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May 25, 2001 Issue
Foundations of Faith

Running the Gospel over your fingertips

Rosary calls to mind the whole Gospel in a matter of minutes


By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor

In the church, the month of May has a special focus on Mary. This may also contains two feasts connected with the Rosary: Ascension on May 27 and the Visitation on May 31. Since the rosary is a devotion connected with Mary, May seems a good time to reflect what Pius XII called "the compendium of the entire Gospel."

Reciting the mysteries of the rosary carries one through the major events in the Gospel. As Pope John Paul I noted in a reflection the rosary before his election to the papacy: "The mysteries of the Rosary, when meditated on and savored, are the Bible in depth in any case; they are the essence of the Bible."

More and more Catholics are reading and reflecting upon the Scripture, privately and in groups that grew out of Renew 2000. But, if you don't have a Bible with you, or just have a reflective moment to spend, a decade or two of the rosary can bring the well-known stories to mind. And reveal the history of salvation. Paul VI noted that "It has also been more easily seen how the orderly and gradual unfolding of the Rosary reflects the very way in which the Word of God, mercifully entering into human affairs, brought about the Redemption. The Rosary considers, in harmonious succession, the principal salvific events accomplished in Christ" (Marialis Cultis Paul no 45).

There are 15 mysteries in the rosary, broken into three groups: the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries. All but the last two mysteries -- that of Mary's assumption and her coronation as queen of heaven -- reflect upon events recorded in the Gospels. (The last two mysteries reflect long-standing traditions and teachings of the church about the Mother of God.)

Taken in three groups, the mysteries of the rosary teach us truths about God's work of salvation.



Joyful Mysteries

These remind us especially of the events of the Incarnation, of "God with us." God became one of us. The five joyful mysteries reflect passages found in the Infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke. If we were to reflect only on these Gospel sections, we can still find the entire story of Christ's mission -- from announcing the Good News, prefigured by the annunciations of John and Jesus, to the visit of the Magi, who prefigure the spread of Gospel to the entire world. Reflecting on just these five mysteries can bring us closer to understanding Jesus' entire earthly life.

"Both Luke and Matthew proclaim the good news in advance in a kind of mini-gospel based on the birth and infancy of Jesus," explains Bible scholar and Benedictine Abbot Jerome Kodell. "What we know about the infant Jesus comes from the teaching of the adult Jesus and the early church's reflection on his life, death and resurrection. ... The infancy narrative grows in meaning the more the life, death and resurrection of Jesus resound in the faith of the reader."

The Joyful Mysteries and the corresponding Gospel readings are:

The Annunciation Lk 1:26-38

The Visitation Lk 1:39-56;

The Nativity Lk 2:1-20;

The Presentation Lk 2:22-38

The Finding of Jesus in Temple Lk 2:41-52



Sorrowful Mysteries

These mysteries help us reflect on the humanity of Jesus -- and what that humanity means for us. God so desired to share God's life with us that, through Jesus, God shared in our human weakness -- even to the point of death.

The late Msgr. Romano Guardini noted that this union between God and humankind had a lasting impact on God as well as on us: "Loving man, God has in a way allowed man's fate to touch his heart. He has united his honor -- the honor of a loving Creator -- with the salvation of his creature in such a manner that whatever happens to this creature becomes his own fate."

The Sorrowful Mysteries and the corresponding Gospel readings are:

The Agony in the Garden Mt 26:36-46; Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-46

The Scourging Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Jn 19:1

The Crowning with Thorns Mt. 27:27-31; Mk 15:15-20; Lk 19:2-5

Christ Carries the Cross Mt 27:32; Mk 15:21; Lk 23:26-32; Lk 19:17

The Crucifixion Mt 27:33-56; Mk 15:21-41; Lk 23:33-49; Jn 19:18-30



The Glorious Mysteries

Because God became one with us through Christ, we will become one with God, through Christ. The glorious Mysteries promise us that, what God does for Jesus, God, through Jesus, will also do for all of us. The mysteries of Mary's assumption and coronation only reinforce that understanding: what is done for God's mother, will be done for all those who hear God's word and keep it.

The Glorious Mysteries are about exaltation -- first Christ, then Mary, then us.

"What has happened in Christ," said Msgr. Guardini, "once and for all, shall be consummated again and again, says St. Paul ... so that it can be re-enacted in every individual. Yes, really, in every one. ... The life of Christ is the theme that is given and carried out in everyone anew."

During this Easter season, reflecting on these Glorious Mysteries give us insight into our own future. As Abp. Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati and past president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said, "The bodily Resurrection of Jesus is a revelation about human life. Transforming Jesus and raising him from the dead is God's message about an unsuspected potential in created reality. ... We come to understand that this world and God's plans for it hold more than what we see. We learn that human life is not destined for death and failure, but transformation and glory -- not in some metaphysical way ... but really and truly."

The Glorious Mysteries and the corresponding Gospel readings are:

The Resurrection: Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-11; Lk 24:1-12; Jn 20:1-18

The Ascension: Mk 16:19-20; Lk 24:50-53: Acts 1:16-12

Pentecost Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-13

The Assumption Doctrine of the Church, proclaimed as an infallible teaching by Pope Pius XII, in Munificentissimus Deus, Nov. 1, 1950.

The Coronation of Mary The teaching of the Church, dating back to at least the sixth century and reinforced by Vatican II, calls Mary "Queen over all things" (Lumen Gentium, no. 59).



In praying the mysteries of the Rosary, we have a chance to deepen our understanding of the Gospel, which is the message of salvation. Reflecting on the Gospels is the heart of all prayer. As St. Therese of Lisieux said of the Gospel: "(M)y poor soul has so many needs, and yet this is the one thing needful. I'm always finding fresh lights there, hidden and enthralling meanings."


(Sources: The New Collegeville Bible Commentary; The New Jerome Biblical Commentary; Maria Cultis; "My Rosary" by Card. Albino Luciani (Pope John Paul I); Catechism of the Catholic Church; "The Rosary of Our Lady" by Romano Guardini.)


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