Meditations on

The  Joyful  Mysteries

of the Holy Rosary

by Robert T. Harrell

The Annunciation

Luke 1: 26-38

The Visitation

Luke 1: 39-56

The Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke 2: 1-20

The Presentation in the Temple

Luke 2: 25-38

The Finding in the Temple

Luke 2: 41-52

The Annunciation

 

Mary’s ability to interact with the Archangel Gabriel is remarkable. She responds as any human being with fear, uncertainty and confusion; yet these do not prevent her from receiving the messenger or the message. By her fiat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), love drives out fear, faith displaces uncertainty, and hope dispels confusion. She who is “full of grace” confronts all hindrances to obedience with the theological virtues of faith, hope and love through the exercise of her free will. Our Lady acted decisively, consenting to the will of the Father, by offering her body, soul and spirit to the action of the Holy Spirit in her so that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). She expressed her serious concerns and lack of understanding in her conversation with the Archangel, and then she chose to participate in the divine plan. Here is the model of our response to God; here is the clearest picture of what happens when we say “Yes!” to God. Joy comes to us unexpectedly, reaching past our fear, uncertainty and confusion to draw us toward the action of the Holy Spirit who will make Jesus Christ present in us. In offering our “Yes!” to God, we become “participants in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). The Blessed Mother is the first person in history to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Her “Yes!” was the human race’s ultimate response to God’s initiative. May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God ignite my desire for God’s will and open my heart to the Holy Spirit’s unquenchable joy.

The Visitation

The elderly woman receives the younger woman. Both carry children conceived in extraordinary circumstances: the elderly Elizabeth conceived in her womb John the Baptist at a stage of her life when she was too old to have done so; and the Virgin Mary conceived in her womb the Son of God by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth signifies the old Israel giving presence and voice to God’s word through the prophets, the greatest of whom will be her son John. Mary signifies the final hearing and complete receiving of God the Son who enters human history through her whole person, body, soul and spirit. As Mary approaches, John the Baptist leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, the prophet motioning toward his Lord and God who lies hidden within Mary. Mary and Elizabeth stand at the center of God’s activity in these moments; they and they alone are “in on it.” This marvelous visit between two women on the fringes of the Roman Empire goes unnoticed by those who wield power in the world. It is hidden, but it is actual; the irony is that in our day we do not know anything of the main news of that day, but we instead recollect this visit, this moment of recognition and grace between an old woman and a young woman. In this small moment of our own recollection, let us join with Elizabeth and call on Mary as “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43). Let us turn our eyes away from the seduction of the world around us with its power, wealth and emptiness, and instead receive the fullness that comes to us in Jesus Christ. When we do this, we step into the very center of God’s activity, however hidden and secret it may seem. May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God help me to be still and embrace this divine visitation into my heart.

The Birth of Jesus Christ

 

Exposed to the elements and hidden from view amidst the livestock, Jesus Christ was born. It seems to us such a contradiction that Christ the King should be born in such unseemly circumstances. This contradiction, however, pales in contrast to the dark and dangerous contradictions that infect the human hearts for which he came to offer himself as a sacrifice. Jesus came to conquer our hearts by assuming our humanity so that he could infuse us with his divinity. Such is love. The nativity scene invokes stillness and silence, replacing the tumult and chaos of my heart with holy serenity and light. The self will that drives me mad collapses into adoration at the sight of Emmanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1: 23). Behold the first moments of the visible real presence of God in this world, the same presence that continues to this moment in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. The infant’s outstretched arms meet the enfolding warmth of the holy Mother’s embrace; as a member of Christ’s Body I know that I am enfolded in that same embrace. As Jesus draws in the earthly air into his newborn humanity, so he also breathes the Holy Spirit into our souls as we seek him. From the day of his birth to the present moment, divine worship means beholding the human face of Jesus. May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God draw me to him in humble adoration.

 

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

 

Within this magnificent Jerusalem Temple, the site of sacrifice and the center of Judaism’s lofty worship, the old prophet Simeon receives into his arms the very God to whom the Temple belongs. His joy at seeing and holding this child, illuminated by the Holy Spirit guiding him, must have deeply changed the way the Temple looked to him after that. This Temple of stone, that will fall into ruins under the heavy hand of the Roman army in 70 A.D., for a brief moment contains within it Christ the true high priest who will, 33 years later, become the final sacrificial victim “once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) outside the walls of Jerusalem. Simeon’s words over the baby identify Jesus as a light to the whole world, as a source of controversy, and as the revealer of hearts. Simeon’s words to Our Lady, “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also” tell us that in Jesus’ sacrifice she will be closer to him than any other human being, and it will be her steadfastness in that terrible moment that embraces us in our time of greatest pain. The joy of this presentation in the Temple is infused with the language of sacrifice, as seems fitting for the occasion of the Lord’s first entrance into his Temple. This is a joy of utmost and abiding sobriety, not the transient narcotic joy that first masks and then gives way to pain. The joy of fulfillment for Simeon points to the road of pain and loss for our Lord’s Mother and the road to final sacrifice for Jesus. For us to know the permanent joy that conquers pain and death, we will have to follow Jesus to Calvary and stand alongside his Mother there. May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God encourage me to receive the wounds of divine love that lead to enduring joy.

 

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

Such a strange scene! A twelve year old boy astounding those whose whole lives have been devoted to the study of the Hebrew Scriptures and the long tradition of teachings that had accumulated around them. God the Son, standing before them as a human child to offer them divine wisdom. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). These scholars receive questions from their God, not knowing who he is. His conversation, indeed his very presence, imparts divine teaching to them. At his Mother’s admonition, he departs in obedience to his earthly family, having been about his “Father’s business” amongst the scholars in the Temple. They had experienced a divine visitation, but they did not know it. Does the Lord sometimes teach us in the unexpected encounters with unlikely teachers? Do we listen when such voices instruct us? Perhaps we see ourselves as too well educated and experienced to receive God’s word in such unusual ways. The scholars in the Temple were “astounded,” which suggests they at least listened, despite their failure to recognize who was speaking. Do we listen? May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God give me ears to hear and a heart to receive the Lord’s instruction from whomever the Lord may choose to deliver it.

 

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