Meditations on

The  Sorrowful  Mysteries

of the Holy Rosary

by Robert T. Harrell

The Agony in the Garden

Matthew 26: 36-56

The Scourging at the Pillar

Mark 15: 15

The Crowning with Thorns

Mark 15: 16-19

The Bearing of the Cross

Matthew 15: 20-22

The Crucifixion

John 19: 17-37

The Agony in the Garden

 

After the last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus anticipates his arrest, trial and crucifixion. As a human being, all the terror of these events weighs upon him, the most dreadful element of this being the poison cup full of our sins that he must consume in his self-offering. His answer to the fear and anxiety: “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26: 39). I must face the truth that my sins were in that cup, adding to it all those thoughts, words and actions that separate me from God. Multiply that by every person who ever has lived, is living and will live, and see the sheer magnitude of Jesus’ suffering as he anticipates what he is about to endure. Thinking of Jesus in the garden in prayer calls me to account for myself. Have I, like Peter, James and John, been found sleeping at the moment of crisis? At the moment when Jesus bids me give myself to him, will I be listening? The terrible mistake is to put off the decision. Jesus has willingly entered into the most profound suffering in his will to take my sins onto himself. In this meditation, I must turn my will to unite with his. Just as Jesus has turned his human will toward full cooperation with his divine will, so by his grace my human will can answer his invitation to cooperate with the grace that flows to me from his sacred humanity. Obedience is within my grasp because of Jesus’ obedience. He received the cup of my sins; and I now choose to receive the cup of his saving Blood that cleanses my sins. May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God awaken me from the deadly spiritual sleep of my sins and help me raise to my lips the cup of salvation.

The Scourging at the Pillar

It is beyond comprehension to imagine the helplessness, the sheer physical pain and terror of being tied by the wrists to a pillar for the purpose of being systematically lacerated by the metal tips of the whip’s cords. Even the best theatrical presentations of this action cannot convey the combination of physical pain, the vulnerability and the emotional destructive force of being tortured. Jesus suffers, loving the one who bears the whip, loving those who have unjustly handed him over to such horror, and loving those close friends who abandoned him. He meets this human cruelty and hatred with divine love, in each lash of the whip receiving into his own body the effects of our sins. Our sins subject him the Roman scourge; his blood shed there offers us healing. Do I draw back in the self-delusion that my sins are not as bad as all that? Do I see that he suffers for me, or am I blaming this suffering on others the same way I blame my sins on others? “But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed” (Isaiah 53: 5). Has my indifference to the suffering that others endure added to the lacerations laid on him? When any human being suffers because of my indifference or hatred, the hand of the Roman torturer joins with my hand to inflict pain on Jesus. When I cause injury through my own sinful words and actions, I bear the whip against those whom Jesus Christ loves, and in so doing I injure myself. But Jesus does not hate or condemn; he loves and forgives. Will I now repent and receive from Jesus that blood which can heal the pain I have caused, or will I continue to administer the lash? May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God make me surrender the whip that I carry to receive instead the healing Jesus offers me from the pillar of his scourging.

The Crowning with Thorns

 

Twisted thoughts so often torture our minds. Sometimes we will to think such thoughts; at other times they come to us from outside ourselves and invade us because we let them in. However such thoughts get into us, they are evidence of our fallen condition and the loss of our powers of reason. St. Paul diagnoses the fallen human condition: “Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1: 21-22). Our most unreasonable act is the rejection of Jesus Christ. The only truly reasonable action that any human being can make is to receive the renewing grace of Jesus. To my corrupted mind and heart, debilitated by my sins, Jesus brings his head crowned with thorns. He knows me. To all those things that clutter my mind and torment my thoughts, to all my memories of failure and frustration and to my loss of hope for the future, Jesus brings cleansing and healing to restore my mind to reason and to break the chains of darkness and depression that often overwhelm me. By the blood from Jesus’ brow, my countenance is cleansed and my true vision restored. May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God melt the hardness of my heart and clear the fog from my thoughts to free my will to receive healing of my mind from Jesus’ pierced brow.

The Bearing of the Cross

 

Jesus bore the cross that he might lift the crushing burden of sin. Jesus calls true disciples to join him: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it” (Matthew 16: 24-25). Jesus takes up that burden which is too heavy for me to carry. The cross he calls me to carry is my willing entrance onto the path of self-denial—the surrender of my own agenda for myself in exchange for his agenda: the salvation of my soul. The self that I have constructed is a distortion of the true person that God wills me to be. Of all the things that distort the image and likeness of God in me, my failure to forgive wields the most destructive power. Jesus forgives; he offers me the grace to forgive. When I say, “Yes!” to his invitation to take up my cross, I am consenting to the forgiveness that flows from his cross, the forgiveness that cannot stop with me but must extend to all who need my forgiveness. Just as my sins did not hinder his loving self-sacrifice, so the sins of others must not hinder my love in forgiving them. The refusal to forgive someone else is the same motion of my will that rejects Jesus’ forgiveness offered to me. Receiving forgiveness from Jesus and extending it to another are the same action; to do one is to do the other, just as the refusal to do one is to refuse the other. Jesus bears his cross to make my cross bearable! Forgiveness changes everything. May the prayers of the most holy Mother of God open my heart to love as I have been loved and to forgive as I have been forgiven.

The Crucifixion

 

Death is final. Spiritual warfare boils down to a battle of life and death, not only the death of the body, but also the death of the soul. There is nothing pleasant about any of it: the body fails; the organs reach their limit and stop working; everything about life as I know it grinds to a halt. All that I know about myself ends. Sin drives me irreversibly to death. Jesus entered, confronted and conquered this finality, this degrading darkness that looms over every human being. In his death, death itself is killed. “Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15: 54). He even entered hell to break the ancient chains that held fallen humanity captive since the fall (see I Peter 3: 18-20). Baptism joins me to the death of Jesus; this is the doorway to the resurrection. “For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Romans 6: 4). As I stand before the crucified Jesus and embrace him there, life on his terms begins. Everything about me must be made new: “And they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences” (Galatians 5: 24). Spiritual warfare demands of me that I daily embrace Jesus crucified so that the reality of baptism becomes the life I am actually living. Jesus has fought and won this for me; he now bids me participate in his victory through the daily submission of my will to his. As she stands beside me at his crucifixion, may the prayers of the most holy Mother of God lead me to embrace him there as my Savior and obey him as my Lord.

    Download PDF(149KB) of all 4 sets of the Mysteries (text only--no pictures)

    To Glorious Mysteries Page

    Back to Luminous Mysteries Page

    Back to the Joyful Mysteries Page

    Back to the Holy Rosary Main Page

    Back to the Bertstermind Main Page