Monday Mysteries: What are the “Mysteries”?

Each week, we reflect on one of the events from the life of Jesus Christ that make up the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary.

Little boy child praying and holding wooden rosary.

Welcome to Monday Mysteries. Each week on this blog and in our newsletter we’ll meditate on each of the Holy Mysteries of the Rosary. But first, we should talk about the mysteries in general: what are they, and why are they called “mysteries”?

A typical set of Rosary beads, or Rosary chaplet, consists of a Crucifix, a “tail” of 5 beads, and in a circuit five sets of 10 beads each separated by a space in the chain and single bead. The part of the Rosary we’re focused on relating to the mysteries is that set of 10 beads, known as a “decade” (10 years to a calendar decade, 10 beads to a Rosary decade). While our fingers pass over the beads of that decade, vocally we’re praying a “Hail Mary” per bead, but mentally the intention is to be actively reflecting on an event from the incarnate life of Jesus Christ with mind and heart. Those events are called THE MYSTERIES. Usually while praying the Rosary, the particular event being meditated upon—the mystery—is announced at the start of the decade.

Tradition has grouped the Mysteries thematically into four sets of five events (hence 5 decades on a Rosary chaplet), which also roughly correspond to a period in the incarnate Life of Christ. We’ll be going more in detail over these events in the coming weeks, but we’ll just name them here.rosary_mysteries

There are the JOYFUL Mysteries, events from Jesus conception until his hidden life at Nazareth; the LUMINOUS Mysteries cover the period of Jesus’ public ministry; the SORROWFUL Mysteries dwell on Jesus’ passion and death; and the GLORIOUS Mysteries celebrate Jesus Christ in His glory.

So why are they called Mysteries? Because in the contemplation of these events, Jesus’ Divine Life is something hidden, revealed by the Father through faith. Mysteries are that hidden life of Christ—his divine Sonship, his personhood in the Trinity, his plan of Salvation—revealed to us by the Father. They are not something we can uncover through reason alone: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17) A mystery, then, is a thing revealed (just as a Mystery novel reveals “whodunnit”), and the goal of meditating on these Mysteries is an encounter in faith with the revealed Incarnate Son of God who is LORD for ever and ever.

So go! pray the Rosary and in the words of St Paul “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, so that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power … to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).


Published by Catholic Campus Ministry Asheville

A ministry of the Diocese of Charlotte, serving the Catholic communities at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College, Mars Hill University, Warren Wilson College, and UNC-Asheville.