A Reflection on the Glorious Mysteries
Most of us will, at some time or another, question the perfection and beauty of the beatific vision – not because of doubt, but because of our experience of suffering, perhaps prolonged and dark. We tend to shape God into the tidy, but limited, boxes that spring forth from what we know and can explain. God as Mystery remains such, but we aren’t apt to accept this reality quickly.
That’s why the concept of a perfect world, a glorified body, and a state of being without discomfort or disease is impossible for us to imagine. That’s also why faith is so vital to our acceptance of and yearning for the afterlife and all of the promises therein.
The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary remind us of such promises. We know that, despite what we undergo in the pilgrimage on Earth, we will – through perseverance and fidelity – find eternal respite and a social order of unity when we reach Heaven.
The First Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” – 1 Corinthians 15:21
Though God cannot be confined, He did make it possible for us to come closer to Him by way of His chosen humanity. This ultimate condescension of God Incarnate bespeaks a love we strive to imitate as we grow in virtue. Love always involves a condescension of sorts, because the ego is assaulted and often necessarily annihilated, where communication between persons is involved.
In order for love to ascend, it must first descend, as Jesus Himself did. We cannot rise before we fall, and those of us who are married or live in a community with other people know this all too well. It is far easier to remain stagnant in the spiritual life, because complacency doesn’t challenge us to become more, to seek more.
But love always challenges by way of invitation. This invitation often creates a tension that cannot be overlooked, but must be entered, encountered, and even lived. That is the fall, the condescension. The resurrection of love happens when we repair, restore, and forgive. And the cycle of this falling and rising begins again.
The Second Glorious Mystery: The Ascension
“’Don’t cling to me,’ Jesus told her, ‘for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father – to My God and your God.’” – John 20:17
The ascension of Jesus into Heaven, Body and Soul, eludes us, because we will never ascend in this way. The lesson, however, is not so much a literal one as it is metaphorical, or at least analogous in the spiritual sense: to detach so that we might enjoy a participation in the reign of God.
Odd, isn’t it, that most of our faith involves a culmination of two opposites? The paradoxes of paradigms are ever-evolving as we deepen our understanding of who we are, who God is, and who we are in relationship to God.
What we are attached to eventually enslaves us, yet when we surrender the outcome of our prayers, let go of what we can’t control, or detach from worldly possessions, we are liberated. The spiritual chains that prevent us from ascending in the spiritual, mystical sense are shattered. Thus, our loneliness, our dysfunctions, our obsessions are also released.
The Ascension reminds us of the power of detachment, which is rooted in a radical trust in God for His provision for all things.
The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
“’The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My Name will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.’” – John 14:26
In everyday life, the Holy Spirit descends again and again all around us. Or, better explained, the existence of the Holy Spirit in those of us who are already baptized is stirred to move, to act. Are we cognizant of His movements? Are we vigilant in the art of paying attention to the subtleties that intend to bring us out of our spiritual haze and into a sense of vulnerability, of acute awareness?
The Holy Spirit moves and acts in nuanced ways within each of His beloved children. The point is not so much that we discover some secret cue that, like a flashing light, indicates we must move to action. The point is that we listen and engage in the depth of love that draws us out of ourselves and into God’s presence within us.
When we learn to attend to the often hidden movements of the Holy Spirit, we will become more confident in our response to His invitation of love.
The Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption
“But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet…Then they heard a loud voice from Heaven saying to them, ‘Come up hither!’ And in the sight of their foes they went up to Heaven in a cloud.” – Rev. 11:11-12
Our Lady did not ascend as Jesus did, because she was never God and could never condescend into her humanity as He did. Instead, by way of her Immaculate Conception, since she was created guileless, her gift was to be taken up by God to Heaven.
That is where our hope lies, too – that, in spite of our humanity, we have the potential for perfection by way of holy purification. God’s expansive mercy is limitless in the ways He reaches down from Heaven to uplift us every day, when we are despondent, when we are lonely, when we are addicted, when we are suffering, when we are in pain.
The Assumption of Mary serves as a goal or guidepost for us, our hope as we strive to attain heaven or accept it anew as God continues to present it to us as a gratuitous gift.
The Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation
“A great and wondrous sign appeared in Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” – Rev. 12:1
The perfection of Mary should not be a deterrent to the rest of humanity. It would be simple to throw our hands up in despair, to proclaim, “What’s the point?” Because, after all, we were not born without blemish of sin as she was. Naturally, a human without original sin does not suffer the same consequences as one who is – which is every one of us.
Here is where love comes into play. Like her Son, Mary chose to enter into the suffering of her children. It was something she could have bypassed and from which she was rightly preserved. But she wants to be close to us, and she wants to enable us to draw nearer to her Immaculate Heart. By choosing to encounter our suffering, she imitates in the highest way the example of her Son.
Love does not consider the price of what it loses. Love’s only awareness is to draw near to the other in a healing embrace.