16-October-2002 -- Catholic World News Feature Story |

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POPE ADDS NEW MYSTERIES TO ROSARY

VATICAN, Oct 16, 02 (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II today observed the 24th anniversary of his papal election with a dramatic gesture, issuing an apostolic letter in which he proposes five new mysteries to the Rosary.

The apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae ("The Rosary of the Virgin Mary") also proclaims a special year of dedication to the Rosary, beginning today and running through the same date next year. The Pope asks that the Rosary be prayed particularly for the causes of world peace and the strengthening of family life.

The most spectacular new message of Rosarium Virginis Mariae is the Pope's proposal of five new mysteries to the Rosary-- a dramatic adaptation of a traditional prayer that has been unchanged for centuries. Pope John Paul recommends the addition of five "luminous mysteries," or "mysteries of light," in addition to the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries. He recommends that the joyful mysteries be used on Mondays and Saturdays, the sorrowful mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, the glorious mysteries of Sundays and Wednesdays, and the new luminous mysteries on Thursdays.

The "mysteries of light" would be drawn from the life of Christ, and his public revelation of his divine nature and mission. They are to be: 1) the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan; 2) the wedding feast at Cana; 3) the announcement of the Kingdom; 4) the Transfiguration, and 5) the institution of the Eucharist.

[The full text of Rosarium Virginis Mariae is available on the Vatican web site, at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20021016_rosarium-virginis-mariae_en.html. A simple link to that site is available on the CWN home page.]

The Holy Father opens his apostolic letter with a reminder that October is traditionally a month devoted to the Rosary. And he emphasizes the power of that traditional prayer, which "blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life."

The Pope goes on to point out that the Rosary is a means of praying to Jesus, through and with his mother. He writes that "the Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer." In the mysteries of the Rosary, the faithful follow the thoughts of the Virgin Mary as they contemplate the life of Christ. Thus the Rosary is "an echo of the prayer of Mary."

Pope John Paul repeats that fundamental message several times in his apostolic letter. He writes: "With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love." And later he adds: "To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ."

He even takes note that in reciting the ten "Hail Mary's" that make up each decade, or "mystery," of the Rosary, the faithful are concentrating on Jesus. As he puts it, "the center of gravity in the Hail Mary-- the hinge as it were which joins its two parts-- is the name of Jesus."

In Rosarium Virginis Mariae the Pope observes that he has always been devoted to the Rosary, and has encouraged the faithful in the use of the traditional prayer. He laments that the Rosary has become less popular among the faithful, and says that the prayer "in the present historical and theological context can risk being wrongly devalued, and therefore no longer taught to the younger generation."

Making numerous references to the teachings of Vatican II, the Pontiff insists that it is a mistake to believe that the Church has lost enthusiasm for the Rosary. On the contrary, he says, the Rosary is a natural complement to the liturgical life of the Church. While the Mass is the Church's public act of worship, the Rosary encourages private devotion and a quiet encounter with Christ. "The Rosary," he writes, "precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer."

The traditional 15 mysteries of the Rosary-- joyful, sorrowful, and glorious-- invite the faithful to meditate on just a few of the many events that mark the life of Christ, the Pope points out. He also acknowledges that the 15 mysteries-- each involving the recitation of 10 Hail Mary's-- make up 150 prayers. This number was deliberately designed to match the 150 Psalms that are found in the Divine Office; the Rosary was a means by which the common people could imitate the prayer of the monks who chanted the Liturgy of the Hours every day.

However, after making that observation, the Pope follows the most noteworthy passage of his apostolic letter. "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 which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion."

He continues: "In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments  luminous mysteries  during this phase of Christ's life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery."

Rosarium Virginis Mariae offers the Pope's fuller reflections on these "luminous mysteries," as well as on the 15 traditional mysteries. In all of his meditations on these mysteries, the Holy Father emphasizes the ways in which the prayers call the attention of the faithful to Christ, through the prompting and guidance of the Mother of God.

Toward the end of the apostolic letter, the Pope adds a suggestion for the use of the new mysteries. The Christian faithful usually pray five mysteries each day, he points out. The ordinary schedule calls for the use of the joyful mysteries on Mondays and Thursdays, the sorrowful mysteries on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the glorious mysteries on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Pope proposes to alter that schedule, inserting the new luminous mysteries on Thursdays, and replacing the glorious mysteries with the joyful mysteries on Saturdays. He explains that "Saturday has always had a special Marian flavor," and the use of the joyful mysteries-- "in which Mary's presence is especially pronounced"-- would be most appropriate for that day.

The Pope explicitly states that in proposing these new mysteries of the Rosary, he does not mean to demand any change in pious practices. His proposal, he says, "is not intended to limit a rightful freedom in personal and community prayer, where account needs to be taken of spiritual and pastoral needs and of the occurrence of particular liturgical celebrations which might call for suitable adaptations. What is really important is that the Rosary should always be seen and experienced as a path of contemplation."

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