REFLECTIONS ON THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES
Based on the homilies of Don Fabio Rosini broadcast each week on Vatican Radio
(Please note that these reflections were not written by Don Fabio, but were inspired by his homilies)
The Rosary is a wonderful prayer that helps us contemplate on the events of the lives of Jesus and Mary. Pray it reflectively!
On this webpage, each mystery of the Rosary is accompanied by four or five reflections. Any one of these may be sufficient to help you reflect on the entire decade.
The Joyful Mysteries
First Mystery: The Annunciation
1. The appearance of the angel occurs in a very normal domestic situation. Sometimes we think that the Christian vocation is something that we have to seek inside of ourselves, inside our own talents and capacities. But the events of salvation are primarily the eruption of the Lord into very normal day-to-day lives. Within each of us there is a beauty that only the Lord knows how to bring out, just as he brought out the beauty of Mary in her life filled with grace. Each of us has a unique calling and mission that only the Lord knows how to bring to completion.
2. The virginity of Mary emphasizes the fact that God is capable of creating life even from virginity. In each of us there are conditions that seem to preclude life, but God is capable of drawing life from these situations. Left to ourselves we are the poor clay that is incapable of conceiving divine life. We cannot save the world of ourselves, but God can save the world through us if we are open to him, as Mary was, and allow him to operate through us.
3. From eternity, God has called us to accomplish certain tasks, wonderful tasks that resemble the mission entrusted to Our Lady! To accomplish them, however, we must look to the Lord, not to ourselves. Mary looks at herself and says "How can this be? I know not man". These are works that only the Lord can accomplish, but he accomplishes them in us.
4. The Annunciation highlights the great generosity of God towards us, of which we have a very poor knowledge. As Mary was prepared her entire life for this event, so too we are prepared for the in-breaking of God into our lives, but we must learn to be open to him. When we are open to him, we will discover that we too have been made capable of generating impossible life, just as Mary was. When we learn to open ourselves to the Lord as Mary did, then we will see the Lord's word in us take on bodily form. We will become Temples of the Holy Spirit, places where the Lord is present and active.
5. The working of grace inside any of us is God's initiative. We must not focus on ourselves in order to discover what God intends to accomplish with us. We must look only to him. Sometimes we feel weighed down by the problems and situations that confront us. They seem insurmountable. But the Lord of the universe knows how to take our insufficiencies and bring his own works to fruition in them, just as he brought about the incarnation of his Son from the virginal womb of Mary. Therefore, let us open ourselves to life, to the visitation of the Lord! Everything conduces to life if we place ourselves in the hands of the Lord and say "Yes!" to him.
Second Mystery: The Visitation
1. In the Gospel account of this event, it is the attitude of Mary that stands out. Mary has just been visited by the Angel in the Annunciation and she immediately springs into action. We are told that she went “in haste” to visit Elizabeth. The original Greek word for “haste” refers to something that is done with great intention, great care, or zeal. It has nothing to do with hurry or anxiety. Mary’s care and zeal are even more significant when we consider that she had just conceived the only Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
2. Too often our faith is belittled by the mediocrity with which we live it. When we are in possession of something precious, we do not throw it in a place where it might be damaged. We take care of it with eagerness. Too often, we live a life that lacks zeal, eagerness and commitment. When a visitor comes to our house, we clean the house so that it is presentable and offer food that is good quality. To do things any other way is to belittle our guest. How do we cultivate and take care of our faith? In the case of the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth, we see the care and zeal that permeates every moment of the encounter.
3. Even the greeting of Mary causes Elizabeth and her child to rejoice. In Greek, the word for “greeting” signifies to open oneself to others. The angel had previously saluted Mary, and in this way the heavens had opened themselves to her. Now she goes to Elizabeth and does the same thing herself. In this encounter, Mary and Elizabeth interact with each other with a spirit of openness in which their true beauty, the story of their faith journey and what the Lord has done for them, is revealed. In the attitudes that characterize this encounter we see the diametric opposite of jealousy, rivalry, and envy that can dominate relationships.
4. Grace gives rise to grace. The first grace is the visit of the angel and Mary’s conception of the Son of God. The second grace is Mary’s visit to her cousin. The beautiful things that God announces to us must be shared with others. This is the origin of Mary’s eagerness to go to Elizabeth – to share together this moment of joy. This, in fact, is a text that is full of joy. The Lord visits joy upon us so that we may visit it upon our neighbour. The child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy when Mary’s greeting fills the house. Elizabeth recounts the joyous effect that the salutation of Mary has had on the child within her womb. Mary responds with the Magnificat.
5. Mary and Elizabeth share together the joy of their fertility and the life-giving work that the Lord is doing in them. We are all fertile in that all of us have the capacity to do things that are extraordinary. In Mary we have a virgin that becomes fertile, and in Elizabeth we have a sterile elderly woman who generates life. But our Christian existence is characterized by virginity and sterility that have the potential to give life. Our Christian lives have the potential to generate life where there is sterility, to bear fruit where the branches seem old and beyond productiveness. Without care, however, we cannot be life-giving for others. Without zeal and commitment, our lives will not bear fruit. Sometimes our churches seem merely like public places. We sit in church as if we were sitting on the public transport, not interacting with others and not really interested in what is going on around us. But the church is God’s house! We must enter there with an intuition for the beauty that lies beyond the senses, and with a care and zeal that can bring this beauty to life. Mary and Elizabeth are models of what the Christian should be, people who know that life and beauty can be generated from the most unlikely of circumstances, and who zealously cultivate that life.
Third Mystery: The Nativity of Our Lord
1. At Mass on Christmas Day, we read the Prologue from St John's Gospel. We are told that everything was made through the Word, that everything receives its substance from Him. that He is life, and that this life is the light of all people. These concepts might seem abstract, but then the poetic hymn comes to a climax at verse fourteen, which is the very verse that we celebrate at Christmas: "The Word was made flesh and he lives among us". There is nothing abstract about the Christian faith! Our God came to live among us! But let us recall where the Prologue departed from. At the beginning of the passage, we had heard the Word described as the light that illuminates every person. This light was sent from God and is life-giving. In order to be life-giving, it must be accepted.
2. The passage from St John's Gospel continues: "And we saw his glory". This term "glory" does not refer to some sort of triumphalist exhibition. In Hebrew the word for glory is kabod, and refers to the weight or value of something. To contemplate the glory of God is to recognize his true worth. Sometimes we see the genuine glory of a person - not in moments of success or triumph - but in difficult moments when he is challenged to respond to adversity. John says in his Prologue that we have seen the glory of the Lord. What is he referring to here? Later in the Gospel, we discover that this glory was manifested on the cross and in the resurrection. In the Nativity we see God’s glory already in the fact that he willingly chose these most humble of circumstances for our benefit. This is real glory, the glory of the utter renunciation of oneself for others.
3. Where does God manifest his true nature? In a life like ours! The fact that Jesus became flesh shows that it is not true that our existence is one that must be rescued from the flesh, but rather that our flesh itself has been redeemed. Our flesh has become the temple of the Holy Spirit, the place in which we have the potential to live the complete form of humanity that Jesus revealed.
4. The birth of Jesus represents the incredible lengths to which God is willing to go in order to meet us in person on our terms. This event shows us that Christianity is more than a series of values. There are values involved in being a Christian, but they are derivative of an encounter with a concrete person. Jesus comes to meet us in the flesh! The shepherds found Christ in the most banal of circumstances - a child with its mother - and we too can find him in these most normal of circumstances.
5. If I understand the flesh of Christ, then I understand my own. If I begin to appreciate how much God was willing to empty himself in order to be close to me, then I begin to understand who I truly am. Through the act of beholding him, I behold my own dignity. Here we are not speaking solely of an experience of the generosity of God. If the God who made the cosmos, who formed the galaxies, makes himself nothing in order to be with you and me, then what does that make us? This is what Christmas proclaims. As St John Paul II said, if God was not displeased to become a human being, then how truly important it must be to be a human being!
Fourth Mystery: The Presentation in the Temple
1.Rites of purification were held sacred in the Old Testament because they were ways of consecrating life to God. Life was a gift from God and the first born was entrusted to the Lord. Life was not something that we were to manage by ourselves. When we seek to manage life by ourselves, we end up constructing concentration camps, or enacting laws that make us selectors of who lives or dies. When humanity grants itself the authority to manage the issues of life, we do things that are inhuman and intolerable. In the Presentation, by contrast we are confronted with a mother who humbly consecrates her child to God. But there is also a more universal dimension to the story. The mother is entrusting her child to God, whilst God at the same time is giving his son to all of humanity.
2. On the Feast of the Presentation, the first reading from the Prophet Malachi tells of the wonderful coming of the Lord to his Temple. But then the prophet asks, “Who can bear the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears?” The Lord, we are told, will purify the sons of Levi as a refiner purifies gold. Our lives are chaotic, full of ambiguity and confusion. Jesus is the only one who can purify our hearts. The fire that will be lit by this child is the Cross that will become our salvation. But in order to be saved we must choose him. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is the placing of a choice before each one of us.
3. The Presentation of Jesus causes a conflict in the world. A sword will pierce the soul of Mary and the child will cause many to rise and fall. Salvation is placed before us. The son of God is entrusted to us. We too must consecrate ourselves to him. If we do not, then we will end up living lives that are incomplete and not even human. Our families are often precarious places, heading for shipwreck. And they are in this terrible state because they are self-referential, based purely on human resources. In order to overcome the challenges that confront the family, we must consign ourselves to Jesus, purify ourselves so that our hearts are penetrated by the sword that rids us of what is not worthy of us.
4. We do not come to salvation on a wing, making our way with things that are merely human. We must give ourselves over to the Lord. The Lord gives himself to us so that we might give ourselves to him. He was born in the stable of Bethlehem so that we might start to be reborn in him, to make the essential leap away from ourselves and towards him. The presentation in the temple manifests this combat in which we must engage in order to make the leap. We belong to God. If we do not consecrate our lives to God then our lives are not even human. They are unsatisfying and incomplete. In God everything becomes holy and wonderful. But God cannot force us to give ourselves to him; we must do it ourselves just as Mary did when she consecrated her only son.
5. The Lord Jesus, offered as the first-born child to God, denounces all of the deceit and darkness that is endemic in our lives. The gift of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the fact that we have not entered wholeheartedly into a tender relationship with God. We cling onto material things, our nails digging in desperately to the things that we possess! In the heart of every human being there is deceit and self-interest. It is a tremendous gift of God to have this deceit unveiled! And how is the evil in the heart of man be unveiled? By the most curious of ways! A little child, offered to the Lord, unmasks the horrors within us. Goodness holds evil up to the light. If everyone is a hypocrite in a certain environment, then the arrival of a sincere person becomes “a sign of contradiction.” If everyone is dishonest, then the presence of a person of righteousness becomes an uncomfortable condemnation of everyone else. If we wish our hearts to be honest then we must allow this righteous sword of the Lord to pierce them. Mary is on the side of Jesus and she too must accept this piercing of the heart. It is the act of offering ourselves to the Lord that liberates us definitively from the deadweight in our hearts. When we offer ourselves to God we become aware of all that there is in our hearts that must be eliminated. Let us ask the Lord that his beauty may illuminate us and help us to banish what is contradictory from the core of our being.
Fifth Mystery: The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple
1. Mary loses Jesus and then finds him again three days later in the temple. She ponders this event in her heart for the rest of her life. Twenty years later, she loses Jesus for three days again, but then finds him risen. The Lord prepares us for our mission in life with events and signs that we must ponder continually in our hearts. In order to understand the present ways of God in our lives we must ponder on his past ways. The wonderful things that are to come have already been announced in the things that have already happened. This is true for all of us. What are the significant things that have happened to us that we need to ponder in our lives?
2. In this passage, Jesus shows himself to be consumed with the desire to carry out his Father’s will. He is on fire with the longing to be engaged in his Father’s business. We too must immerse ourselves in the story of God, and develop hearts that have no other desire than to be occupied with the affairs of God, conforming themselves to His sacred will.
3. This Gospel story reveals the fundamental spirit of obedience that characterizes the Holy Family. Joseph, Mary and Jesus are distinguished by their obedience to the will of the Father. The key to a healthy family life is that the family members put obedience to the will of God first and foremost in their lives. This conformity with the will of God is what keeps our families together, heals our existence, and enables us to grow. This is what makes us genuine women and men, authentic adults. The only one who can transform us into responsible adults is the invisible Father. He is all-powerful yet loves us tenderly. It is only when we become faithful children of His, acting in conformity to His will, that we are enabled to become fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in the truest sense, taking a proper place in our own family life and in our own destinies.
4. Mary teaches us the importance of pondering the right things in our hearts. “His mother pondered all these things in her heart.” Mary, the model of wisdom, is the archetype of how one should relate to God, and she teaches us the importance of holding things in our hearts.