Excerpts from The Rosary: Chain of Hope | Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
Chapter Six | Prayers for the Mysteries
The following prayers are composed to help you sum up prayerfully what we have written about the Rosary as a message of hope. Each prayer could be used for quiet meditation at the beginning of the decade.
O Lord Jesus Christ, You come to us in mystery and generosity. Your coming is totally beyond the human mind because You are God, yet You are totally comprehensible to us because You became an infant child. Thy mysteries of heaven and earth come together in this little baby. Give us the grace, O Lord, to kneel in adoration before Your divinity incarnate in this world. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, teach us the humility of Your Mother and the humility that was in Your own life. Humbly, as a gentle country woman, she visits her cousin to do works of kindness and charity. This meeting may seem irrelevant to some and its significance obscure. Yet it is really the beginning of the teaching of Christian charity and love for neighbor. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, help us to kneel at Your Christmas crib, to look at that tiny baby and his tiny skull. Underneath that skull human thoughts are linked to divinity and eternity. This must remain completely incomprehensible to our minds. Lord Jesus, You are mysterious, incomprehensible, and unfathomable, but You are also merciful and caring toward all of us. In the mystery of Your love, O Christ, help us to kneel at the manger, where You were wrapped in humble clothes and surrounded by animals. Amen.
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
O Lord Jesus Christ, in this mystery You remind us of the humility of Joseph and Mary, of the humility expressed by Your own Divine Person in coming to the temple as one of the poor. Give us the grace to be humble enough to fulfill our religious duties and not try to escape them by rationalizing or pseudo-sophistication. Amen.
The Finding of Christ in the Temple
O Lord Jesus Christ, even Your life and Your coming were fraught with human anxiety and trial. Why should we, as followers of You, expect fewer trials than others? No, we should expect trials, but we should be able to overcome them and carry them with greater ease because we believe in You. Amen.
Commentary by Fr. Groeschel
The First Joyful Mystery
The events of the Annunciation, as given in the Gospel of Saint Luke, can be known to us only through the testimony of the Virgin Mary herself or by inspiration to the evangelists. No one besides Mary was present at the incredible meeting of the human and divine. This mysterious event described by Saint Luke in a few lines presents a number of the basic foundation stones of Christian belief.
The first and obvious fact of the mystery of the Annunciation is that it is a visitation from a heavenly messenger; something occurs that is completely from outside the natural world. This event can only be an object of faith. It is God’s self-revelation in the world. Acceptance of the Annunciation is the foundation of the Christian faith. The second, startling truth is that Mary must give her consent to the invitation given to her. Often in salvation history God has chosen young peasant girls—Ruth in the Old Testament, Joan of Arc, Catherine Laboure, Therese of Lisieux, and the children of Fatima. He has chosen these little ones to his witnesses and instruments for grace in the lives of hundreds of millions of people. In no event is this clearer than in the life of the Virgin Mary. Her consent was necessary, and for this reason from the earliest times she has been called the Mother of the Redeemed, Mother of the Church.
There is no indication that Mary was coerced into accepting God’s invitation or that she responded out of some religious intuition. As a humble believing girl from a peasant village, she accepted the word that the Lord had spoken to her. As we meditate on this first mystery, let our hearts be filled with hope in the presence of the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, in the world. He comes to bring salvation to us, to those dear to us, and to as many human beings as possible. This mystery also calls us personally to the response necessary for any true disciple of Christ: We must say Yes to Him. We must give him Him our wholehearted consent. We must believe the word that the Lord has spoken.
The Second Joyful Mystery
In this mystery we move from the sublime and mysterious aspects of the Annunciation to its equally mysterious reality in the world. We move from the transcendent truth of God made man in the Annunciation to a very humble and touchingly human situation. A young girl goes to visit her older cousin who has unexpectedly conceived a child. Both of these women live in humble peasant villages. As we can see from their words, they are both deeply imbued with the truths of the Jewish faith. They are familiar with Scripture. And the beautiful expression of Elizabeth, "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lk 1:45), fills us with confidence and hope. The great events of salvation, like the Incarnation, come now into the smallest events of human life. The Council of Ephesus proclaimed that it is true to say that God was born, that God suffered, and that God died. The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, by taking to Himself a human body and human soul, was able to experience human birth and human death. He sanctified all human things. The love and charity of the two cousins present an image that almost every human being can meditate on and receive with warmth. The Lord is coming, but He comes in a humble, gentle, and human way. The mystery of the ages becomes the joy of two humble women of the countryside as they rejoice in each other’s pregnancy, as well as in the power of God made manifest in both of them.
The Third Joyful Mystery
We have become so familiar with the image of the Nativity of Christ, ranging from great paintings to Christmas decorations, that its incredible reality is somewhat dimmed for us. We think of Christmas lights, family days, good meals, and presents. But the Nativity took place in a dangerous situation among the poorest of the poor. Mary wrapped her newborn baby and placed Him in a manger—an animals’ feeding trough. In a very short time he would be a political refugee from the homicidal wrath of an insane ruler. The Incarnation, as seen from God’s eyes, was a descent into a turbulent, disobedient, and unredeemed world. The mystery of evil operating in the human race came right to the fore. It is clearly revealed before us in the Nativity, in its poverty, its injustice, and its danger. But at the same time there was tremendous joy. All of creation, on the brink of redemption, rejoiced with the heavenly host, who appeared to announce the great news to humble shepherds, who represent the house of Israel. They heard the message, and they believed; then proceeding "with haste", they decided to "go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened" (Lk 2:15). The Magi—representing the Gentile world—were led by a star to find the Christ. "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy." In other words, they believed; and seeing "the child with Mary his mother…they fell down and worshipped him" (Mt 2:10-11). In the difficulties of human life we must always affirm our belief in the mysteries of God and the mysteries of Christ. Unfortunately, at the present time, the full impact of the Incarnation has been eroded by skepticism and rationalistic attempts to explain away the mystery in both theology and Scripture scholarship. Kneeling in prayer with the Rosary, however, believers should be unaffected by all of this and should open their eyes to see this great thing that has taken place, as the shepherds did in the fields so long ago.
The Fourth Joyful Mystery
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
The Presentation of the Christ Child in the temple, in fulfillment of the regulations of the Law of Moses, gives us a beautiful example of the humility of the Son of God. He teaches us to obey traditions, laws, and customs. Though He would begin the religion that would end the first covenant and usher in the second covenant, He nonetheless fulfills the requirement of the first covenant, which was, after all, an expression of the divine law. The humble figures of Joseph, Mary, and the Child, who come to make the poor people’s offering of two turtledoves, the presence of the elderly Anna and Simeon, both mysterious figures, should banish all skepticism from our minds and help us to appreciate the little things of faith. If you do not know the poor and have had little opportunity to share their religious experience, then this mystery opens up the possibilities of understanding why Christ taught that it is easier for the poor than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. The devout poor are willing to accept humbly and directly, to fulfill carefully and meticulously, what they know to be the expectations of God.
There is something else to be learned from this event in the temple. It is the value of simple devotion, of humble and heartfelt reverence for God. We live in a time when people evaluate religious acts by "how much we get out of them". In other words, we evaluate them primarily in a psychological way, and this has led to an endless search for ways to make worship more appealing and uplifting.
An experience of the profoundly moving customs of different ethnic groups in the Church, who have their own time-honored traditions, reveals how deeply expressive they can be—the Holy Week processions in the Spanish-speaking world or the carolers in Eastern Europe going with candles and bells to announce the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve.
I remember so well assisting as an altar boy on Sunday mornings long ago when new mothers received a special blessing at the first Mass they attended after the birth of a child. It is true there is more dialogue and discussion at present in the Church, but there is less of the beauty of simple faith, which we see in Mary and Joseph at the time of the Presentation, when, along with many other couples, they came to fulfill the law and receive a blessing.
The Fifth Joyful Mystery
The Finding of Christ in the Temple
In so many depictions of the Holy Family there is an unrealistic idealization that can become almost repulsive: beautiful carpenter shops, sunny windows, and the Christ Child dressed in a gold apron helping Joseph at the workbench. While all of this may have an appeal for children, it is not realistic. In the last of the joyful mysteries we confront the incomprehensibility of suffering and the difficulties of human life. Although the finding of the Christ Child is a cause of great joy, the mystery also reflects deep sorrow, fear, and parental concern on the part of Joseph and Mary. It has often been said that God writes straight with crooked lines. This is true even in the life of Jesus Christ. The parents could have been spared the pain of this situation by God’s Providence, even by the thoughtfulness of Christ, but they were not. As we meditate on the desperate anxiety of the couple looking for their child, we are reminded that for all of us life has its own mysterious failures, catastrophes, and sorrows. When we are forlorn and anxious, or perhaps deeply grieved, we need to remember that such experiences come not only to us, but they also came to the Messiah and His family.
Anxiety is a familiar component of human life, and perhaps it is more common now in more affluent times. Material comforts and anxiety inexplicably go together. One often encounters in the poor a certain acceptance of life, with its pain and fear. The poor live with inexplicable hope, born of pain and suffering, that permits them to go on even when disaster has occurred and threatens to strike again.
We all live through anxious moments, and even very dark moments, when our worst fears are realized. Mary and Joseph were relieved to find the Christ Child in the temple. In less than half a lifetime Mary would lose her son at Calvary in sight of this same temple. This reminds us that Christianity is very much the religion of the God who suffers.
Hope and Joy
As the joyful mysteries come to an end, they present us with hope unbounded—the hope of the Redeemer, the hope of divine adoption, the hope of salvation. They also present us with poignantly human events: Mary’s visit to her cousin, the Presentation in the temple, and the finding of the Child. Already the burden of human life—poverty, misunderstandings, human limitations—is obvious in the life of the Messiah. He is the Son of God; He is not a superman. The Bible is the way of truth, not a series of stories like Pollyanna or a set of myths. These events really took place, and they took place in the lives of real people. Our great hope is founded on the fact that one of these very real people was also truly the Son of God and a Divine Person. The message of hope given by the angel—God is with us, Emmanuel—must reach down to all human beings in their own personal lives. In the midst of their greatest difficulties and sorrows, or in the inevitability of age and sickness, they will also have hope because the Son of God has gone before us on the difficult road of humanity, and His Mother has led the way for us.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles:
• "Hail, Full of Grace": Mary, the Mother of Believers | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
• "Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary" | Hans Urs von Balthasar
• Immaculate Mary, Matchless in Grace | John Saward
• The Medieval Mary | The Introduction to Mary in the Middle Ages | by Luigi Gambero
• Misgivings About Mary | Dr. James Hitchcock
• Mary in Feminist Theology: Mother of God or Domesticated Goddess? | Fr. Manfred Hauke
• Assumed Into Mother's Arms | Carl E. Olson
• The Disciple Contemplates the Mother | Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., is loved around the world for his bold and powerful witness to the Gospel. For many years Fr. Groeschel has tirelessly worked with the poor and needy, spoken to tens of thousands of Catholics, and written numerous articles and books.
In May 1987 he founded, with eight other friars, the community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The Community, which follows the Capuchian Tradition, now has over eighty friars and sisters. It is dedicated to preaching reform within the Church and caring for the homeless in the South Bronx and Harlem sections of New York City, as well as in London and Honduras.
Fr. Groeschel is Director for the Office for Spiritual Development for the Archdiocese of New York. He founded and is on the staff of Trinity Center—a center for prayer and study for the clergy. John Cardinal O’Connor appointed him promoter of the cause of Canonization of the Servant of God, Terence Cardinal Cooke, in 1984.
Fr. Groeschel earned his doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1971 and is professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York. He has taught at Fordham University, Iona College, and Maryknoll Seminary.
He is also chairman of the Good Counsel Homes and the St. Francis House, which provides residence and programs for homeless young mothers and homeless youth. For fourteen years, Fr. Groeschel served as chaplain of the Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Fr. Groeschel has appeared on EWTN numerous times and has written many books, including - Arise From Darkness: What to Do When Life Doesn't Make Sense, The Reform of Renewal, Rosary: The Chain of Hope, Still Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations, and, most recently, The Drama of Reform, all published by Ignatius Press.
When Fr. Groeschel was nearly killed in a traffic accident in early 2004, tens of thousands prayed for his life. Miraculously, he lived. IgnatiusInsight.com interviewed him and asked him about his recovery, what he has gone through since the accident, and his book, Praying To Our Lord Jesus Christ: Prayers and Meditations Through the Centuries.