The visionary and seer, Sr. Lucia of Fatima, provided the world with profound and inspired Rosary meditations in her book, “Calls” from the Message of Fatima. We begin this week by presenting her meditations on the Joyful Mysteries. – Ed.
Having seen that the prayer of the Rosary is the one which God has recommended most for all of us in general, both by means of the Church’s Magisterium and through the Message which He sent to us by Our Lady, we will now look at the mysteries of our Redemption which this prayer leads us to recall and contemplate in each decade.
For the majority of Christians who live in the corrupt atmosphere of the world, it is almost pointless to talk about mental prayer. Hence, what is most suitable for them is vocal prayer, in common or in private: the liturgical prayer of the Holy Mass and the recitation of the Rosary.
In the Rosary, we find all the riches of God’s truths, or rather, the revelation of God to men. From the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity which God revealed to us in the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, to the mystery of the Word made man, his life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and is also present in his Church, in the Sacraments, in the tabernacle where He remains in the consecrated hosts, and in our brothers and sisters who form, with us, his Mystical Body, of which we are all living and functioning members.
This is the faith, which we imbibe in prayer, and it is prayer which sustains and increases our faith. As we pray the mysteries of the Rosary, we receive the light of truth and the strength of grace in order to accept willingly, and co-operate in, the redemptive work of Christ.
First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
In the first decade, we recall the annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin… and the virgins name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lk 1:26-35).
In this passage, God reveals to us how the incarnation of the Word took place; He speaks to us of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, that is one God in three distinct Persons: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
God also reveals to us the virginity and immaculate purity of Mary: God did not choose just any woman to be the Mother of His Son who, of course, could not assume a nature stained by sin. Therefore, He made Mary immaculate from the first instant of her life, the moment of her conception; and she remained always a virgin, because the Son of God could not be confused with any other, according to his human nature, which would happen if another child were born of the same Mother.
The Angel told Mary that she was full of grace: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” If Mary had not been full of grace and all holy, the Angel could not have said to her that she was full of grace, because she would have some stain of sin in her. “The Lord is with you”—said the Angel—because Mary belongs totally to God and exists totally for God. To think that Jesus shared his Mother with us! He gave us Mary to be our Mother in the spiritual order of grace. What a great gift God has given us!
And the Angel continued: “Mary, do not be afraid: you have won God’s favor.” Yes, she had caught God’s attention because she was a virgin, pure and spotless, and, therefore, was chosen to be the first human temple inhabited by the Most Holy Trinity. Through the merits of the Word made flesh, from whom we receive pardon and grace, we also, if we are fortunate enough to possess the gift of faith and to live a good life, are living temples of the adorable Trinity, which dwells in us according to the sacred texts: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you” (Jn 14:15-17). And St. Paul draws our attention to the same truth: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are. Let no one deceive himself” (1 Co 3:16-18).
Jesus Christ and the Apostle tell us here that we are living temples of God and that we must keep our temple pure, because we are God’s dwelling-place, and also in order that God’s life may grow in us and may give us immortality.
Second Joyful Mystery: The visit of Our Lady to St. Elizabeth
In the second decade, we recall Our Lady’s visit to her cousin, St. Elizabeth. In the first mystery, we left the Angel talking to Mary and adding afterwards:
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
In those days Mary arose and went in haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?… And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:36-45).
This meeting of Our Lady and her cousin St. Elizabeth shows us Mary’s great faith and deep humility. This is obvious at once in her answer to the Angel, when he announced that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God. She does not feel herself exalted, or raised to a higher level. She believes the Angel’s words; she recognizes her lowliness before God and offers herself to serve Him as a slave: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
And, thinking always of God’s mercy, Mary answers her cousin: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” (Lk 1:46-48).
The Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth intone here the most beautiful canticle of praise to God. Their lips are moved by the Holy Spirit. But, after all, was not Mary the living temple of the adorable Trinity!
Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Jesus Christ
In the third decade of the Rosary, we recall the birth of Jesus Christ, God made man. He is the masterpiece of love! God who comes down from heaven to earth, to save his poor creatures.
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51)—He would say later, in the synagogue at Capernaum. Yes, He came from heaven; He became man, assuming the humble condition of a creature! He who is God, co-eternal with the Father, equal to the Father in power, wisdom and love! He is born as man, but He is eternal like God! A mystery which the Apostle St. John describes thus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (Jn 1:1.14).
He came into the world as a man and manifested Himself as Light. Light, which shines in the darkness: present among us, today as then, but now his humanity is veiled. He is present in his word and in his works, in the Eucharist and in the Sacraments, in the Church and in the person of each of our brothers and sisters. He says: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). Those who follow Christ will find in Him light and life.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Lk 2:1-20).
As St. Luke says here, the shepherds came and heard what was said to them, they believed and praised God. In the same way, we, too, must renew our faith in the revelation which God gives us here; we must believe and say, “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You.” And, like Our Lady, we must keep all these truths in our hearts, with faith, hope and love.
Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
In the fourth decade of the Rosary, we call to mind the presentation of Jesus in the temple. St. Luke describes this event in the life of Christ in the following terms:
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord), “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” (Lk 2:21-23).
Circumcision, prescribed by God in the Old Law, was replaced by Baptism, of which it was a figure, and which Jesus Christ was to institute later as a Sacrament, to wipe out the stain of original sin in us, to make us members of his Mystical Body and sharers in the graces of his redemptive work.
The example of fidelity in the observance of God’s Law which Our Lady gives us here should move us to follow the same road of fidelity to God and his Church.
Fulfilling this commandment to present her first-born in the Temple to be offered to the Lord, Mary is, at the same time, carrying out the mission entrusted to her by God, that of Co-redemptrix of the human race. Mary knows the Sacred Scriptures and, through them, she knows that her Son is destined to be a victim of expiation for the sins of men and a sacrifice of praise offered to God.
Reflect on what Isaiah prophesied about this:
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin (Is 53:1-10).
Mary knows that this prophecy is to be fulfilled in the person of her Son; she knows that He has been sent by God to carry out the work of our redemption. And far from wanting to save Him from such pain and suffering, she takes Him in her pure arms, brings Him to the temple with her virginal hands and places Him on the altar so that the priest may offer Him to the eternal Father as an expiatory victim and a sacrifice of praise.
Here, Mary does not simply offer her Son, she offers herself with Christ, because Jesus had received his body and blood from her; thus she offers herself in and with Christ to God, Co-redemptrix, with Christ, of humanity.
In this mystery of the presentation of Jesus, the pure hands of Mary are the first paten on which God placed the first host; and, from this paten, the priest on duty in the temple of Jerusalem took it, to place it on the altar and offer it to the Father as something which is owed to Him and an offering with which He is well pleased. Here we have a figure; later will come the real Mass, when the sacrifice of expiation will be consummated on Calvary; Jesus, by His own hands, will offer Himself to the Father for men, under the consecrated species of bread and wine, saying to the priests of the New Covenant: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19), that is, offer My sacrifice to the Father so that it will be renewed on the altar for the salvation of the world. Because “This is my body which is given for you…. This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:19.20).
Fifth Joyful Mystery: The prayer of Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem
In the fifth decade of the Rosary, we recall the journey of Jesus Christ to the temple in Jerusalem, to take part in the communal prayer of the people of God. St. Luke describes this event in Our Lord’s life thus:
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions;… and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:41-49).
The Holy Family here gives us a great example of Christian life. Neither distance nor lack of transport deters them from journeying to the temple in Jerusalem to join their prayer to that offered to God by his people. The Jerusalem temple reminds us of the places of worship which, today, for us, are our Churches where we too should go, all together, to offer to God our prayer and praise.
In the answer He gave his mother, Jesus Christ tells us that the temple is the house of God: “Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” For us, the Churches are our Father’s house and so we must enter them with faith, with respect and with love.
We go to our Father’s house, so that, there, united around the same table, we can be fed by the same bread: the bread of the Eucharist, the bread of the word of God. Like Jesus Christ, we must listen there to the word of God, which is spoken to us by his ministers, as it was formerly imparted to the people of God by the doctors of the law.
Today, we are the successors of that people; we who, happily, have received Baptism and, with it, the gift of faith, members, now, of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church.
This article is an excerpt from Sr. Lucia’s “Calls” from the Message of Fatima, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fatima, distributed by Ravengate Press.