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.

Last week, we discussed what the mysteries of the Rosary are, and why they’re called mysteries. This week, before jumping into reflection on the individual mysteries themselves, we’ll look at how to incorporate meditation on the mysteries—events from the incarnate life of Christ—with the vocal prayers of the Rosary Chaplet.

As we mentioned last week, a Rosary chaplet is made up of 5 decades of ten beads, each decade preceded by a larger or separated bead. Each bead represents a particular common vocal prayer: on the separate bead one prays the “Our Father”; for each bead of the decade, pray a “Hail Mary” and once the decade is finished, a “Glory be…” Once the individual prayer is recited, your fingers slide to the next bead in the sequence and pray the corresponding vocal prayer. However, as the vocal prayers are said aloud, mentally the intention is to be actively reflecting on an event from the incarnate life of Jesus Christ with mind and heart. That is to be meditating on the Mystery.

So what do we mean by meditation? Well, let’s see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

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2705 Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. […]

2708 Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him. (emphasis added)

So meditation is seeking understanding, and it’s done by engaging thought, imagination, emotion and desire. In meditating on the mysteries, we’re seeking to understand what God reveals to us about himself and his plan of salvation in the Incarnate Life of Christ. So as we meditate we should be asking ourselves questions like “Who’s present at this moment? (BTW, part of the answer to that is always ‘me’)” “When is it happening?” (both in history and relatively to the whole incarnate life of Jesus) “Where is it taking place?” “What’s happening?” Good basic understanding questions, but also we need to look Spiritually at the mystery and ask “How is Jesus’ divinity revealed in this Mystery?” “What signs of the Kingdom are occurring? (esp. revealing of God’s Church) ” “What is Jesus calling me to do through this mystery? or what’s the moral lesson of this mystery?” “How does this mystery point forward in hope toward the fulfillment of God’s redeeming power at the Last Judgment?”

How do we seek for those answers? By using our thought/reasoning, imagination, emotions, and desires! Our thinking about the mystery will be helped by reading Scripture, and not the just scripture that describes the mystery itself, but the whole of Scripture which reveals Christ on every page. Use the imagination to go beyond the description of the event in Scripture. If a mystery takes place in the Temple, for example, who else was there (priests, pilgrims, tourists,  money-changers, watchful Roman soldiers, etc)? What were the sounds (chanting of psalms, braying of animals, fervent prayers), the sights, the smells? (the Temple likely smelled like a cookout from all the holocaust offerings!) Let your imagination fill in the likely details to make it a living scene in your mind and heart. Using that imagination, “witness” the events, then ask yourself, how would you feel if you were there ? How do you think the others there felt, and from different viewpoints—Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, on-lookers?

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The artistic result of Hans Holbein’s meditation on the Presentation in the Temple.

Finally, encountering the living Word of God in prayer should call you to action, so we ask “What desire is God inspiring in me in this encounter?” or “What is He asking of me, his disciple?” This could be a call to action as a Work of Mercy, a change in one’s moral behavior, a thirst for more knowledge about God, an increase for love of God and his saints (especially his Mother), a more fervent desire to take up one’s cross, or any desire that leads you to greater participation in God’s kingdom.

In the end, Meditation on the Mysteries is to immerse yourself in mind and heart into the Life of Christ: to have a living encounter with the Incarnate Word of God, and allow yourself to be radically transformed by that encounter.

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).


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