A JOURNEY THROUGH THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES by Jan Meeks
Recently I read an article about the book, Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. In his book, Fr. Longenecker recommends not only meditating on the life of Jesus while reciting the rosary, but applying each of the mysteries in some fashion to our own lives. He asserts that this can become a means of inner healing as we juxtapose our lives alongside of the events in the life of Christ. The Christmas season is a wonderful time to meditate on these mysteries since they revolve around the birth of Jesus. I thought it was a fascinating idea and so I did exactly that while saying the rosary and meditating on the Joyful Mysteries.
I began by meditating on the first mystery, The Annunciation. After sufficiently giving attention to the Angel Gabriel, the Virgin Mary, and the great pronouncement of the coming of the Savior, I allowed myself to gaze backwards to the fall of 1950 and to consider my own mother and my own conception. When was the moment, the very first moment that she suspected that she was carrying me in her womb? How did she know, was it the first wave of morning sickness or unusual tiredness that heralded my coming? Was I expected or was I a surprise? In Mary's case, Jesus was both expected and a surprise.
The next mystery is The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. The Bible tells us that Mary went with haste to her cousin. Mary could not wait to share her joy and perhaps her fears. Who was the first person, after my dad, of course, that my mother told of my pending birth? Knowing my family the way I do, I am sure that there was great happiness at the news. Who did she tell first...her youngest sister whom she was very close to, her friends, my grandparents? Did they support and encourage her as Mary and Elizabeth supported each other?
The third mystery is The Birth of Jesus. It was at once a great joy and a near disaster. The Messiah has finally come, the Son of the Living God and there is no room for him! Some of the greatest joys in our lives are like that too. They are long awaited, but sometimes we are not ready for them when they finally do come. I was the third child of my parents and come to think of it, there probably wasn't a lot of extra room for me either in the little bungalow that my family lived in when I was born. Mary and Joseph made do with what was provided for them and through their sacrifice, made room for the whole world to see the Holy Infant Jesus.
The fourth mystery, The Presentation of Jesus by Mary in the Temple, is most touching. According to Jewish law, forty days after the birth of a male child, the mother had to present herself in the Temple in order to undergo the ritual of purification. Her first-born son had to be presented at the same time as an offering giving her son, her first fruits, back to God. She could then "redeem him" or "buy him back" with an offering of a lamb. Humble Mary, preserved from all stain of sin, was too poor to obtain a lamb and so she obtained the sacrifice of the poor instead, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and offered them in exchange for the very Son of God! It was here that holy Simeon, after prophesying about Jesus as the Salvation of God, warned Mary that a sword would pierce her heart. This mystery calls to mind Holy Baptism. The time and place where we are both presented to God and are purified from the stain of sin. I was baptized on July 18, 1951. Four years ago, my mother pulled out my baptismal gown which I had never seen before, nor did I know that she still had it in her possession. It is beautiful (though yellowed) and remains a great treasure to me.
The final Joyful Mystery is The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. This mystery recalls the feast of Passover when Jesus was twelve years old. It was after the feast when Mary and Joseph were returning home from Jerusalem, that they discovered that he was not in their caravan. Every parent knows or can imagine the terror that sweeps through the heart when a child is missing. When I was five years old and in kindergarten, I was part of a carpool with several neighborhood children. One day after school, I didn't see the car or the children with whom I rode. I immediately panicked. I decided to walk home, and so I joined with another little girl and her mother and began to walk with them. It was probably a mile to my house as the crow flies, but there were many streets to cross and a large park to walk through. Unfortunately, the little girl and her mom were not going my way and there I was alone in the park. I was terrified and started running. It wasn't long before I saw in the distance that the station wagon that I was supposed to be in was driving slowly down the street looking for me. I felt a mixture of both relief and fear. I was sure I was at fault for being in the middle of the park all alone, and I was equally sure I was going to get punished when I did get home. But relief won out, and I ran to the car as fast as my feet could carry me. The last thing I remember about the incident was my mother hugging me and whispering, "I won't tell your father about this."
By the time I finished that rosary, I was amazed that I had not ever been down that road before, I never wondered about myself prior to my birth, or even at my baptism. Fr. Longenecker was absolutely right about the healing virtue that can come of such a devotion united to the Rosary. I would encourage each one of you take your own journey through the Joyful Mysteries and perhaps you will discover parts of your life hidden there.