Monday, August 26, 2013

The Rosary in the Bible: Part 3

Last time, we looked at the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, and how they are firmly rooted in Scripture, Luke's gospel in particular. Today, we dive into the next set: the Sorrowful Mysteries.

"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness." -1 Corinthians 1:23

Christ's sacrifice on the cross is absolutely essential to the Christian faith.
The Sorrowful Mysteries concern themselves with the Passion of our Lord. And, again,they are deeply entrenched in the Bible.

For a Catholic, the Biblical Passion narrative is a familiar one. It is read at every Palm Sunday Mass, and at the Good Friday services. It is traced in the Stations of the Cross. It is traced in detail through the rosary. And, it is heavily foreshadowed from the Old Testament and commented on in the New.

Understanding the framework around which the Crucifixion occurs helps us to understand just how big this event is. It starts with Abraham and Moses, with the sacrifice of the first-born and of the unblemished lamb.

He said to him: Take thy only begotten son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and go into the land of vision: and there thou shalt offer him for a holocaust upon one of the mountains which I will show thee. And he took the wood for the holocaust, and laid it upon Isaac his son: and he himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. And as they two went on together, Isaac said to his father: My father. And he answered: What wilt thou, son? Behold, saith he, fire and wood: where is the victim for the holocaust? And Abraham said: God will provide himself a victim for an holocaust, my son. So they went on together.
And they came to the place which God had shown him, where he built an altar, and laid the wood in order upon it: and when he had bound Isaac his son, he laid him on the altar upon the pile of wood. And he put forth his hand and took the sword, to sacrifice his son.
And behold an angel of the Lord from heaven called to him, saying: Abraham, Abraham. And he answered: Here I am. And he said to him: Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake. -Genesis 22:2,6-12

The sacrificial lamb, seen throughout the Old Testament and made perfect in Jesus.

Speak ye to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, and say to them: On the tenth day of this month let every man take a lamb by their families and houses. And it shall be a lamb without blemish, a male, of one year: according to which rite also you shall take a kid. And they shall take of the blood thereof, and put it upon both the side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire, and unleavened bread with wild lettuce. And the blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be: and I shall see the blood, and shall pass over you: and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt. -Exodus 12:3,5,7-8,13

And it continues with John the Baptist, who begins to unite for us these themes.

The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world. -John 1:29

Peter and John reflect on it as well.

For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him unjustly. Who his own self bore our sins in his body upon the tree: that we, being dead to sins, should live to justice: by whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray; but you are now converted to the shepherd and bishop of your souls. -1 Peter 2:21-25

And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes: which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints: And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. -Revelation 5:6,8-9

Jesus is the perfected Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world through the altar of Calvary.
His blood is on the wooden posts of the Cross.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them, the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. -Revelation 21:14

That's a lot of Bible.

The Passion, then, is a continuation of the themes of the sacrifice of the lamb established in the Old Testament. Christ, the ultimate unblemished Lamb, is the fulfillment of these themes. We see the description of Christ as a Lamb in Revelation to be consistent with Genesis in the sacrifice of the only son. The Sorrowful Mysteries continue and enter into this deep tradition.

The first Sorrowful Mystery, the Agony in the Garden, gives us deeper insight into this.

And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the mount of Olives.
And his disciples also followed him. And when he was come to the place,
 he said to them: Pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And he was withdrawn
away from them a stone's cast; and kneeling down, he prayed, Saying:
Father, if thou wilt, remove this chalice from me: but yet not my will,
but thine be done. And there appeared to him an angel from heaven,
strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer.
And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground.
And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples,
he found them sleeping for sorrow. And he said to them:
Why sleep you? arise, pray, lest you enter into temptation. -Luke 22:39-46
Christ, "author and finisher of faith" (Hebrews 12:2), certainly knew of His place as sacrificial lamb. He knew what was coming. He knew in advance every lash, every thorns, every hit, every splinter, every taunt and spit and hiss and vile act that was to come at Him. He knew that would hang on that cross, that He suffer trough it and somehow endure it all.

And He was afraid.

He could see it all: the cross, the tomb, the Resurrection, the throne, Himself as the Lamb, the glory. But staring Him in the face was 12 hours of utter torture, ending in a grueling march toward an unspeakable death.

How often do we, who know the needle we are about to receive contains the medicine we need for healing, nevertheless fear and tremble at the momentary pain it will cause? How much more then did Christ fear and tremble in agony in anticipation of the suffering and trials He was about to endure?

Jesus, knowing His painful fate, prayed in His human frailty to be delivered from His punishment. His divine side inspired Him to go through with His punishment to save us from our sins.

 The Agony in the Garden is traced in detail in Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, and Luke 22:39-46. Thirty verses bring us into this one mystery of the beginnings of Christ's sorrow.

We then focus on the Second Sorrowful Mystery: the Scourging at the Pillar.

And [they]shall deliver [the Son of Man] to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified,
and the third day he shall rise again. -Matthew 20:19
Pilate saith to them: What shall I do then with Jesus that is called Christ? They say all:
Let him be crucified. The governor said to them: Why, what evil hath he done?
But they cried out the more, saying: Let him be crucified. And Pilate seeing that he prevailed nothing,
but that rather a tumult was made; taking water washed his hands before the people, saying:
I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look you to it. And the whole people answering, said:
His blood be upon us and our children. Then he released to them Barabbas,
and having scourged Jesus, delivered him unto them to be crucified. -Matthew 27:22 -26
THEN therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him. -John 19:1
And so Pilate being willing to satisfy the people, released to them Barabbas, and delivered up Jesus,
when he had scourged him, to be crucified. -Mark 15:15
I will chastise him therefore, and release him -Luke 23:16
Although the scourging appears in all four Gospels, very little detail is given. Perhaps that's because Roman scourging was unspeakable brutal. You can visit this page for a much more detailed description, including some medical details about it. Needless to say, Jesus left the scouring beaten, bloody, and close to death. He very likely could have died from these wounds alone were He left to His own devices at this point.

Eight brief but explicit verses make up this mystery.

But a vicious beating was just not enough. Jesus needed to be mocked, humiliated, and psychologically abused, too. For our sins are not merely in the physical realm (see the Sermon on the Mount). And Christ came to redeem us from ALL sin. So it stands to reason that He endured mental anguish as well, in the form of mockery and verbal abuse.

The Third Sorrowful Mystery, the Crowning With Thorns, accounts Jesus' mental anguish.

And the soldiers led him away into the court of the palace, and they called together
the whole band: And they clothe him with purple, and platting a crown of thorns,
 they put it upon him. And they began to salute him: Hail, king of the Jews.
And they struck his head with a reed: and they did spit on him. And bowing their knees,
they adored him. And after they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him,
and put his own garments on him, and they led him out to crucify him. -Mark 15:16-20
Near death already from the beating, Jesus now has a crown of thorns (think inch-long spikes) shoved into His head. With blood and sweat pouring down His face, He is taunted. Mocked. Laughed at. Verbally, mentally, psychological abused.

This suffering cuts right to the soul of Christ. He is the King of Kings (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 19:16), but is mocked and insulted because of it. They do not see the Lamb for who He is. Rather, they cling to the darkness. How representative are the soldiers of all of us, who callously mock and disregard the power of Jesus, who make Him the butt of jokes, who laugh at what is holy and disrespect His sacrifice.

And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. -John 3:19

Matthew 27:27-30, Mark 15:16-19, John 19:2-3 outline the crowning with thorns: ten verses in total.

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, the Carrying of the Cross, begins the ascent to the the altar of Calvary.

And it was the parasceve of the pasch, about the sixth hour, and he saith to the Jews:
Behold your king. But they cried out: Away with him; away with him; crucify him. Pilate saith to them:
Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered: We have no king but Caesar.
Then therefore he delivered him to them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him forth.
And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary,
but in Hebrew Golgotha. -John 19:14-17
Bloody, mocked, abused, and still reeling from the pains of the brutal scouring (and let's not forget the thorns in His head), Jesus must now carry his own cross, His figurative blood-stained doorposts of the Passover, up the hill to the altar of the sacrifice of the first-born Son. God Himself did indeed provide this sacrifice: His Son, the Lamb, the King, our Savior.

Matthew 27:31-33, Mark 15:20-22, Luke 23:26-32, John 19:16-17. Fifteen short verses document that long, painful climb.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus, ends the ultimate sacrifice.

And crucifying him, they divided his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.
And it was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the inscription of his cause was written over:
THE KING OF THE JEWS. And Jesus having cried out with a loud voice, gave up the ghost.
And the veil of the temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom. And the centurion who
stood over against him, seeing that crying out in this manner he had given up the ghost, said:
 Indeed this man was the son of God. -Mark 15:23-26,37-39
Christ’s human life on earth ended on the cross at Calvary. At the foot of the cross, we see Mary (the Mother of God), Mary Magdalene (the archetype of the redeemed), and John (the archetype of the priestly Church). Of special note is Christ's call for John to behold his Mother - of the Church to honor our spiritual Mother. And we do that by praying this rosary and these Gospels in which Mary is so central figure.

We see Calvary in Genesis 22:2-12, Exodus 12:3-13, Isaiah 50:6 & 53:4-12, Zechariah 11:12-13 & 12:10, Psalm 22:1-2 & 41:9, Matthew 27:34-56, Mark 15:23-41, Luke 23:33-49, John 19:18-30, and more. Well over 100 verses describe, support, and foreshadow this, the central event in salvation history.

And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of prayers: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn. -Zechariah 12:10

Without the cross, there is no resurrection.

Without death, the is no rebirth.

Without sacrifice, there is no redemption.

Without the blood of the Lamb, there is no cleansing of our sins.

These sorrowful mysteries are essential in bringing us into the mysteries of God. From the very beginning, God wrote this plan into our history, beginning with the faith and sacrifice of Abraham, all to way through Revelation in the pierced Lamb enthroned in Heaven.

Again, the mysteries of the rosary are not a puzzle to be solved. They are events in the life of Christ on which to meditate and in which to develop a deeper understanding of God.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
-Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

The next set: the Glorious Mysteries.

Missed a previous installment? Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

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