The Blessed Virgin urged the children at Fatima to pray the Rosary frequently and fervently. This article is an excerpt from Sr. Lucia’s “Calls” from the Message of Fatima, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fatima, distributed by Ravengate Press. –Assistant Ed.
First Glorious Mystery: the Resurrection of Jesus
In this first glorious mystery of the Rosary, we recall the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the end of the previous decade, we reflected on these words of Jesus: “I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father” (Jn 10:17-18). This reference to his Father’s commandment and to his own power to lay down his life and take it up again, forms part of the various predictions which Jesus made to his disciples during his public life, when He warned them that He would die, as the prophets had foretold, but that He would rise from the dead on the third day. Jesus made the first of these predictions immediately after having heard from the lips of Peter the confession of faith whereby Peter recognized Jesus as “the Christ, Son of the living God.” The Evangelist says: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21).
In the Upper Room, He had celebrated with the Apostles the Passover of the Old Covenant and afterwards instituted the sacred rite which was to perpetuate the New Covenant. And, “when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away; for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mk 14:26-28).
The truth of the Lord’s Resurrection rests on historical signs and events which are absolutely authentic. First, the fact that it was clearly predicted by Jesus Himself, a fact which prompted the Jews themselves to place a guard at the tomb where his body lay. When the Resurrection took place, the empty tomb attested the fact and, in particular, the many witnesses who saw Him after He had risen from the dead. They ate at table with Him, they touched the wounds on his hands and his side, they lived with Him for forty days, during which the Risen Jesus instructed them and gave them the powers necessary for the Church. The Apostles and many disciples were so sure of this that they gave their lives in defense of the truth they proclaimed.
The first announcement that the Resurrection had taken place was made to women who, unable to anoint the Lord’s body properly the evening before, came early on Sunday morning to pay Him this last homage. The announcement was made to them by the Angel who rolled back the stone from the sepulcher. St. Matthew tells us this fact as follows:
Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Hail!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:1-10).
In St. Mark’s Gospel we have an account of the same fact:
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen…. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.” (Mk 16:1-7).
We also have the same announcement of the Resurrection to the women, from the pen of St. Luke, with some details of his own:
The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments…. On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel… the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home wondering at what had happened (Lk 23:55-56; 24:1-2).
When we compare these three Gospel accounts, we see the different details proper to each one. There is nothing strange in that! The same thing happens when a number of people witness the same event. The account which they give of it afterwards, contains the details which most struck each one; and even when the same person relates the same fact on different occasions, he or she does so with different details, because our memory does not register everything at the same time, sometimes recalling some details, sometimes others. And the Gospels originated in the accounts narrated by the actual witnesses when founding, or visiting, the earliest Christian communities. After these witnesses had departed, the accounts were preserved in the memory of each community, whence the Evangelist collected and put them together, naturally with whatever details they contained. And this is a further proof of the truth of the Resurrection: it was not something carefully worked out to be told in a mathematical fashion, always with the same words, the same full stops and commas, but rather as an event which had been witnessed.
St. John describes the appearance of Jesus to the Apostles, who were gathered together in the Upper Room with the doors firmly closed. The Lord “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'” (Jn 20:19-23).
However, Thomas, the apostle, was absent on that occasion, and later he stubbornly refused to believe what the other Apostles told him. Eight days afterwards, Jesus came back to visit them, “Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” (Jn 20:26-28).
Some days later, in the very early morning, the disciples, who had spent the night fishing without having caught anything, saw Jesus who, from the shore, asked them:
“Children, have you any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish…. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught..”.. “Come and have breakfast..”.. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish (Jn 21:5-13).
But let us return to the day of the Resurrection and look at the story of the two disciples of Emmaus who, disheartened and saddened by the events of the passion and death of the Master, decided to go back home. They were on their way when a traveler—Jesus Himself though they did not recognize Him—overtook them and began to talk to them, asking them what had happened in Jerusalem and how they themselves had been affected by it.
And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him….” And he said to them, .”.. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him (Lk 24:19-31).
With these facts and many others that are related in the Scriptures, the resurrection of Jesus is emphatically authenticated. It is not a matter of a figment of the imagination, still less of a collective suggestion, because the incidents took place with different people, on various occasions, and were quite dissimilar.
In these appearances, Jesus Christ presents Himself as He is: true God and true man. The disciples touch Him and can thus verify that He is the same Jesus who was crucified, since He makes them see and touch the scars of the wounds in his hands caused by the nails, and the wounds in his side where the lance pierced it. The Lord thus invites them to convince themselves of his reality, seeing for themselves that He has flesh and blood and that He still has the marks of his martyrdom. Thus, He says to Thomas, in the presence of the other disciples: “‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” (Jn 20:27-28).
On the shore by the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus shows Himself to the disciples as a companion who goes to meet them and offers His help, pointing out where they will find the best catch. In the meantime, on the shore, He prepares a meal for them: fish cooked on a charcoal fire and bread, which He himself serves, distributing it to them, like a father who prepares and serves food to his children.
To the disciples of Emmaus, Jesus shows Himself as an ordinary traveller on the same road as themselves, He takes part in their conversation, enlightens them about the destiny of the Messiah, patiently points out and opens up for them the prophecies concerning Him in the Scriptures. He accepts the invitation to spend the night, and shares their meal. At table, He uses gestures which reveal his identity, since the two disciples had often seen the Master doing just this: He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. It was this gesture that made them realise that their companion on the road had been the Lord Himself.
So, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and his resurrection is the reason for ours: “He who believes has eternal life… and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:47, 54).
Second Glorious Mystery: The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven
In this mystery, we recall the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven.
After his Resurrection, Jesus Christ stayed with his apostles and disciples for forty days, during which He lived and talked with them familiarly and told them about his approaching departure to Heaven. The Lord also appeared to Mary Magdalen, one of the women who went to the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection. When she threw herself at his feet as if to detain Him, Jesus said to her: “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn 20:17).
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven is described by St. Mark in these words: “After he had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19).
In the Gospel of St. Luke, the Ascension of Jesus is described as follows: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk 24:50-52).
It is also St Luke who, in the Acts of the Apostles, in a sense, fills out the details of the story:
And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me… You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1: 4-11).
St. Peter, speaking to the crowd after the coming of the Holy Spirit, said:
Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words…. the patriarch David both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.” Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:14, 29-36).
Thus there can be no doubt that Jesus really did ascend into Heaven. Therefore, we believe it and, with the Church, we confess our faith, saying: “On the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven; is seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead” (The Apostles’ Creed).
Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
In this decade of the Rosary, we recall the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles.
The Acts of the Apostles tell us what happened. After the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, the Apostles and disciples left the Mount of Olives and returned to Jerusalem:
When they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus… When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterances (Acts 1:13-14; 2:1-4).
In the discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus Christ spoke several times about the Holy Spirit, which He was to send from the Father when He had returned there, to teach them all truth, whose fullness they were not yet sufficiently prepared to understand. He said to them:
It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you…. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:7-15).
As we see by the use of the word “My,” there is full communion and reciprocity between the Father, Jesus Christ and the Paraclete.
Jesus said also: “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:28). On another occasion, He declared: “I came not of my own accord, but he sent me” (Jn 8:42), without, however, ever separating from each other, because, as Jesus says: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30).
He stripped Himself of the glory which He had with the Father as his only-begotten Son and came into the world, becoming man through the action of the Holy Spirit, as the Angel explained to the Virgin Mother: “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, Son of God” (Lk 1:35). In any action or initiative of one of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, the other two, also, are always involved.
And it was in their name that Jesus sent the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
In our faith we proclaim one God in three Persons: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; with the Father and the Son He is adored and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets” (Nicene Creed).
Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
In the fourth glorious mystery of the Rosary, we recall the Assumption of Our Lady, Mother of God, into Heaven.
The Church, having studied this event for many years, and being enlightened by the Holy Spirit, declared as a dogma of faith the “assumption of Mary, Mother of God, body and soul, into Heaven.”
Preserved from original sin from the first moment of her conception by a singular privilege of God, Mary was exempt also, by His grace, from the punishment, which condemned the human race to the corruption of the grave. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gn 3:19). This was the sentence imposed by God in consequence of, and as a punishment for, the sin of Adam and Eve. Mary did not inherit this sin and so she did not incur its punishment.
Even before pronouncing this sentence, God declared that there was to be an exceptional Woman in whom and with whom He would realize the purpose He had in mind when He created man. God could not be thwarted in his plans for creation! Having created man and destined him for eternal life, He could not leave him forever in the death of sin and the dust of the earth. So He thought of Mary, a humble daughter of the human race but, by reason of the singular privileges with which He had endowed her, raised above every other creature and free from the stain of original sin. He thought of Mary, pure and immaculate, from whom He would assume his human nature, something which He needed to do in order to accomplish the work of our Redemption. God clearly could not take to Himself and unite to his divine nature a human nature stained by sin.
As soon as the first sin which brought condemnation on human beings had been committed, God, speaking to the Devil who had taken the form of a serpent and who had incited the first human beings to do evil, said to him: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gn 3:15).
This woman, predestined by God to give Christ a human nature and to be, with Him, co-Redemptrix of the human race—”I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers”—this woman, He said, could not remain in the shadow of death, because she did not incur the sentence of punishment. Hence Mary is the first fruit of the Redemption wrought by Christ; and, through his merits, she was carried up to Heaven in body and soul, where she lives and reigns, in God, with her Son and his.
In fact, her Son, Jesus, true God and true man, is the source of that life to which we shall all rise one day, because God created us for life, and cannot leave us in the shadow of death. This is what Jesus said of Himself to Martha in Bethany: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:25-26). And He confirmed the truth of his words with the resurrection of Lazarus. Moreover, in the discourse on the Bread of Life, in Capernaum, He said: “For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:40). But the final result depends on our faith and our attachment to Christ:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life…. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgments (Jn 5:24-29).
Thus we believe and thus we hope while with the Church we sing: “Assumpta est Maria in Caelum!,” Mary has been assumed into Heaven.
Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven
In the very last mystery of the Rosary, we recall the Coronation of Our Lady in Heaven as Queen of the Angels and Saints.
God alone is King, and his kingdom has no end.
When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, the Lord answered: “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world… I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice” (Jn 18:36-37).
The kingdom of Jesus is a kingdom of truth. And even if Pilate did not bother to wait for the answer to the question, which he himself had asked, about the nature of truth, at least he acknowledged the accusation which the Jews had made about Jesus, that He had claimed to be king. Accordingly, Pilate ordered an inscription to be affixed to the cross with these words: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Jn 19″19).
Jesus often spoke of the kingdom of God. About its irruption into time, He said: “The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently” (Lk 16:16). But not everyone will inherit it: “The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:41-43).
When the Angel announced to Mary the incarnation of the Word, he said to her: “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” (Lk 1:31-33). God is the one and only eternal king; the Son is made man and is born in order to allow humanity to have access once more to the eternal kingdom of God: “I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world” (Jn 18:37), and his kingdom will have no end.
In giving birth to the Son of the Most High, everlasting king with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Mary is truly the Mother of God and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, having conceived by his intervention: “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” (Lk 1:35).
Thus Mary, in virtue of being Mother of God and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, is, we might almost say, by right, Queen. Hence, God could not fail to bring her to Heaven in body and soul, and crown her as Queen of the Angels and Saints.
In the Apocalypse, St. John tells us that He saw, in Heaven, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). We believe that Mary is this woman, crowned by God.
And the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady, Queen and Mother, on 22nd August. With the whole Church, we venerate her and proclaim her Queen of heaven and earth! Daily, we salute her and invoke her as we sing these words: “Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail our life, our sweetness and our hope!”