The congregation at the weekday Masses at my new parish in Rochester prays the rosary before Mass. Many people think that the rosary is an example of repetitious prayer that is condemned in Scripture. Others think it is a boring prayer that, due to the repetition, causes the mind to wander beyond the norm. How wrong they are! The rosary is a beautiful meditation prayer that uses Scriptural scenes and stories called mysteries to enhance our devotion. Today, I’m thinking especially of the sorrowful mysteries that are the source of the meditation on Tuesdays and Fridays each week. I would like to share my personal meditations for these mysteries.
The first sorrowful mystery is the Agony in the Garden. My thoughts here are on the humanity of Jesus so evident in this scene. You would think that Jesus, who is God, could just turn off the suffer switch and coast through the next few days of his life. But no, he asks God the Father to “let this cup pass from me” as any mere human being would do in these circumstances. Imagine what you would say to God knowing that you would die from crucifixion in three days. No, Jesus became man and there is no turning off the suffer switch. He is stressed to the point of “his sweat becomes as drops of blood.”
The second sorrowful mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar. Here we imagine Jesus tied to a pillar as those assigned to the task whip him mercilessly, ripping open the skin on his back while his blood pours out onto the ground. His blood! Where else do we hear about his blood in Scripture? It is when he asks us to memorialize him by turning wine into his blood and then drinking it. On the surface, it may sound unimaginable, but let’s go deeper than the surface. Catholics know that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is a wonderfully intimate encounter with the Lord … a gift that Jesus himself has said we must experience in order to be raised up on the last day.
The third sorrowful mystery is the Crowning with Thorns. Scripture tells us that the soldiers fashioned a crown of thorns and placed it on his head. Knowing that he “claimed” that he was a king, the soldiers evidently conceived of this cruel action as a joke, thinking that Jesus’ claim was itself was a joke. But Jesus’ thought, known to be uttered on the cross, was: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The message is that when someone plays a cruel joke on us because of our faith or laughs at us because of our devotion to the Lord, we should forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.
The fourth sorrowful mystery is the Carrying of the Cross. There is so much to meditate on here. Jesus, weak, hurting, and humiliated beyond belief, being forced to trudge through the streets of Jerusalem to Calvary while, halfway there, Simon of Cyrene carries the cross. He encounters the women of Jerusalem; he encounters his mother; and according to tradition, falls three times. What agony for Jesus and all who are watching, including us as we utter the rosary prayers.
The fifth sorrowful mystery is the Crucifixion. Jesus, is now nailed to the cross and slowly dying. But he has the strength to forgive the repentant sinner on the cross next to him in a lesson of forgiveness for all of us. He has the strength to tell St. John and all of us to “Behold thy mother,” referring to the Blessed Mother. And he dies, at which time a great earthquake occurs; the temple curtain is torn in two; and a soldier, piercing his side with a lance, experiences conversion seeing the blood and water gush forth from the wound.
Yes, the rosary is a meditation prayer based solidly on Scripture. What a gift!