October 7, 2011


The luminous mysteries of the rosary

October has traditionally been dedicated to the rosary, and this Friday, Oct. 7, is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

As we know, it is also Respect Life Month, which is an appropriate time to encourage more individuals and families to pray the rosary or other devotions.

It is encouraging that more Catholics seem to be praying the rosary today after that devotion declined during the decades after the Second Vatican Council.

It is not that the Church discouraged the devotion. Blessed Pope John Paul II was frequently photographed with a rosary in his hand.

In 2002, Pope John Paul realized that the traditional mysteries of the rosary—the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries—left a large gap in Christ’s life. Therefore, he added the luminous mysteries, or mysteries of light, to be said on Thursdays.

They are called the luminous mysteries because they slowly reveal just who Jesus was. They cover events in Christ’s life from the end of St. Luke’s infancy narratives through the Last Supper.

Since these mysteries are only nine years old, many Catholics still are unfamiliar with them.

We thought, therefore, that we should comment on them while encouraging our readers to meditate on them, as well as the other mysteries, while praying the rosary during Respect Life Month.

The first luminous mystery is the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. As Jesus came out of the water, three of the four evangelists say, the Holy Spirit descended on him and a voice came from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17).

Jesus was then led into the desert for something resembling a retreat. We don’t know what he thought about, except his temptations by the devil, but surely he was planning exactly how he would carry out his Father’s will, something we must all do.

The second luminous mystery is the wedding feast at Cana, as told in Chapter 2 of St. John’s Gospel. He performed his first public miracle, changing water into wine, at the request of his mother.

At first, Jesus said to Mary that his hour had not yet come. Mary simply ignored that, probably thinking to herself that he was now 30 years old and that his hour had indeed come.

She told the servers, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5), her last words in the Gospels and good advice to all of us.

The fact that she knew that Jesus could solve the problem indicates that he probably did similar things when the necessity arose at home.

The third luminous mystery is the proclamation of the kingdom. After word got around about that miracle, it was time for him to leave Nazareth and start carrying out his mission. He performed more miracles to attract crowds while preaching about the kingdom of God.

He spoke in parables while training some of his followers, the Apostles.

Jesus was slowly revealing that he was God. He acknowledged that only God can forgive sins, but proved that he could do so when he forgave the sins of the paralytic before curing him. He was multiplying food, walking on water and doing other things that humans can’t do. But there was still confusion among his followers.

Therefore, the fourth luminous mystery is the Transfiguration. Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. His face shone like the sun, his clothes became white as light, and Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Jesus. Obviously, no mere human could do that.

Once again, as at Jesus’ baptism, a voice came from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” but this time the voice added, “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5).

The fifth luminous mystery is the institution of the Eucharist. Jesus gives us his body and blood, soul and divinity, in the form of blood and wine. He promised to do so in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, and he does it during the Last Supper.

By now, we know who Jesus was, as he slowly revealed himself at his baptism, at the wedding feast, while preaching and teaching about God’s kingdom, at the Transfiguration and in the Eucharist. He was both true God and true man.

Now, after the Last Supper, this God-man was ready to complete his mission on Earth as we meditate on the sorrowful and glorious mysteries.

We encourage people to take the time to reflect on all the mysteries of the rosary, including the luminous mysteries, during Respect Life Month and beyond.

—John F. Fink

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