Our beloved Holy Father John Paul II published his Apostolic Letter Rosarium
Virginis Mariae on Wednesday, 16 October 2002, the beginning of
the twenty-fifth year of his Pontificate. The Holy Father has also
proclaimed the year from October 2002 to October 2003 the Year of the
Rosary, for he writes: "...in continuity with my reflection in the
Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, in which, after the
experience of the Jubilee, I invited the people of God to 'start afresh
from Christ', I have felt drawn to offer a reflection on the Rosary, as
a kind of Marian complement to that Letter and an exhortation to
contemplate the face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, his
Most Holy Mother. To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to
contemplate with Mary the face of Christ" (RVM, n. 3).
This Apostolic Letter was our Holy Father's jubilee gift to the
Church, which coincided with the 120th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII's
Encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio (1 September 1883), on
devotion to the Holy Rosary, its place, significance and importance in
the life of the Christian faithful.
Pope John Paul II goes further and deeper in his reflections on the
Rosary and joins it with the most basic document of the II Vatican
Council Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII: "The Blessed Virgin
Mary, Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church" (nn.
52-69). The Holy Father writes: "It can be said that the Rosary is,
in some sense, a prayer on the final Chapter of the Vatican II
Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter which discusses the
wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the
Church" (RVM, n. 2).
The Holy Father shares with us like a true loving father, his own
personal devotion and love for Our Lady. For he says: "From my
youthful years this prayer held an important place in my spiritual life.
I was powerfully reminded of this during my recent visit to Poland and
in particular at the Shrine of Kalwaria. The Rosary has accompanied me
in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted
any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort. Twenty-four
years ago, on 29 October 1978, scarcely two weeks after my election to
the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: ‘The Rosary is my favourite
prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its
depth'" (RVM, n. 2).
The Holy Father not only exhorts the Christian faithful to pray the
Rosary with love and devotion, but also invites all to enter more deeply
into the mysteries of the whole life of Jesus through contemplation,
reflection and meditation. He says: "The Rosary, precisely because
it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative
prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its
meaning, as Pope Paul VI
clearly pointed out [in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus
that]: Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a
soul...'" (RVM, n. 12). Without this contemplative
dimension, praying the Rosary will become simply "a mechanical
repetition of formulas" which may be reduced to a collection of
empty phrases and may not have any real effect on our daily life.
Our Lady also told our Beloved Mother Teresa back in 1947: "Fear
not. Teach the people to pray the Rosary, the family Rosary—all will
be well. Fear not". Frequent praying and not simply saying or
reciting the Rosary will lead us to be contemplatives like Jesus and
Only a contemplative can go through severe trials, temptations,
hardships and even martyrdoms without being sunk and drowned. Only a
contemplative will have the courage and the humility to transform the
world and see everything in it as the arena of God. Only a contemplative
can live in this world and possess things without being possessed by
them. Contemplation strengthens both our wings: The wing of the
commandment of the love of God—that is, to love God with all our
heart, soul, mind and strength; and the equally important wing of
"loving our neighbour as we love ourselves". Both these wings
must balance if we are to fly to God.
"Of the many mysteries of Christ's life, only a few are
indicated by the Rosary..." writes the Holy Father, "I
believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of
the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional
pattern... to include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between
his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we
contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive
revelation of God" (RVM, n. 19).
For this reason, immediately after the five joyful mysteries the Holy
Father has added five more mysteries from the public life of Jesus. They
are known as the Mysteries of Light or Luminous Mysteries. They
1. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan (Mt 3:13-17).
2. Jesus' self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana (Jn 2:1-11).
3. Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with His call to
conversion (Mk 1:14-15).
4. Jesus' Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8).
5. The institution of the Eucharist as the sacramental expression of
the Paschal Mystery (Mt 26:17-30) (cf. RVM, n. 21).
"Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now
present in the very person of Jesus", the Holy Father writes.
"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 (cf. II Cor 5:21), the heavens open wide and the
voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son (Mt 3:17 and
parallels), while 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 (cf. Jn 2:1-12), 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 for conversion (cf. Mk
1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near him in humble trust
(cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk 7:47-48): 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 (cf. Jn 20:22-23).
"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' (cf. Lk
9:35 and parallels) 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 (cf. Jn 13:1), for whose salvation he will offer
himself in sacrifice (RVM, n. 21).
"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 other
during the preaching of Jesus (cf. Mk 3:31-5; Jn 2:12), and they give no
indication that she was present at the Last Supper and 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' (Jn 2:5). This counsel is a fitting introduction
to the words and signs of Christ's public ministry and it forms the
Marian foundation of all the 'mysteries of light'" (RVM, n.
The Holy Father invites us to pray the Rosary with contemplation, a
contemplation that can transform our lives into Jesus' and Mary's lives.
Let us take time to read meditatively the entire Rosarium Virginis
Mariae, and to then translate it into life. The Holy Father hopes
that his appeal to Our Lady goes not in vain but produces much fruit. He
concludes his Letter with a prayer to our Lady of the Rosary:
"O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to
God, bond of love which unites us to the angels.... May you be
everywhere blessed, today and always, on earth and in heaven" (RVM,