Scrutiny and Analysis of these Mysteries
THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE HOLY ROSARY
The “arrow of time” describes the sense in which our world moves from the past, through the present, and into the future. The past lies behind us, unchangeable by human hands. The present is laid out before us – enticing like a grand buffet but too large to be consumed by us alone. The future, while it can be partially anticipated, lays outside of our vision and is obscured by a misty haze. This arrow of time, pointing from past to the future, must always be obeyed.
The Holy Rosary, when observed, also seems to also obey the arrow of time. There is a lovely symmetry to the way that the mysteries of the Rosary recount the great milestones of salvation history when considered in chronological order. The Joyful Mysteries appear first in time. They begin with the Annunciation, when Our Lady received the message of her role in salvation from the archangel Gabriel. They end with the lovely moment of maternal joy with the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.
The Luminous Mysteries, added by Pope Saint John Paul II, seem to fill in a missing section in the chronology of salvation history. They pick up where the Joyful leave off. Events like the Baptism in the Jordan and Institution of the Eucharist describe Jesus’s public ministry and are placed in the Rosary in the same order in which they occurred in time. The Luminous fill in the gap of Jesus’s public ministry that existed before their addition.
The Sorrowful Mysteries are the mysteries of the Passion. They occur next in time, as the completion of Jesus’s ministry in his first coming. They are also listed in chronological order, following the arrow of time. The Glorious Mysteries pick up where the Sorrowful leave off. The Sorrowful ends with the Crucifixion, and the Glorious begins with the Resurrection.
THE TRIUMPHANT MYSTERIES FILL A GAP
If we accept that the Rosary is intended to recall the milestones of salvation history, and that it is meant for the active prayer of the faithful, then there is a gap with the current set of mysteries. All four sets of mysteries happen in the past. They do not include the events that remain in our future that are foretold in the Gospels and the book of Revelation. They also leave our active participation, as the faithful, out of the equation.
We find the Triumphant Mysteries by following the arrow of time, forward, to its foretold conclusion in Holy Scripture. We do not invent this; it is revealed to us in the Word. Along the way, we find ourselves written into the story of salvation. These new mysteries begin with the public call to conversion and end with the New Jerusalem. They follow the pattern of the Holy Rosary. Their addition merely completes the work that was so clearly begun centuries ago.
HOW DARE YOU CHANGE THE ROSARY?
If you are tempted to ask this question about me, then rest assured, I have asked it many times of myself. The inspiration for these mysteries came to me more than a decade ago, as I stood in line for confession at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, Texas. Like Jonah before me, I hoped to run the other way. I did my best to forget them at first, until I was faced with great personal challenge. At those times, I prayed them. I found they had great effect for me.
After a while, my fear at sharing these with the world began to change into another emotion. I began to feel selfish that I had been depriving my fellow Catholics from the grace that could be obtained by these prayers. So I decided to share them.
I share these with my fellow Catholics for private devotion. I will also submit them to the Bishops of Holy Mother Church, for their consideration, for the Church as a whole. I ask you to pray that these be shared if that is God’s will, or forgotten if it is not.
WHERE IS MARY IN THESE TRIUMPHANT MYSTERIES?
It may be observed that these five new mysteries of the Holy Rosary do not seem on the surface to have as great an emphasis on the Blessed Virgin Mary – especially as the Joyful mysteries do. This is an understandable, but completely incorrect, observation.
These mysteries do not diminish the role of Our Blessed Mother; but, rather, fulfill it.
As we look at the mysteries of the Rosary in chronological order, with the Triumphant added in as well, we see a pattern clearly written on top of the arrow of time. At the start, the mysteries focus on Mary. Over time, they slowly shift their focus to Christ and his work. The role of Mary was never to seek attention to herself, or to be a figure of worship in her own right. Mary’s role – singular and special – was to lead her many children to her first child, who is Christ.
We can recall the motto of Pope Saint John Paul II – “to Jesus through Mary” – evident in the mysteries of the Rosary when the Triumphant are added.
A SOFTWARE UPDATE FOR THE TOOLKIT OF SALVATION
I had the good fortune of seeing Pope Saint John Paul II in person, several times, when he was alive. He was a man of great faith and love. I was able to pray at his tomb after his death. He saw that the hardware of the Rosary – the beads – were an enduring tool in the hands of the faithful. He also saw that the software of the Rosary – the mysteries – could be upgraded over the air.
I entrust these mysteries to my fellow Catholics for their private devotion, to the Bishops for their consideration, and to Pope Saint John Paul II for his intercession.