I’ve heard that saying the rosary is like presenting a bouquet of roses to the Blessed Virgin Mary. For me, though, it is a walk through Mary’s life with Jesus.
The Rosary may sound simple enough with the main prayers consisting of the Our Father, ten Hail Marys and the Glory Be over 5 decades or repetitions. But the gold of the rosary is the mysteries that are pondered during each of those decades. There are 4 different sets of mysteries that present Jesus’ life.
The Joyful mysteries start at the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life. In fact, it could not start any earlier than His conception in Mary’s womb. The first joyful mystery is the annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary, where she consents to be the Mother of God and conceives Jesus. The second joyful mystery sounds like it’s all about Mary visiting Elizabeth, but one only needs to read Luke 1:39-56 to see the impact of the presence of Jesus on both Elizabeth and her unborn son. The third and fourth joyful mysteries present the nativity of Jesus and His presentation in the Temple. The fifth joyful mystery is one of my favorites, the finding of Jesus in the Temple. At age 12 Jesus is “left behind” while His parents, thinking He is part of the caravan, start the return to Nazareth. For me it is a reminder that whenever I feel far away from God, He is as close as the nearest Church.
After walking with Mary during the formative years of Jesus, the Luminous mysteries walk with both Mary and Jesus through his ministry: the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the wedding feast of Cana, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the transfiguration on Mount Tabor and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist. While Mary may only be explicitly mentioned in the gospel for the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:1-11), I’m sure she was as close as she could be for these and all the other events of Jesus’ life.
The sorrowful mysteries walk us through the painful events leading up to and including the death of Jesus. Beginning with the agony of the garden, then the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns and the carrying of the cross, praying the Hail Mary while contemplating these mysteries can help us have compassion for Jesus and more fully explore what Jesus went through to save us from our sins. I don’t think most people want to dwell on these sorrowful events, however praying these mysteries, or walking through them with Mary will help us to the fifth mystery, the crucifixion. To pray the fifth sorrowful mystery, is like standing with Mary at the foot of the cross. It is only through Mary’s strength that we can pray with her.
The glorious mysteries of the resurrection and the ascension round out the earthly life of Jesus. Yet the descent of the Holy Spirit was Jesus’ promise to the disciples and Mary was there (Acts 1:14). The fourth and fifth mysteries seem to be about Mary: the assumption of Mary into heaven and the coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. However, she is assumed into heaven, that is by the power and will of God, not by her own power. God brings her body and soul into Heaven. Nor does Mary crown herself, but it is the Trinity that confers this honor to Mary.
Each set of mysteries provides much to contemplate during prayer. Saying just one set of mysteries a day recalls just a portion of Jesus’ life. But with Mary as our guide, we can come closer to her Son and appreciate all He has done for us. It is truly a walk of life.