Advent Week 4: Dec. 18-24
The Joyful Mysteries
Here we are, the final week of Advent! You may have found it to be a peaceful, reflective season, or you may, like so many of us, have found it to be a mix of all of it—trying to be peaceful, but feeling harried or stressed, grieved, distracted, or sad. As we head into these last days before we celebrate the birth of Christ, let’s try to set aside a bit of time each day to ask him to enter into our lives, whatever we have going on, however we may be feeling. Jesus entered the world to redeem all of it: we can trust him with our messy lives, our troubled spirits, our unrealized dreams. He is our joy, and he has promised us, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5) While it can be easy to mistake joy for the emotion of happiness, it is actually something much deeper and more profound: a spirit of gratitude, peace, trust, and hope in God. Being filled with joy doesn’t mean we will never experience the highs and lows of other emotions, but that we are filled with God’s love through it all. As we walk with this week with Mary through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, may we be able to say with her, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (Luke 1:46-47)
(If you have never prayed the rosary before, or it has been some time since you have, do not let that stop you! Our downloadable and FREE How to Pray the Rosary guide is available for anyone who wishes to learn how to pray this beautiful prayer.)
First Glorious Mystery: The Annunciation
Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary" (Lk 1:26-27).
Think about: This incredible mystery gives us much to ponder—Mary’s fiat, her yes to the Lord required submitting herself and the plans and dreams she may have had for her own life to the plan the Lord had for her. Humility is the opposing virtue to the vice of pride, and we can see this in the contrast between the first woman Eve, and Mary, the new Eve. Where Eve’s pride led her to say, “No, I will not serve,” Mary’s humility prompted her to respond, “Yes, let it be done unto me according to thy word.” We can also think about the humility of God, who humbled himself to become like us. We can call Jesus “Emmanuel,” God-with-us, because of this astounding act, the Incarnation. In our own lives, are there areas that we hold onto out of sense of pride or desire for control? Let us ask the Lord to show us where He wishes to replace our pride and self-reliance with humility and trust in Him.
Second Glorious Mystery: The Visitation
Fruit of the Mystery: Love of Neighbor
"In those days Mary arose and went with 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!"' (Lk 1:39-42)
Think about: Jesus told us that the second most important commandment was “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We see this beautifully put into action with Mary, pregnant now with Jesus, leaving her home and traveling immediately to see and serve her cousin Elizabeth, older and unexpectedly expecting her first child, John the Baptist. We imagine that we too would do the same. But loving our neighbor is not an easy command. It is easy to love those who love us. It is much harder to love those whose opinions infuriate us; whose attitudes grate on our nerves; whose lack of beauty or sophistication or other qualities we value earns our disdain. Sometimes the hardest to love are those within our own families. In our world, it can be easy to dismiss or separate ourselves from those we don’t like or don’t want to associate with. Jesus also told us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and strength. We cannot love our neighbor unless we love God first. Loving our neighbor is a way we show our love for Him. As we contemplate this mystery, let us ask Jesus to give us grace to see the needs of the “neighbors” in our lives, and to help us to love them well, especially when it is difficult.
Third Glorious Mystery: The Birth of Our Lord
Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty of Spirit, Detachment from the Things of the World
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, 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" (Lk 2:1-7).
Think about: What a profound contrast this mystery shows us between the very first Christmas and the way we celebrate it in our culture today. Whereas now “the holidays” can easily become about having all the things perfectly done, the mystery of Christ’s birth is that the king of the universe was born in a humble, dirty, cold stable in a messy, chaotic and sin-darkened world—out of an unimaginable love for each one of us. Before he suffered and died for us, he was born for us. Being poor in spirit does not tell us about an economic condition (being materially poor)… it is an attitude of the heart, recognizing our complete dependency on God, emptying ourselves of anything that is not of Him, so that we can be filled with His love. We can ask ourselves if there are things we love more than God? Do we go about our days and our tasks with an anxious spirit, believing that all depends on us, or are we able to let go and trust in God’s providence for us? Let us pray in this mystery, that we might be able to release the cares and concerns that fill our minds, so that we may be filled with awe at God’s love for each one of us.
Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Presentation in the Temple
Fruit of the Mystery: Obedience
"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') and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons"' (Lk 2:21-24).
Think about: Obedience is a difficult word to wrap our minds around. If we are honest, the thought of it can make us cringe or want to rebel. But God is faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to him. Obedience to the Lord recognizes who he is, and what he has done for us, and who we are. We are not God, but so often we live as if we are our own gods. In this mystery, Mary—who had no need to be purified, as she was conceived without sin—did not ignore the law of her religion, but was faithful to it. Let us pray that the Lord will soften the hardness in our hearts and give us hearts of obedience, that we may become holy.
Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
Fruit of the Mystery: Joy in Finding Jesus
"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 ...
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers" (Lk 2:41-47).
Think about: If you are a parent and have ever lost track of your child for even a few moments, you can probably begin to imagine the franticness and deep sorrow that Mary and Joseph must have experienced when they realized Jesus was no longer in the caravan with them. Their sense of relief and joy must have been immense. In this mystery, we can think about the ways that we have lost sight of Jesus, not felt his presence with us, or allowed our own troubles and pursuits to cause us to take our eyes off of him. Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace to find him joyfully in a new way this Christmas, and that we, like Mary, may have hearts that treasure him.