Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Rosary in the Bible: Part 2

Not THAT kind of mystery.
Last time, we looked at the six main prayers of the rosary, and where we found them in the Bible. Some were word-for-word recitations of Scripture (like the Our Father), and some were key ideas and themes developed from Scripture (like the Hail, Holy Queen). In every case, each line of text in each prayers has deep Biblical roots.

Today, we begin looking at the mysteries of the rosary.

To start off, we need to know what we mean by "mystery." We don't mean some kind of puzzle that we need to piece together to solve. We don't mean something with a clear answer that we simply need to ponder over and over again until we "get it."

A mystery in the sense of the rosary is a truth deeper than we can fully comprehend.

It's a long climb, but we can do it, one
rosary at a time.
As we pray and meditate on the life of Christ, we can plumb these mysteries of who Jesus is, how He came to be, why He came down for us, the meaning of His sufferings, etc. But we will never have a full and complete "answer" to these questions. We don't pray to try to "solve" the mystery. We pray for deeper levels of wisdom and understanding.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts." -Isaiah 55:8-9

We pray the rosary to try to close this gap, to climb toward heaven - to raise ourselves up to godliness through deep contemplation of the life of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

The first set of mysteries concern the joys of our Lord and those He loved.

So, naturally, we call them the Joyful Mysteries.

The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
Thou hast multiplied the nation, and hast not increased the joy. They shall rejoice before thee, as they that rejoice in the harvest, as conquerors rejoice after taking a prey, when they divide the spoils.
For the yoke of their burden, and the rod of their shoulder, and the sceptre of their oppressor thou best overcome, as in the day of Median.
For every violent taking of spoils, with tumult, and garment mingled with blood, shall be burnt, and be fuel for the fire. For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. 
His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
-Isaiah 9:2-7

This joy predicted by the prophet finds its fulfillment in the joy surrounding the coming of the Messiah - i.e., the Birth of Christ.

The first joyful mystery is the announcement of the long-awaited savior, the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Deliver-type first pre-figured in Moses. We call this The Annunciation.

"And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son;
and thou shalt call his name Jesus." -Luke 1:28,30-31
The Annunciation is found in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38, and is further foretold especially in Isaiah 7:14. Twenty-two verses wrapped into one mystery? Seems pretty Biblical to me so far.

Next, we move to the joys experienced by Elizabeth, and most especially by John the Baptist prior to his birth. Yeah, that's right - John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, the physical returning of Elijah to announce the Messianic Reign, literally jumped for joy at the coming of Christ before either of them were born.

Not to be outdone, Mary's cousin Elizabeth exclaimed her joy-by-association at Mary's visit to her. Elizabeth, recognizing Mary as the bearer of the Savior, is overjoyed by Mary - not so much for Mary herself per se, but for the way in Mary points us constantly to Jesus.

We call this event and this revelation of Christ The Visitation.

"And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary,
the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" -Luke 1:40-45

Like Elizabeth, we take great joy in Mary because she brings us to an even greater joy - Jesus. The Visitation takes us through Luke 1:39-56, a "mere" 17 verses of the Bible.

Fast-forward a few months, and we come to the main event of the Joyful Mysteries. Fitting that is should be in the middle, at the center of the mysteries. The third joyful mystery is The Birth of Christ.

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there
were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over
their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God
shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them:
Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David." -Luke 2:7-11
Jesus' birth is the central source of joy for the Christian. What better way to enter into this joy than to contemplate, to meditate on its impact? The Scriptures really help us out here, providing hosts of texts for us to digest, including Matthew 2:1-12, Luke 2:1-20, Isaiah 7:14 & 60:6, Micah 5:1-2, Jeremiah 23:5, and Wisdom 2:12-20, to name a few. 45 verses of Scripture, at minimum, make up this mystery.

Remember, the mysteries are not something to "get." They are something to explore.

"Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the chair of pestilence. But his will is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he shall meditate day and night." -Psalm 1:1-2

Speaking of the law, we find in our next mystery the careful following of the Mosaic law by Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph. They brought Jesus to the temple for circumcision, and offered the appropriate gift. It's interesting to note (at least I find it interesting, and it's my blog, so you will too, I guess) that they offered the gift of the poor (two turtledoves rather than a lamb, as prescribed in Leviticus 12). Anywho....

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation

"And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him. He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him." -Luke 2:22,25,28-32
The Presentation is found in Luke 2:22-39, Genesis 17:1-13, and Leviticus 12:3, with the OT readings providing background and demonstrating the devout character of the Holy Family. 18 NT verses, with 14 OT verses. Not too shabby.

And finally, we draw into the mystery of Christ's hidden life, revealed in one very interesting incident: when Jesus was lost and found at the Temple as a youth. Here's the Son of God, Savior of the World, as a young kid: 10, maybe 12 years old. He's just entering puberty, so I always picture him as medium-tall, gangly, and with maybe a little acne.

He's a kid.

But he takes the whole of the priesthood to school....for three straight days.

I did the math on this. You assume a yearly trip to the temple (Nazareth to Jerusalem) was about 90 miles. In those days (when people were all in shape and stuff), you could do this walking and/or riding, all day, at a fast clip, in two days. Then, panicked and racing, the return trip could be done in 1, with some pretty tired donkeys at the end. So Jesus, a pre-teen, old enough to travel with the men but young enough to still be a child with the women, is lost in a big, unfamiliar city, alone, with no family ... for three days. May and Joseph scramble to find Him, and do - exactly where they left Him - at the temple.

So we are left with the Fifth Joyful Mystery: Finding Jesus in the Temple.

"And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the
midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were
astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother
said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee
sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must
be about my father's business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.
And his mother kept all these words in her heart." -Luke 2:46-51
The joy is twofold: first, the joy of finding Jesus. Second, the joy of experiencing His wisdom.

The learned men at the temple were full of wonder and joy upon hearing Jesus' answers and wisdom. His parents were filled with joy (and relief!) at finding Him. What am amazing prefiguring for us, in our time - the joy of finding Jesus in the temple. We take joy at finding Jesus and His wisdom in Church, sharing in the joy of His parents and priests. Luke 2:41-50, a solid 9 verses, discusses the Finding of Jesus.


So there are the Joyful Mysteries. All in all, we travel from Genesis to Luke, passing by Isaiah, Matthew, and a few others on the way. These first mysteries are a meditation on the joys surrounding the earliest parts of the  life of Jesus. And as shown, they are pulled right from the Bible.

Praying the Joyful Mysteries is to meditate on the Scriptures that expound the sheer joy surrounding the coming of the Messiah.

Next, we'll cover the sorrowful mysteries.

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