In a previous post, “Queen of Drama Oct. 19, 2015, I reflected on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and how Mary experienced and dealt with drama in her life. The Joyful mysteries begin the journey through the Rosary with Mary saying “Be it done unto me according to thy word.” They show us how Mary is the vessel and nurturer of the Christ, Emmanuel, God among us, bringing forth the salvation of all the Earth. Here I will present the Luminous Mysteries, which are quite new to the tradition of the Rosary, being added by Pope John Paul II. They follow the arc of Jesus ministry, prior to his passion and death.
The First Luminous Mystery: The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:13-17]
Baptism, the first Sacrament that we receive, is bestowed upon us as pure gift, our ultimate initiation into the family of God, a rebirth, cleansing us of all guilt. Jesus, who had no need to be cleansed desires to be baptized. He joins the dusty milling throng pushing toward the Jordan River and the wild crazy preacher yelling “Make straight the way of the Lord. Repent! Turn from your sins!” Pope Benedict explains Jesus baptism in his book Jesus of Nazareth as an act of solidarity with broken humanity. Jesus by his very life declares he is one with us in all our physicality, our grubbing to live, stumbling and striving our way back to God.
After Jesus is Baptized, he is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” where he spends the next forty days, fasting and praying, where he is tried and tested, after which he returns to the world prepared to do his Father’s will.
The Second Luminous Mystery: The Wedding Feast at Cana
There was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited along with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.” So they took it. When the steward had tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), he called the bridegroom and said to him, “Every host serves the good wine first; and when they have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” [John 2: 1-10]
This is my favorite story in all the Bible. Jesus, a man of 30, God incarnate, submits himself to the will of his mother. If nothing gets you to come to Mary with your prayers, then this story certainly should. Something as insignificant in the great scheme of life as “They are out of wine,” brings about a miracle of transformation; water made wine. I see the scene in my mind’s eye; the men lounging at long tables laden with food; eating, drinking wine, talking loudly and laughing. There is music and dancing. The women are in a separate area, minding children, gossiping, joyfully celebrating the marriage of one of their own. Mary had to leave this group and go to her son in the men’s area to speak to him of the wine situation. This was her family and she knows how bad it will be for them if the celebration is cut short because the wine ran out. Many of the guests had traveled from neighboring villages to be here. They could not be expected to go back home after only one night of celebrating. Mary also knew that the family had sacrificed much to put on such a fine wedding feast and that many more guests came as a result of her son being here. She had to do something. And she knew her son could fix it. So when he dismissed her, she ignored him and instead instructed the servants “Do whatever he tells you.” Today we still hear her message to us, “Do whatever he tells you.”
The Third Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God
Jesus sent out the twelve, charging them, “Go…… to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay.” [Matthew 10:5-9]
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” [Luke 13:18-19]
And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.”[Luke 13:20-21]
Jesus spends a lot of time trying to help us grasp the concept of “The Kingdom of God” or “The Kingdom of Heaven”. He never gives us a direct description, but instead he tells us parables, using metaphors and stories to show us how a person acts or feels about this “Kingdom”. What are some of the qualities a person shows who is bearing the Good News of the Kingdom? What is this Kingdom like? It is like a tiny seed that grows to be a large tree. It is like a small portion of yeast that causes the whole loaf to rise. It is like a handful of seeds sewn by a farmer on all kinds of soil, not all producing fruit. It is like a pearl of great worth that one would go to great lengths to have. A lost coin found. A wandering sheep recovered. The run-a-way coming home. And then Jesus tells his followers how they are to go about spreading the Good News about this Kingdom. They are to do things, perform Acts of Mercy. He has shown them how by his own life. Do what I do; teach, heal the sick, pray for others, love your enemy, forgive those who trespass against you. This is the Reign of God on Earth. This is why we are Christ followers and this is what we are to be about, “doing our Father’s business.”
The Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Eli′jah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli′jah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. [Matthew 17:1-8]
All I can say is WOW! I have always felt this event should be part of the Glorious Mysteries. Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus in all his glorious divinity. So luminous that they could not bear to look upon him. So overpowering that they fell face down. Too much for three simple humans to comprehend. Peter in a dazed euphoric stupor, offers some lame idea about putting up three tents. I love Peter for this. He is so much like us. When faced with divine power, we cower, we stutter and make up crazy ideas to try to explain the inexplicable. Some of us have experienced a taste of the divine at special moments in our lives, but most of us can only imagine. Many of the great saints know what these three experienced at the Transfiguration and they know that it is pure gift, a jolt of supernatural grace that can be drawn upon for strength and comfort in times of trial for the rest of their earthly lives. Jesus gave this gift to Peter, James and John and he gives it to us all. We can always come to the fount of mercy and grace and be lifted above our circumstances.
The Fifth Luminous Mystery: The Institution of the Eucharist
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ” [Matthew 26:26-29]
The breaking of bread, the sharing of a meal with those we love. This is communion. This is a sacramental moment. But Jesus made it even more. He uses ordinary bread and wine, two staples of every meal in his time, and shows his followers what it means to give yourself to others, to break your own body, to transform you blood into a life giving drink. “Eat my flesh and drink my blood,” words that sent many followers away. But Peter answers, “Where can we go. You have the words of eternal life,” when Jesus asked the twelve “Will you too leave me?” The Eucharist as we celebrate it today, is Jesus giving himself to human kind again and again and when we partake we are saying as Peter said, “Yes. I am here. I will not leave, even when your words are hard to hear. You are the Beard of Life.”
And so ends our meditations of the Five Luminous Mysteries of Jesus ministry on earth.
The Rosary continues following Jesus life with his passion and death in the Sorrowful Mysteries, and finally with the victory of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, and Mary’s elevation to Queen and Mother to us all in the Glorious Mysteries.
The twenty decades of the Rosary, four sets of Five Mysteries each, are a beautiful way to meditate on the Incarnation and Salvation story. The word becoming flesh and dwelling among us is cradled in the life of Mary, the vessel whose “Yes’ to God begins the journey and her elevation as Queen of Heaven and Earth, present at the very throne of God, ends it.