Author’s Note: This article is a the first in a five-part series examining the beauty and medication of the Most Holy Rosary. This series is dedicated to the memory of Fr. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., whose love and dedication to the Rosary inspired its widespread use and understanding in our time.
You can look at a scene, visit a location, or read a book time after time, and, each time, you gain something more from it. So it is with our Rosary.
More than merely a recitation of prayers, the Rosary is a source for meditation, enlightenment, Bible study, inspiration, solace, contemplation, comfort, and learning. At its most basic level, however, it’s a guide to the way we should live our lives. Each mystery teaches us eternal truths about how God intended us to live, and how we, when we follow Him, are made eternally and incalculably happy. Over the course of the next five months, to Mary’s month of May, let’s examine each mystery of the Rosary to gain its wisdom and peace.
The Joyous Mysteries
The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)
The word “humility” is derived from the Latin “humus” which means “earth.” We know the word generally to me “low, modest, or meek,” but it originally meant “on the ground” or “of the earth.” Face it, without God creating us, what are we? And without His life force within us, we are nothing but a pile of … dirt. Everything we have, everything we sense, everything we are, our entire existence is due to God. (Job 38 is a good reminder from God: “Where were you when I founded the earth?” “Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place?” “Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?”) Even if you’re a non-believer, you must recognize that you had absolutely nothing to do with your being here on earth, or the talents you were given, or the beauty which surrounds us. So why do we act as if we own it? Why aren’t we totally humble and full of gratitude each day?
Mary receives the angel and his news with complete humility. She doesn’t challenge God’s ability to do this (unlike Zechariah); she doesn’t complain about the burden; she doesn’t brag about her new status; and she never tries to glow in Her Son’s light. Rather, in a state of complete and simple gratitude (gratia), she runs to help Elizabeth. Her awe at God’s goodness and love for her is translated into goodness and love for others. So should we follow her example.
The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation (Luke 1:39-56)
The word “charity” is derived from the Latin “caritas” which literally means “to be valued, dear, highly esteemed.” “Cara” is also used in the Romance languages, as well as Irish, to mean “dear, precious”; and it’s where we get one meaning of the word “care.” When someone or something is valued and esteemed, we’re good to it, and we take precious care of it. Hence, charity is so much more than giving money to someone, or saying kind words about someone. It’s an intensive valuing of that person more than our own selves. If we’re humble and full of gratitude for all that God has given us, then the natural consequence of this is that we will care for all of those gifts, especially those people whom God has placed in our lives.
Mary runs to Elizabeth immediately after hearing the news of the latter’s pregnancy. She puts Elizabeth before herself, and stays to help her through what must have been a difficult gestation for an older woman. Mary knows and trusts that God has been, is, and always will be taking care of her. Her job was to use the gifts God gave her as a gift for others. So should we follow her example.
The Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity (Luke 2:1-7)
The word “poor” is derived from the Latin “pauper”, which literally means “producing or getting little.” (See related word paucity.) When we are “poor” in spirit, we realize that we alone can produce very little (See Job, above). We therefore have total trust in and dependence on God, in Whom “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Mary and Joseph knew and trusted that God would take care of them. They accepted the stable for their Son’s birth with no complaints and no hesitation. How often do we complain or second-guess God, not accepting what He has given us, but instead demanding the right to steer our own course or propose our own alternate solution?
The birth in the stable sets the tone for the entire life of Jesus. So also it should set the tone for our entire life in which we always are grateful to Him and seeking to care for one another.
The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation (Luke 2:22-40)
The word “sacrifice” means more than a sacred rite offered up to a deity. The Latin root means “to surrender, give up, suffer to be lost.” By presenting Jesus to the Temple, Mary and Joseph were obeying the Law and setting an example for us. They would be asked by God to do many difficult things, but because they had “given up” all to God, they obeyed. They did now know where God was leading them (“suffering to be lost”), but they trusted that He would lead them where they should go. They listened and obeyed.
In our pride, how often do we decide where we should be going? Not only do we disobey God’s Law, but do we determine what the law should be? If God created us, loves us, and gives us all we need, doesn’t it only make sense that He will guide us through our lives in the best and happiest way for ourselves? Like Mary and Joseph, we need to stop, listen, and surrender to God’s will.
The Fifth Joyful Mystery: Finding in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)
The first thing that comes to mind is this: Keep your eye on Jesus. While that might seem like a simple interpretation of this story, it challenges us to take responsibility for our faith. Interestingly, the word “responsible” comes from the Latin root “respondere” which means to “to pledge, to promise in return.” As stated above, we have been given everything by God: our existence, our surroundings, His love, and His guidance. In return, we are invited to pledge ourselves to Him and to promise to stay close to Him. It is our responsibility to stay close to Him, because He would never force us to do so.
Mary and Joseph assumed that Jesus was with other family members. How often do we assume that Jesus is “being taken care of” by others: our priests and bishops, the Pope, those who are deeply involved in our parish? Throughout each moment of the day, we must keep our eye on Jesus, seeing Him in the people around us, and keeping Him ever close in our hearts and minds. It’s the most beautiful and rewarding responsibility we can ever have.