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Month of the Holy Rosary: Reflections on the Luminous Mysteries

by Theresa Cavicchio

As we continue our month-long look at the events of Our Lady’s rosary, we turn toward the second group of Mysteries. The Luminous Mysteries, filling the gap between the Joyful and Sorrowful, were given to us by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2002 as an addition to the three traditional groups of long standing.

In his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (On the Rosary of the Virgin Mary), the Holy Father presents “certain particularly significant moments in [Jesus’] public ministry (the mysteries of light)” (19). We refer to this teaching for guidance in our reflection.

A momentous encounter at the River Jordan, and the climactic closing scene in the upper room, bookend five transforming events in Jesus’ public life. Our Lady is our companion and guide as our Savior’s earthly ministry is actualized in scenes of light. Although she plays a direct role in only one, as Pope John Paul teaches: “the mysteries of Christ are also in some sense the mysteries of his Mother, even when they do not involve her directly, for she lives from him and through him” (24).

First Luminous Mystery: The Baptism of Jesus ~ Mt 3:13-17 Despite the protestation of John, Jesus submits to baptism in the River Jordan. As He emerges from the waters, the full glory of our Triune God is revealed: the heavens open, and “the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out” (21). The voice of the Father proclaims, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” We pray for enlightenment to follow Jesus as pleasing children of the Father, fully receptive to the Holy Spirit’s gifts and fruits, as we carry out our own unique mission.

Second Luminous Mystery: The Wedding at Cana ~ Jn 2:1-11 “Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers.” Our Lady encourages Jesus to perform this first of His miracles, in effect giving birth to His public ministry. Concerning her charge to “do whatever He tells you,” the Holy Father explains: “This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ's public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the ‘mysteries of light’” (21). We pray for our faith to be illuminated like that of Jesus’ disciples, and to heed Our Lady’s direction in our daily lives.

Third Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom ~ Mk 1:15 As His public ministry begins, Jesus issues a call to conversion: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” This mystery encompasses Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and healing -- spiritual, physical, and emotional -- over a period of three years. Repentance, conversion, forgiveness, and reconciliation are hallmarks of the Kingdom of God evidenced in Jesus’ self-revelation. The Holy Father cites Jesus’ “ministry of mercy” (21) embodied in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We pray for Jesus to enlighten us, to keep us reconciled to Himself, and to strengthen us to work for the Kingdom of God.

Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration ~ Lk 9:28-36 This supernatural event, which Pope John Paul terms the “mystery of light par excellence” (21), illustrates the transforming power of prayer. Communing with His Father from the height of a mountain, Jesus becomes transfigured, glorified in the brilliance of divinity. Old Testament encounters New as Moses and Elijah appear. From the cloud descending upon Jesus and His astonished disciples comes the Father’s voice: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Pope John Paul states, “In contemplating Christ's face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit” (9). We pray for these transformative graces through an ever-deepening daily prayer life.

Fifth Luminous Mystery: The Institution of the Holy Eucharist ~ Mt 26:26-28 “Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies ‘to the end’ his love for humanity (Jn 13:1), for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice” (21). Jesus blesses the bread, gives thanks over the wine; these most solemn final moments of His earthly life begin with prayer, a lesson for us to emulate. The Eucharistic liturgy repeats Jesus’ words and actions at every Mass celebrated daily, at any given moment, all over the world. Through “his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery” (21), Jesus leaves a lasting memorial of love for us, a way He can remain with us -- be physically present to and within us -- as often as every day. We pray for the enlightenment of a true, abiding appreciation of this incomparable spiritual gift.

Pope Saint John Paul II has given us much to contemplate about the role Our Lady played in the events comprising these Luminous Mysteries, Mysteries of Light. “In these mysteries, apart from the miracle at Cana, the presence of Mary remains in the background … yet the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout his ministry” (21).

The Holy Father provides our conclusion: “The Rosary … offers the ‘secret’ which leads easily to a profound and inward knowledge of Christ. We might call it Mary's way … the way of a Marian devotion inspired by knowledge of the inseparable bond between Christ and his Blessed Mother” (24).

To deepen these reflections by connecting them to the cause of human life, we can make use of the brief meditations provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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