In three previous posts I reflected on the Joyful Mysteries in “Queen of Drama Oct. 19, 2015, the Luminous Mysteries Aug. 3, 2016, and the Sorrowful Mysteries: a Lenten Meditation Feb. 28, 2016. Now I will share my thoughts on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. These next five meditations will end my written journey through all twenty mysteries of the rosary, which began with Mary saying “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” – the divine incarnation and end with this same woman becoming the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Mary’s humble beginning and glorious end create the womb that nurtured and then presented to the world, Christ, Emmanuel, God among us, the Word made Flesh. Without her, all of creation would still be groaning in anticipation.
The word glorious invokes thoughts of other-worldly beings, glimmering transcendence, heavenly light, joy, etc… Dictionary.com cites glorious as conferring glory, full of glory, brilliantly beautiful or magnificent; splendid. And the word glory is defined as a resplendent beauty or magnificence, a state of absolute happiness, gratification, contentment, the splendor and bliss of heaven.
So the Glorious Mysteries should invoke in us these images and feelings, giving us a glimpse of the eternal Glory that we are promised by our faith in Christ.
The First Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection.
Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.[John 20:11-18]
This is my favorite of all the Resurrection stories recorded in the Bible, because here John clearly tells us that the first person to encounter the Risen Christ is Mary Magdalene. There are so many ways in which we can interpret this. But what strikes me as most important is that in all four gospels, little is said of the women who follow our Lord and what is recorded shows a culture where women are treated as non-essential, little more than the children they care for. In Matthew we read “Those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” And later in Luke we learn that even Jesus’ Apostles would not believe Mary Magdalene when she reported that she saw the Risen Lord. “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe her.” So the fact that all four Gospels record women as the first to go to Jesus’ tomb where they discover the stone rolled away with angel sentinels where Jesus body should have been, and Mary Magdalene mistaking Jesus for the gardener, is truly the work of the Holy Spirit. And as such, we must honor this message and know that Jesus, by his life, death and resurrection honored all women as co-heirs and apostles of the Kingdom of God, no less worthy or important than any of the men who followed him.
When we encounter Jesus it is always Resurrection. We, like Martha, speak our words of faith to Jesus, “I know [we] will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” [John 11:24] and Jesus responds to us as he did to Martha, just before he frees her brother Lazarus from the tomb, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus ends this proclamation with a question, “Do you believe this?”[John 11:25-26] Our response is always, “Yes, we believe. Alleluia”
The Second Glorious Mystery: The Ascension.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” [Acts 1: 8-11]
In the tradition of the church we celebrate 40 days of Jesus in his resurrected glorious body, which still bears the wounds of the crucifixion, walking among his followers, appearing unannounced, moving through locked doors, cooking fish over an open fire, breaking bread, opening eyes, hearts and minds to scripture. He is real presence for those who are open to him. The key here is the sheer physicality of this new Jesus, this Christ among us. He eats and walks and talks and his body has substance. He can be touched. And most remarkably he still bears the evidence of his suffering and death. (You’d think with this new super-body the open wounds in his hands and feet and side would have miraculously healed over, not even leaving a scar.) What does this tell us about our body, about the physical world around us? I believe that Jesus’ coming into this world, this universe of matter, God incarnate in the very substance he created, is telling us that “It is good.” In the words of 20th Century Jesuit scientist and mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin “By virtue of Creation, and still more the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see.” So therefore there is no evil flesh that we must conquer, only a world waiting for us, the Body of Christ, to live out our mission of bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. And because Jesus’ physical resurrected body left this world we are now the Body of Christ.
The Third Glorious Mystery: The Coming of the Holy Spirit.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation in Jerusalem at this time. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in their native language. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” [Acts 2:1-8]
What a glorious experience this must have been? A physical manifestation of Spirit as wind, flames and sound. The very power of God filling these simple men and women from Galilee to overflowing. They cannot contain the energy any more than one could stop thunder after lightening strikes. There are few parallels in modern times of such an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon humanity. But yet we believe and we call upon Jesus, “Send down your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth.” It is our mission now to believe that, yes, we as his church can be empowered by the Spirit to speak and act as Christ, bringing the fire of God’s love to a hurting and broken humanity. Each year on the Feast of Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the Church and a renewal of our faith.
The Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,and holy is his name. [Luke 1:46-49]
There is a famous 16th century painting by El Greco in the Art Institute of Chicago. It is over 12 feet tall and 6 foot wide. The image depicts Mary being carried to heaven by angels, standing upon a crescent moon while the dumb struck apostles gather below her at an open sepulcher. Larger than life, when I first beheld this image it took by breath away. Maybe I experienced just a taste of the wonder and awe the earliest followers of Christ must have felt when they discovered Mary’s tomb was empty. After all she was their Matriarch and spiritual mother. And so this long standing doctrine of the Assumption of Mary’s uncorrupted body into heaven began. There have never been nor are there now any relics (a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence) of Mary the Mother of Jesus. No church or shrine built on her supposed remains, no well known traceable history of her bones being moved or kept, as we have with Saint Peter and most of the twelve Apostles. So with this mystery, we experience a taste of our own bodily assumption at the final Resurrection and praise God for his glorious gift to all humanity; Our Immaculate Mother in her glorified body, interceding for us in heaven.
The Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation
A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. [Revelation 12:1-5]
Our Heavenly Mother, is the Queen of the entire universe. She is our Feminine face for a God, who for some, feels unapproachable. Hers is not a static queen-ship, but a fully participative reign, for she cries out in pain with us; she is a mother, our mother and she labors to bring forth her son Christ, to give him to our world, her world. Her presence is never far away from our human drama, as is evidenced by the numerous Marian apparitions and interventions in the lives of a struggling humanity. And we know how she loves and cares for us her children, because she always chooses the lowly, humble sinner to reveal her radiance to.
Until the fullness of time, she will continue to intercede with all authority over heaven and Earth bestowed upon her by her son Jesus the Cosmic Christ.
So we end our journey through the twenty decades of the Rosary. We started with Mary, a young Jewish virgin saying “Yes” to God which ushered in the age of Christ and the Salvation of humankind, and ends with the completion of all things. The Alpha, is now the Omega and the woman who became the Mother of God, is now our Mother and Queen, whom we address in our final prayer: “Ave Ave Ave Maria! Ave Ave Regina!”
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy,
hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you do we cry, the children of Eve;
to you we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this land of exile.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us;
lead us home at last
and show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus:
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.