Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Joy in the Joyful Mysteries

I haven't written many posts on my Rosary reflections lately, because unfortunately there hasn't been anything to write.  Summers always throw my prayer routine for a loop with the jumbled schedules and everyone at home or being shuttled off to camps, friends' houses, etc.  I still try to pray the Rosary as often as possible, but I am easily distracted or have to fit my Rosary in one decade at a time throughout the day. 

Sometimes praying the Rosary can almost seem like a chore, despite the fact that it is my favorite prayer.  I feel so limited by my human faults and shortcomings.  I ask the Holy Spirit to help me put aside distractions and focus on the mysteries, but meditation is definitely a skill that requires a lot of patience and practice.  These periods of spiritual dryness are frustrating, but I know that it's important to continue to pray, even when it feels mechanical and meaningless.

School started last week, so I am getting back to my Rosary Workout routine.  Yesterday, I went for an early morning bike ride.  The sun was warm, and the cool air held the promise of autumn days ahead.  Although I usually pray the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesdays, I decided to pray the Joyful ones instead as I had prayed the Glorious on Monday in honor of the feast of the Assumption.  (Since I'm a member of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, I have pledged to pray all 15 traditional decades each week, as a minimum.)

As I pedaled, I tried to find some aspect of the mysteries to focus on in order to facilitate meditation.  The Joyful Mysteries are bittersweet as each event leads Jesus and Mary closer to Calvary, yet a thought came to me to focus on only the joy in each of the mysteries:

During the Annunciation, I pondered the joy of the Angel Gabriel, offering the young virgin the opportunity to become the mother of the Messiah,  Then there is the joy of Mary, humbly accepting God's will.  The microscopic Baby Jesus no doubt felt joy at experiencing the very genesis of human life.  All heaven rejoices at Mary's fiat ("yes"), and Christians to this very day are joyful that the gates of heaven have been opened as a result of this turning point in human history.

At the Visitation, Elizabeth is not only filled with the Holy Spirit but also with a great joy: "And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:43).  Of course, John the Baptist literally leaps for joy in his mother's womb, overcome by the presence of the Savior.  Mary bursts forth in song with her joyful canticle, the Magnificat.  Tiny baby Jesus must feel joy at being brought out into the world for the first time, His presence mighty even from the womb.  The angels and all of heaven rejoice at the sanctification of John the Baptist, the "voice crying in the wilderness" who will prepare the way for Savior. All generations hence fulfill Elizabeth's prophecy as we pray the Hail Mary, rejoicing that Mary,"blessed among women," shares her joy as she leads us closer to her Divine Son.

The Nativity is a joyful scene in a humble setting-- the Holy Family, together at last, experiencing one other through human senses.  Mary and Joseph joyfully and reverently hold the infant Christ, looking upon his perfect little face, listening to the mewing cries of the newborn babe and breathing in that wonderful baby scent.  The infant Jesus finally experiences the world He created through the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin of a human being.  He sees His mother Mary, from whom He took his flesh and blood and His foster father, Joseph, the man who would teach Him about human work.  Meanwhile, the angels joyfully announce the birth of the Savior to the dumbfounded shepherds, who dutifully make their way toward the meager stable, stunned by the joy that such a tiny baby could stir up feelings of awe and wonder.  The wise men later follow the star, filled with joy and curiosity at the amazing signs in the heavens.

At the Presentation, Mary and Joseph joyfully bring their Divine Son to His Father's house for the first time.  There, Simeon declares his joy at the fulfillment of the prophecy that he would see the Messiah before his death.  His canticle, or song of joy, is recalled daily in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Anna the Prophetess also recognizes the Messiah and joyfully proclaims His arrival to anyone who would listen.  Heaven rejoices at the humble obedience of the Holy Family, and baby Jesus might have experienced the joy of seeing the beauty of that ancient temple through human eyes.  Today, we rejoice that Jesus was brought out into the world, experiencing human emotions, weaknesses and limitations, a "man like us in all things but sin."

Finally, the Finding of the Child Jesus reminds me of Dolly Parton's line in the movie Steel Magnolias, "My favorite emotion is laughter through tears."  Perhaps that is what Mary and Joseph experienced when they finally found Jesus in what they now realized was the most obvious place-- His Father's house.  Frantic with worry just moments earlier, they no doubt wept with joy at finding their beloved Son.  Young Jesus might have found joy in becoming a man in the eyes of the Jewish culture, now able to go about His Father's business.  Those who listened attentively must have felt a deep joy in hearing this young man's passion for the Scriptures.  Heaven too was joyful watching the "Beloved Son with whom I am well pleased."  We find joy in our lives today when, like Mary and Joseph, we finally find Jesus after a long period of searching.

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