts on this topic, click the links below: