Having looked at the events in the life of Jesus, which are recalled in the first part of the Rosary, we now pass on to the second part, the five Sorrowful Mysteries.
First Sorrowful Mystery: The Prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Olives
In this mystery of the Rosary, we recall the prayer of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Olives.
The Gospels tell us that the Lord spoke several times during his public life of the way He was to die and thus accomplish the work of our redemption. When the time came, after He had celebrated the last Supper with his disciples, during which He instituted the Eucharist to perpetuate his real presence among us, and to prepare Himself for his imminent Passion and Death, He went with them to a place called Gethsemane and there He said to them:
“Sit here, while I go yonder to pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?” Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation…” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done” (Mt 26:36-42).
Here as in the other events of his life, Jesus Christ is for us a model, which we must follow and seek to imitate. Although He was God and had, therefore, all grace and strength, He was also truly human; and He chose to prepare Himself, by prayer, to submit his human will to that of his Father, who needed Him as an expiatory victim for the sins of humanity. To his human nature, suffering, humiliation and death were repugnant, as it is for all of us, because they are the punishment for sin; sin which He did not commit, but for which He chose to make satisfaction on our behalf. And so, He spent a long time in prayer, repeating: “‘Father, if thou art willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.’… And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Lk 22:42, 44).
When suffering and anguish oppress us, let us remember Jesus Christ in the Garden of Olives and, like Him, let us say to God: “Father, if thou art willing remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Even if our distress is great, let us reflect that the anguish of Jesus was greater, because his face was covered with “great drops of blood, which fell to the ground.”
Oh! If I only could have been there beside the Lord at that moment, to wipe his face with a soft towel and then to keep such a relic of the Blood of my God! But what I could not do then, I want to do today, because, every day, from his wounded face, from his pierced hands and feet, from his open heart, flows the blood of our Redemption, present in the consecrated bread and wine on the altar of sacrifice; and I have the happiness of being nourished on that Body and that Blood.
Second Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Is Taken Prisoner
In this second sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, we recall the arrest of Jesus Christ. The Gospel tells us that, instigated by the devil and by the love of money, Judas, one of the Twelve whom the Lord had chosen to be with Him, undertook, in return for thirty wretched coins, to deliver the Master into the hands of his enemies who wanted to get hold of Him in order to put Him to death.
Judas, knowing that Jesus used to go to the Garden of Olives to pray, left the supper room before the other disciples and went to the chief priest to tell them that the opportune moment to seize the Master had come. Then, accompanied by the escort which the high priest had prepared for the occasion, the traitor went to find the Lord in Gethsemane.
In the meantime “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen,” arose from his prayer and went to meet his enemies. When He came near them, Judas advanced to salute the Master with the treacherous kiss. It was the sign he had given the soldiers so that they would recognize Him. “The one I kiss, he is the man. Arrest him, and see he is well guarded when you lead him away!”
Then Jesus said to them: “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.”… When he said to them, “I am he” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he; so if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word which he had spoken, “Of those whom thou gavest me I lost not one.”… So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year (Jn 18:4-13).
Then “Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest” (Jn 18:24).
The sacred text says that Jesus “knew all that was going to happen to Him”—He had already spoken of it several times! He could have taken advantage of that long period of prayer to hide Himself, but He did not. He allowed Himself to be given up to martyrdom and to death, since that was the Father’s will.
He had assumed our human nature in order to be able, in this way, to bring about our Redemption by allowing Himself to be immolated on the cross, thus offering to the Father a worthy reparation for our sins. Those pure animals which were sacrificed in the Old Law, as expiatory victims for the sins of the people of God, were merely figures of Christ, the only victim of infinite merit, capable of offering adequate reparation and thus of making satisfaction for our iniquities.
Third Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns
In this mystery, we recall Christ scourged and crowned with thorns. After He had given Himself into the hands of his enemies to be a victim immolated for our sins, He was condemned by the Sanhedrin, presided over by the high priest, Caiaphas, and brought to the Praetorium of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. He was insulted, mocked, acclaimed king in jest, scourged and then crowned with thorns. The Gospel says that Pilate, having recognized that Jesus was innocent, gave Him over to be scourged: “Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands” (Jn 19:1-3).
Before ordering Him to be scourged. Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king. “Jesus answered, ‘My kingship is not of this 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). It was this answer which gave the soldiers a pretext for making fun of Him as king.
The soldiers left Him in a pitiable state. Pilate, seeing Him like this and still wanting to save Him, brought Him out once more to the people, declaring that Jesus was innocent: “‘Behold I am bringing him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him.’… They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Then he handed him over to them to be crucified” (Jn 19:4,15-16).
If, some day, God allows us to be victims of the injustice of men, let us look at Jesus and follow Him in faith.
Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Carries His Cross to Calvary
In this fourth sorrowful mystery, we think of Jesus Christ with his cross on the way to Calvary.
After Pilate had delivered Jesus to be crucified, the soldiers obliged Him to walk the road to Calvary amid the insults and taunts of the people who had been stirred up against Him, carrying on his shoulders the cross to which He was to be nailed. St. John describes all this as follows: “So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha. There they crucified him” (Jn 19:17-18).
Following the example of Jesus Christ, who for us bore the cross of suffering, let us tread in his footsteps, carrying our daily cross with faith, hope and love.
Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Dies On the Cross
In this last sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, we recall the death of Jesus Christ, nailed to the cross. When He arrived at the summit of Mount Calvary, led by the soldiery who ill-treated Him, He was nailed to the cross where, for several hours, He suffered and agonized until He died. It was three o’clock in the afternoon.
St. John describes the end of the Lord’s earthly life in these words:
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother…. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (Jn 19:25-30).
The death of Jesus Christ is our life, because He died to give us eternal life. Some time earlier, He had said: “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).
In His passion and death, what the prophet Isaiah had said about Him was fulfilled to the letter:
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?… because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Is 53:7-8, 12).
Therefore, on the cross, Jesus Christ asked the Father to pardon his enemies: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
This article is an excerpt from Sr. Lucia’s “Calls” from the Message of Fatima, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fatima, distributed by Ravengate Press.