Meditation on the mysteries

An article from Fr. Noel Molloy, published in Charisindia, Vol. 2, Issue No. 11, November 2003
Fr. Noel Molloy, OP is an Irish Dominican Priest of the Indian Province who arrived in India in 1969. He is well known Retreat Preacher and teaches Dogmatic Theology in St. Charles Seminary, Nagpur


The Rosary, of course, involves more than the recitation of the “Hail Marys”. It is also characterized by the aspect of meditation on what we call the “mysteries”, the great events of our salvation. The traditional sequence of mysteries has been what we call the joyful, the sorrowful and glorious mysteries. However, in order “to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary”, Pope John Paul suggests that we “broaden this sequence to include the mysteries of Christ’s public ministry” (John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 19), proposing what he calls “the luminous mysteries” (John Paul II, op. cit., 21, namely, the Baptism of our Lord, the Wedding at Cana, the Preaching of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration and the Institution of the Eucharist. However, the Pope makes clear the recitation of these mysteries is “left to the freedom of individuals and communities” (John Paul II, op. cit., 19; cf. also 38), and the fact that only one day a week (Thursday) is suggested for the luminous mysteries, whereas the traditional mysteries are recited twice a week (Cf. John Paul II, op. cit., 38), indicates that those latter still retain a certain priority.

The reason for this priority is pointed out by Pope Paul VI in his Marian encyclical Marialis Cultus (Cf. para. 45). The mysteries of the incarnation, death and glorification of our Saviour are the mysteries of salvation in the strict sense. As we confess in the Creed: “For our salvation he came down from heaven… he was crucified… he rose again”. These three phases of salvation history are indicated by St. Paul: “Though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant; … he became obedient unto death; … God has highly exalted him” (Phil. 2:7-9). It is precisely these saving events that we commemorate in the sequence i.e. joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries.

And these mysteries are not merely events to be remembered. By each one of these mysteries, Christ merited a special grace for us, and this grace is communicated to us when we come in contact with these events through contemplation in loving faith. “To remember (the saving events of Christ) in a spirit of faith and love is to be open to the grace which Christ won for us” (John Paul II, op. cit., 13); “through the contemplation of these mysteries, they will release all their saving power” (John Paul II, op. cit., 11). Were it not for the Rosary, we might rarely ponder on these saving events, and in consequence rarely benefit from their saving influence. But by means of the Rosary we are brought back again and again into contact with them, so that beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord we are progressively transformed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another (cf. 2 Cor 3:18). The Rosary thus shows itself to be “a contemplation that brings salvation” (John Paul II, op. cit., 13).

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