Much of our Christian faith is shrouded in mystery. The Holy Trinity, the Eucharist, the Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation, the individual miracles of Sacred Scripture in the Old and New Testaments—especially those of Jesus in the Gospels—are filled with mystery. And the list of mysteries goes on, because there is no end to what is gift and mystery in the Christian life, or in the life of Christ and His Church.
Although our faith holds an infinite number of mysteries, there were only three sets of Rosary Mysteries until October 16, 2002. On that day, Pope St. John Paul II published the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae to inaugurate the Year of the Rosary in the 25th year of his pontificate.
In that letter, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Pope gave the Luminous Mysteries to the Church. He chose Thursday as the devotional day on which the new Mysteries could be prayed. Since then, these “Mysteries of Light” have taken their place in the recitation of the Holy Rosary along with the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries.
The Gift of The Luminous Mysteries – The Public Life of Our Lord
These “newer” mysteries deepen our understanding of the life of Jesus after His infancy, childhood, and hidden life in Nazareth. To be drawn into the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary is to enter into the mysteries of the public life of Christ. Each of these mysteries is, in fact, an epiphany: they reveal the truth about the Son of God to the world. They help us contemplate the Jesus who taught, preached, healed, and spread the Gospel.
Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom.
—Pope St. John Paul II on the Luminous Mysteries
The Mysteries of Light allow us to contemplate Jesus in the message of repentance and in the light of the Trinity. His Baptism, His self-revelation at the Wedding Feast of Cana, and His Proclamation of the Kingdom take us deep into His Sacred Heart. He also reveals Himself to us in the Transfiguration, and finally in the Last Supper, where He became ever-present to us through His Eucharistic Body and Blood.
A Meditation on the Luminous Mysteries
The First Mystery: The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
This first Luminous Mystery marks the beginning of the public life of Christ. It is also the revelation of the Most Holy Trinity. John the Baptist had preached about “the One who was to come, the One who was greater than he,” and he tried to prevent Our Lord from undergoing a baptism of repentance among sinners. The Baptist knew the superiority and perfect sinlessness of Jesus. He knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God.
But to fulfill prophecy and demonstrate righteous conduct in conformity with God’s will, Christ told the Baptist to allow His baptism. When Jesus emerged from the water, the heavens opened, and the voice of God the Father revealed the Son, as the Holy Spirit descended upon Him.
When Jesus received the baptism of repentance, he revealed the basis for our Faith, the hope implicit in His coming, and the way to God the Father. Through baptism, we are filled with the Light of Christ. The Light of the World has filled our souls by the action of the Holy Spirit.
Ask yourself: do I accept Christ’s invitation and instruction to follow Him? Do I renew my faith each day by repenting of my sins, and resolving to follow Christ anew?
Lord, shine Your light into the darkest recesses of my soul, so that I, too, may be healed and freed from my sinfulness, and made righteous before God.
The Second Mystery: The Wedding Feast at Cana
On the third day, there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the Mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the Mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His Mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
When the wine runs out at the wedding feast, Jesus has profound compassion on the new bride and groom. He has not come to be served, but to serve. Even though His hour has not yet come, He turns water into wine at the request of His Mother for the good of the couple and their guests. The Son of God takes mere water and, through His divine power, changes it into the finest vintage—a perfect example of His boundless generosity.
Ask yourself: do I allow Jesus to work in me, changing my heart, my habits, my behaviors and even the pattern of my thoughts, so that I undergo continuous conversion and can one day be presented to the Master of the Banquet?
Lord, turn the water of my life into the finest wine, so that one day I may be united with You in Paradise.
The Third Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
...Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”—he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
—Mark 2: 8-12
Once again he went out along the sea. All the crowd came to him and he taught them.
—Mark 2: 13
Jesus revealed the coming of the Kingdom of God by His teaching, and to this very day calls each of His children to conversion and belief in the Gospel message. He shines the light of truth into our souls so that we can see our need for Christ. His earthly ministry demonstrated His mercy and forgiveness, showing us how our faith can heal and save us, and manifesting His love for us in our sufferings.
Ask yourself: do I live the Gospel message? Do I entrust myself and all of my cares to the Lord completely, confident in His merciful love for me? Do I pray for an increase in faith, and ask for His forgiveness so that I might fully believe, and then receive the graces He wants to bestow upon me?
Lord, help me to live the Gospel teachings and to abandon my entire life to You, in peace and confidence that Your will is perfect for me.
The Fourth Mystery: The Transfiguration
About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
—Luke 9: 28-36
In the Transfiguration, Jesus revealed a glimpse of His heavenly glory to Peter, James, and John. He desired for these Apostles to clearly see who He was and why He had come. He presented Himself with Moses (through whom God gave us His law) and Elijah (representative of the prophets) so that the three disciples would understand the fulfillment of God’s covenant in Christ.
Ask yourself: do I recognize Christ for who He truly is, and understand why He desires to enter into my life and the lives of all of His children? Do I seek His revelation in my own life and in the world around me, consciously and deliberately watching for God? Am I encouraged by this great love and the hope of heaven?
Lord, help me to recognize You in every form in which You present yourself and Your love to me today.
The Fifth Mystery: The Institution of the Eucharist
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my Body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” He said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God.”
In this Luminous Mystery, the Lord gave everything to God the Father for us, holding nothing back. He emptied Himself fully and completely, giving His very life to save us. And He offers us a way to remain with Him, perpetually present in the Precious Body and Blood—so great is His desire to be united to each of us! He wants to nurture and sustain us on our earthly pilgrimage.
Christ also told us, through His disciples, where He has gone. He has entered heaven and is preparing a place for us. He will lead us there, so that we know how to follow Him in self-emptying love.
Ask yourself: do I strive to live a life that is pleasing to Jesus, in sacrificial love, so that I can follow Him into the Kingdom of God? Do I revere and receive the Eucharist as often as I can, so that I can be healed, strengthened, and sustained in this life, and prepared for the next?
Lord, come to dwell in me fully and completely, Please bring the Eucharistic sacrifice to fulfillment in my own soul, giving me the graces I need to follow You to Heaven.
Enlighten Us, Lord
Meditating upon Christ’s public life and ministry in the Luminous Mysteries helps us to know His love for us. From His baptism to the Last Supper, this set of mysteries responds to a very deep need we have in our world today. It is the desire of the human heart to know what is true.
In this age of information, many facts are immediately accessible to us. It is easy to find verification for just about anything we wish to know. At the same time, it is hard for us to step out in faith and embrace hidden mysteries. Human beings demand to understand everything. We fail to remember that our minds are finite and can only understand so much.
In the Luminous Mysteries—the Mysteries of Light—Christ reveals who He is, what He has done for us, and how we can follow Him into the Kingdom of God. We need the Light of the World to shine clearly for us, illuminating hidden truths and granting us the grace to believe and live them, so that we can follow Him to Heaven.
Do you pray the Luminous Mysteries on a consistent basis? If so, how has the contemplation of these mysteries impacted your life?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!