The cross

The Rosary contains mysteries and meditations which are very precious. These mysteries are fundamentally the Gospel. In this article we will look at the Catholic Rosary mysteries meditations.

What is a Mystery of the Rosary?

A mystery of the Rosary is an event/aspect of the lives of Jesus and/or Mary. For instance, one might choose to meditate on the mystery of the Crucifixion or the Nativity.

It is essential to meditate on these mysteries if one wishes to pray the Rosary. The Rosary cannot be prayed without the mysteries.

To meditate on the mysteries, it is sufficient to announce the mystery under consideration, and then to pray one Our Father and 10 Hail Marys, finishing with a Glory Be.

There are as many unique ways of praying a mystery of the Rosary as there are Catholics, but the above is adequate.

Many Catholics find it useful to imagine in their minds the mystery, to help them meditate. Others use pictures or images.

These days, it is common for Catholics to use a mobile app. There are many ways to meditate on the mysteries.

Many Catholics add an extra prayer at the end of the 10 Hail Marys and the Glory Be. This prayer was given by Mary at Fatima.

It goes: ‘O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those who are most in need of thy mercy.’

This prayer is optional, and not essential to the Rosary.

What are the Mysteries?

The Rosary contains many mysteries. For the traditional Rosary, these are as follows:

  1. The Joyful Mysteries – The Annunciation; the Visitation; the Nativity; the Presentation; the Finding of Jesus
  2. The Sorrowful Mysteries – The Agony in the Garden; the Scourging at the Pillar; the Crowning with Thorns; the Carrying of the Cross; the Crucifixion
  3. The Glorious Mysteries – The Resurrection; the Ascension of Jesus; the Descent of the Holy Spirit; the Assumption of Mary; the Coronation of Mary

It is only necessary to pray one of these groups of mysteries in order to pray a full/complete Rosary. For instance, one could pray the Glorious Mysteries.

There is also a new group of mysteries called the Luminous Mysteries. These were optionally added to the Rosary by St John Paul II.

The Luminous Mysteries are: the Baptism of Jesus; the Miracle at Cana; the Preaching of the Kingdom of God; the Transfiguration; the Institution of the Holy Eucharist.

Let us consider all of these events/mysteries one by one.

Joyful Mysteries

The Annunciation

The Annunciation begins the most holy Rosary. This mystery recalls that glorious event of the Archangel Gabriel visiting Mary.

Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive a holy Son by the power of God and without being sexually involved with any man.

Mary believes the word of the angel and says, ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’

As a result, she conceives God the Son in her womb.

The Visitation

Mary, whilst pregnant with the Christ, goes to visit St Elizabeth. Elizabeth is very old, but by God’s power she is pregnant with St John the Baptist (albeit through sexual means).

Elizabeth is overjoyed when Mary arrives, and she says: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’

Mary offers the Magnificat, a hymn of praise to God. She stays with Elizabeth and Zechariah for 3 months.

The Nativity

Christmas! The birth of the Messiah at Bethlehem (‘House of Bread’ – we recall that Jesus is the Bread of eternal Life).

Mary and Joseph cannot find a place to stay, and so the Saviour of the world is born into complete poverty. Tradition says he was born in a cave.

The Presentation

Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem to offer the Christ Child to God in the Temple.

Whilst there, Mary hands the Child over to St Simeon who prophesies about him and about Mary.

St Anna is also there, and she proclaims that salvation has come to all in the Temple.

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

Whilst on their yearly trip to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph, Jesus goes missing.

Mary and Joseph search frantically for him for 3 days (we recall that the Saviour rose from the dead on the 3rd day).

They eventually find Jesus in the Temple. He is discussing highly sophisticated elements of theology and Scripture with the scholars of the law. This amazes them, since he’s only 12.

Jesus is amazed that Mary and Joseph have been searching so frantically, and says: ‘Didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?’

Jesus goes with them and submits himself to their authority. This is the last thing we know about Jesus’ life until he reaches 30.

It is notable that two of these early Rosary mysteries focus on Christ being in the Temple. One application of this is that Jesus is still in the Temple today – in the Tabernacle in every Catholic Church where the Eucharist always resides.

Luminous Mysteries

The Baptism of Jesus

John the Baptist is preaching repentance in the wilderness and baptising everyone who is sorry for their sins.

Jesus comes to John’s baptism and tells John to baptise him because this is God’s will.

John believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore needs no baptism, but he accepts what Jesus wants.

When Jesus rises from the water, a dove comes down on him. It is the Holy Spirit.

God’s voice comes from heaven: ‘This is my beloved Son; I am well pleased with him.’

The Wedding at Cana

Jesus attends a wedding with his Mother. Whilst there, there is a major wine shortage. This was a terrible embarrassment in that day.

Mary has pity upon them and begs Jesus to do something about it.

Jesus originally has no intention of doing anything, but when Mary asks he accepts.

He performs his first public miracle: pure water is drawn from large pots, and upon being drawn it has become wine!

We recall here that just as Jesus turned water into wine to save a wedding, so our Saviour turns ordinary bread and wine into his very body and blood to save us forever.

Notice also how the Saviour loves the holy sacrament of Marriage.

The Preaching of the Kingdom of God

During his 3 year ministry, Jesus constantly proclaimed that the Kingdom of God has come with his arrival.

Jesus preached the Kingdom is all sorts of ways: by healing all kinds of diseases, by casting out evil spirits and even by raising the dead.

He also taught people things like: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.’

The Sermon of the Mount is Jesus’ greatest teaching. He teaches much in this sermon, including the Lord’s Prayer and that looking at someone lustfully is committing adultery in your heart.

Elsewhere, Jesus taught that people must eat his flesh and drink his blood, or else they have no life in them.

The Transfiguration

Jesus goes up to a mountain with 3 of his disciples.

Whilst there, he is transfigured before them, meaning his entire appearance changes into incredible brightness, brighter than the Sun.

When this happens, Moses and Elijah appear next to him and speak to him of his coming departure (death on the cross).

Peter wants them all to stay, but God speaks from heaven: ‘This is my beloved Son! Hear him!’

Moses and Elijah disappear, and Jesus remains.

This recalls Jesus as both the infinite Son of God, and the final Prophet to humanity.

The Institution of the Eucharist

Before being taken away to his death, Jesus has one final Passover meal with his disciples.

During this meal, Jesus takes bread and says: ‘This is my Body.’

He then takes a cup of wine, and says: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my Blood, which shall be poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.’

Jesus offers his Body and Blood to his disciples, and they eat and drink the flesh and blood of the Son of Man.

This event is the pattern for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It has been celebrated constantly around the world for 2000 years.

Sorrowful Mysteries

The Agony in the Garden

Jesus knows he is about to be taken away, so he goes to a familiar Garden to pray.

He begs God his Father that the cup of terrible suffering may pass from him if it is possible.

Yet Jesus says: ‘Not what I will, but Your will be done.’

His inner torment is so great that his sweat becomes as great drops of blood.

God sends an angel to strengthen Jesus.

Soldiers come and take Jesus away to his trial.

The Scourging at the Pillar

Pilate, the local Roman authority, has Jesus scourged in an effort to dissuade the Jewish authorities from pushing for the death sentence. Pilate did not think Jesus was guilty of any wrong worthy of death.

The scourging, however, is horrendous (it was very graphically depicted in the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’).

The blood flows from Jesus’ raw flesh as he suffers to purge us from our sins even here.

The Crowning with Thorns

The roman soldiers think Jesus is a complete joke. To insult and shame him, they produce a crown for him, made up of very long thorns.

They shove it onto his head, and give him a staff and a robe. They mockingly bow down to him, saying: ‘Hail, King of the Jews.’

Then they take his staff and hit him with it.

The Carrying of the Cross

Absolutely exhausted, Jesus is forced to carry his cross. He willingly accepts and even embraces it. This reminds us that we all must carry our cross in imitation of Jesus, whatever our cross may be. We must accept God’s will for us.

Jesus is so tired that he falls 3 times. Each time, he gets back up. This reminds us that when we sin, we must get back up and continue. St Mother Theresa said: ‘The difference between a saint and a sinner is that the saint gets back up again after falling.’

On the way, Jesus meets his beloved Mother.

St Simon of Cyrene is also forced to carry Jesus cross. If even Jesus – God – needed the assistance of this saint, then we too need the assistance of the saints.

The Crucifixion

Jesus is stripped of his garments and nailed to his cross. The cross is lifted up, and Jesus stands there – crucified – between two criminals. ‘He was numbered among the transgressors.’

The sky turns dark during the day.

Finally, Jesus yells out: ‘It is finished!’ He then gives up his spirit, and dies.

His disciples place him in a tomb which had never been used.

Glorious Mysteries

The Resurrection

Jesus comes back to life on the 3rd day, what we celebrate as Easter Sunday!

He first appears to Mary Magdalene, telling her to spread this wonderful news to his disciples, especially Peter.

The Ascension

Jesus spends 40 days appearing to his disciples, teaching them about the Kingdom and what he wants them to pass on to the world.

In order to send the Holy Spirit to them, Jesus departs from them whilst on a mountain. He rises up to the sky, and a cloud eventually hides him from view.

Angels appear who tell the disciples that Jesus will return to earth one day.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost. The disciples are gathered together, with Mary the Mother of God. They are praying.

Suddenly, there is a great wind, and the Holy Spirit comes down on them all.

They begin to prophesy in other languages that they have never learned.

The Holy Spirit comes to strengthen them for sharing the Gospel with the world.

He is still with the Catholic Church to this day and will never leave us until Jesus comes back.

The Assumption of Mary

At the end of her earthly life, Mary the Mother of the Saviour is taken to heaven bodily. It is unknown (at present) whether she died or not.

The Coronation of Mary

When she gets to heaven, God the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – crowns this supreme Woman as the Queen of heaven and of earth.

Mary sits at the right hand of her Son, and there she has been for just under 2000 years.

Mary constantly prays for and helps the earthly Church in every way that she can. Mainly she does this by appealing to her Son for us. Mary is our advocate with Jesus, as Jesus is our Advocate with God the Father.

I hope these meditations have been helpful and inspire you to do your own when you pray the Rosary.

A great way to pray the Rosary is to use some rosary beads. I’ve written a review on some beautiful rosaries which may point you in the right direction if you don’t own a rosary.

If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch or leave them in the comments below.

God bless.

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