Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Transfiguration, Part 5 (and a bit of Rosary history)

Today is Thursday, the one day of the week dedicated to praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  (See my blog archive for more information.)  Of course, you can pray them on any day of the week, and some people find the time to pray and meditate upon all 20 mysteries of the Rosary! 

The Luminous Mysteries, or Mysteries of Light, are the most recent addition to the modern Rosary and were introduced by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae.

Even though the Luminous Mysteries are relatively new to us, a study of the rich history of the Rosary reveals that at one time there were 150 mysteries!  Ancient monks and clergy memorized, studied and meditated upon the150 Psalms of the Old Testament and their fulfillment in Jesus and His Blessed Mother in the gospels.  As a sort of "short cut" to reciting all the Psalms from memory, they would occasionally recite 150 Our Fathers while meditating on the Psalms and the gospels.  To keep track of their prayers, they used a string of 150 knots or beads called a paternoster.  (Paternoster is the Latin title of the Our Father.)  Later, another tradition evolved using 150 repeated Ave's (an early version of the Hail Mary).  Eventually, this devotion lead to our modern-day Rosary.

An interesting side note is that the advent of the printing press is one of the primary reasons that the number of mysteries was reduced from 150 to 15.  "Picture Rosaries" were printed to distribute to the common people, many of whom were illiterate.  Since it was too expensive to print 150 different gospel scenes, 15 of the most important were chosen.  Thus, the 15 traditional Mysteries of the Rosary-- 5 Joyful, 5 Sorrowful, and 5 Glorious.

Today I want to finish my earlier reflections on the fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration.  Parts 1-4 of the series are found below or in the archives.  (Luke's version is here.)  The key point of this event can be found in the words spoken by the "voice in the cloud" (God the Father):  "This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him."  The emphasis would be on the word "HIM" meaning that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, represented by Moses ("The Law") and Elijah ("The Prophets").  Notice that these two disappear and Jesus is left alone.  Now we understand why Peter "did not know what he was saying." 

The scene of the Transfiguration also marks the second time that the Holy Trinity appears together:  God the Father (voice from the cloud), God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit (represented by the cloud).  The first appearance of the Holy Trinity is at the Baptism of Jesus (the first Luminous Mystery).  Notice how the words of the Father are similar:  "This is my Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."

The story of the Transfiguration and the history of the Rosary tie in beautifully with today's Gospel reading. Jesus has just appeared to His Apostles for the first time since His death on the cross.  His first words are "Peace be with you," as they must have been terrified and awe-struck.  After showing His wounds and eating a meal (His glorified body is real!), he says:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."

Like the ancient monks with their paternosters, we can study, meditate and reflect on the Mysteries of the Rosary so that we too can "open our minds to understand the Scriptures".

Read more about the history of the Rosary in my book, The Rosary Workout

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