The following is taken from the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II On The Most Holy Rosary
The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary
The Contemplation of Christ's face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One! The Rosary has always expressed this knowledge born of faith and invited the believer to pass beyond the darkness of the Passion in order to gaze upon Christ's glory in the Resurrection and Ascension. Contemplating the Risen One, Christians rediscover the reasons for their own faith and relive the joy not only of those to whom Christ appeared - the Apostles, Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus - but also the joy of Mary, who must have had an equally intense experience of the new life of her glorified Son. In the Ascension, Christ was raised in glory to the right hand of the Father, while Mary herself would be raised to the same glory in the Assumption, enjoying beforehand, by a unique privlege, the destiny reserved for all the just at the ressurection of the dead. Crowned in glory - as she appears in the last glorious mystery - Mary shines forth as Queen of the Angels and Saints, the anticipation and supreme realization of the eschatological state of the Church.
At the center of this unfolding sequence of the glory of the Son and the Mother, the Rosary sets before us the third glorious mystery, Pentecost, which reveals the face of the Church as a family gathered together with Mary, enlivened by the powerful outpouring of the Spirit and ready for the mission of evangelization. The contemplation of this scene, like that of the other glorious mysteries, ought to lead the faithful to and every greater appreciation of their new life in Christ, lived in the heart of the Church, a life of which the scene of Pentecost itself is the great "icon". The glorious mysteries thus lead the faithful to greater hope for the eschatological goal towards which they journey as members of the pilgrim People of God in history. This can only impel them to bear courageous witness to that "good news" which gives meaning to their entire existence.
The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
The Joyful Mysteries are marked by the joy radiating from the event of the Incarnation. This is clear from the very first mystery, The Annunciation, where Gabriel's greeting to the Virgin of Nazareth is linked to an invitation to messianic joy: "Rejoice, Mary." The whole of salvation history, in some sense the entire history of the world, has led up to this greeting. If it is the Father's plan to unite all things in Christ, then the whole of the universe is in some way touched by the divne favour with which the Father looks unopn Mary and makes her the Mother of His Son. The whole of humanity is embraced by the fiat whith which she readily agrees to the will of God.
Exultation is the keynote of Mary's encounter with Elizabeth, where the sound of Mary's voice and the presence of Christ in her womb cause John, in Elizabeth's womb, to "leap for joy". Gladness also fills the scene in Bethlehem, when the birth of the Divine Child, the Saviour of the world, is announced by the song of the angels and proclaimed to the shepherds as "news of great joy."
The final two mysteries, while preserving the climate of joy, already point to the drama yet to come. The Presentation in the Temple not only expreses the joy of the Child's consecration and the ecstasy of the aged Simeon; it also records the prophecy that Christ will be a "sign of contradiction" for Israel and that a sword will pierce His Mother's heart. Joy mixed with drama marks the fifth mystery, the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. Here He appears in His divine wisdom as He listens and raises questions, already in effect one who "teaches". The revelation of His mystery as the Son wholly dedicated to His Father's affairs proclaims the radical nature of the Gospel, in which even the closest human relationships are challenged by the absolute demands of the Kingdom. Mary and Joseph, fearful and anxious, "did not understand His words."
To meditate upon the "joyful" mysteries, then, is to enter into the untimate causes and the deepest meaning of Christian joy. It is to focus on the realism of the mystery of the Incarnation and on the osbcure foreshadowing of the mystery of the saving Passion. Mary leads us to discover the secret of Christian joy, reminding us that Christianity is, fist and foremost, euangelion, "good news", which has at its heart and its whole content the person of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the one Saviour of the world.
The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
The Gospels give great prominence to the sorrowful mysteries of Christ. From the beginning, Christian piety, especially during Lenten devotion of the Way of the Cross, has focued on the individual moments of the Passion, realizing that here is found the culmination of the revelation of God's love and the source of our salvation. The Rosary selects certain moments from the Passion, inviting the faithful to contemplate them in their hearts and to relive them. The sequence of meditations begins with Gethsemane, where Christ experiences a moment of great anguish before the will of the Father, against which the weakness of the flesh would be tempted to rebel. There, Jesus encounters all the temptations and confronts all the sins of humanity, in order to say to the Father: "Not my will but yours be done." This "Yes" of Christ reverses the "No" of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. And the cost of this faithfulness to the Father's will is made clear in the following mysteries - by His scourging, by His crowning of thorns, by His carrying of the Cross and by His death on the Cross - the Lord is cast into the most abject suffering: Ecce Homo!
This abject suffering reveals not only the love of God but also the meaning of man himself.
Ecce Homo: the meaning, origin and fulfilment of man is to be found in Christ, the God who humbles Himself out of love "even unto death, death on a cross". The sorrowful mysteries help the believer to relive the death of Jesus, to stand at the foot of the Cross beside Mary, to enter with her into the depths of God's love for man and to experience all its live-giving power.
The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary
Moving from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way "mysteries of light". Certainly, the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the "light of the world". Yet, this truth emerges in a special way during the years of His public life, when He proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom. In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments - "luminous" mysteries - during this phase of Christ's life, the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) His Baptism in the Jordan, (2) His self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) His proclamation of the Kingdom of God, (4) His Transfiguration, and finally (5) His institution of the Eucharist as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery.
Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus. The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light. Here, as Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one who became "sin" for our sake, the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares Him the beloved Son, and the Spirit descends on Him to invest Him with the mission which He is to carry out.
Another mystery of light is the first of the signs given at Cana, when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers.
Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion and forgives the sins of all who draw near to Him in humble trust: the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which He continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which He has entrusted to His Church. The mystery of light par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor. The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to "listen to Him" and to prepare to experience with Him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with Him to the joy of the Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit.
A final mystery of light is the institution of the Eucharist, in which Christ offers His Body and Blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies "to the end" His love for humanity, for whose salvation He will offer Himself in sacrifice.
In these mysteries, apart from the miracle at Cana, the presence of Mary remains in the background. The Gospels make only the briefest reference to her occasional presence at one moment or another during the preaching of Jesus, and they give no indication that she was present at the Last Supper in the institution of the Eucharist. Yet the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout His ministry. The revelation made directly by the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan and echoed by John the Baptist is placed upon Mary's lips at Cana, and it becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: "Do whatever He tells you". This counsel is fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ's public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the "mysteries of light".
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