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Pope John XXIII composed meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary on a retreat during his later years. His reflections on the Joyful Mysteries-the events surrounding Jesus' birth and early life-serve as excellent food for meditation and prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
First Joyful Mystery-The Annunciation
This is the brightest point that links heaven and earth, the greatest event of the centuries. The Son of God, the Word of the Father-by whom all was made that was made in the order of creation-took on human nature to become the Redeemer and Savior of the whole human race.
Mary Immaculate, the most beautiful and fragrant flower of creation, at the voice of the angel, accepts the honor of divine maternity. With her words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord," it is fulfilled in her at that moment. And we all, as brothers and sisters redeemed in Christ, become her children. She is the Mother of God and our mother.
As we prayerfully contemplate the Annunciation event, we resolve to daily acquire the habit of thanksgiving and sincerely strive to acquire that humility, purity, and great charity of which the Blessed Virgin gives us such an amiable example.
Second Joyful Mystery-The Visitation
What tenderness and gentleness there was in that three-month visit of Mary to her beloved cousin. Both are custodians of an imminent maternity, but for Mary, it is to be the most sacred maternity imaginable.
What sweetness of harmony in those two intertwining hymns. From one, "Blessed are you among women" (Luke 1:42), and from the other, "He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed" (1:48).
This vision at Ain-Karim, a few miles west of Jerusalem, illuminates with a heavenly light (at the same time very human!) the relations of good families brought up in the ancient school of the Rosary recited each evening in the home among the members of the family.
This is done in all parts of the world where people are called by the lofty inspiration of the priesthood or where one is called by missionary charity or the apostolate or even by lawful motives of different natures, such as work, military service, study, teaching, and the like.
What a beautiful coming together this is in which, during the recitation of the ten Hail Mary's of this mystery, so many souls are united by the bond of blood, by domestic bonds, by all those things which sanctify and strengthen the sentiments of love among those closest to one another-parents and children, brothers, sisters, relatives, neighbors, citizens-united in an act which supports and illuminates universal charity, the practice of which is the joy and honor of life.
Third Joyful Mystery-The Birth of Jesus
At the proper time, according to the laws of the assumed human nature, the Word of God made man emerges from the holy tabernacle that is the immaculate womb of Mary.
He appears for the first time to the world in a manger used for feeding hay to animals. Silence, poverty, simplicity, and innocence fill the scene.
The voices of angels are heard in the heavens announcing the peace that the newborn Infant brings into the world. The first to adore him are Mary, his mother, and Joseph, his foster father. Then come the humble shepherds, called down from the hills by angelic voices. Later a caravan of illustrious men will come, led from distant lands by a star, and they will offer precious gifts full of significance.
Through it all, everything in that night of Bethlehem assumes a language of universality.
In this third mystery, which compels every knee to bend before the cradle, some like to see the smiling eyes of Jesus in the act of beholding all the people of the earth passing before him one after another as in a procession.
He identifies them: Jews, Greeks, Chinese, Africans, all people from every region of the universe, from every age of history, past, present, and future.
Others prefer, instead, during the recitation of the ten Hail Mary's of this mystery of the birth of Jesus, to recommend to him the countless numbers of children of the human race who have been born into the world in the past twenty-four hours of the day and night.
All of these children, baptized or not, belong to Jesus of Bethlehem and to the continuation of his reign of light and peace.
Fourth Joyful Mystery-The Presentation
While still in his mother's arms, the life of Jesus unfolds to the meeting of the two Testaments. He is light and revelation to the nations, the splendor of the chosen people. St. Joseph must be present and also participate in the rite of offering prescribed by the Law.
This episode is perpetuated in the Church. As we recite the Hail Mary's of this decade, it is beautiful to observe the joyful hopes of the perennial re-flowering of the promise of priests, religious, deacons, and dedicated lay people who cooperate in great numbers in the kingdom of God.
Here also are the young students of the seminaries, of religious houses, of Catholic schools as well as other youth of a future lay apostolate whose growth in numbers-in spite of difficulties and setbacks and harassed even by persecutions in many nations-never ceases to be a comforting sight which evokes words of admiration and joy.
Fifth Joyful Mystery-The Finding in the Temple
Jesus is now twelve years old. Mary and Joseph accompany him to Jerusalem for the ritual prayer of that age. Suddenly he disappears from the sight of his loving and vigilant parents. There is great anxiety in the three-day search.
He is found in the Temple, reasoning with the doctors about the Law. How significant are the words of St. Luke who describes him so clearly. They found him sitting in the midst of the doctors "listening to them and asking them questions" (Luke 2:46).
That meeting place of the doctors constituted everything in those times: knowledge, wisdom, and practical directives in the light of the Old Testament.
In every age, this is the duty of human intelligence: to gather together the voices of the centuries, to transmit the good doctrine humbly, and to make way for the vision of scientific investigation about the future.
Christ is found everywhere in the midst of people, and that is his proper place: "You call me Teacher . . . and you are right, for that is what I am" (John 13:13).
This fifth decade of Hail Mary's of the Joyful Mysteries is a special prayer for the benefit of all those who are called to the service of truth and charity: in research, in teaching, and in the use of the new audiovisual techniques of communication.
All of them are urged to imitate Jesus: scientists, professors, teachers, journalists-yes, particularly journalists, who have the characteristic duty of honoring truth always without the counterfeit of fantasy.
For more about John XXIII, see An Apostle of Peace: How John XXIII invited the whole world to come to the manger, in the Advent Special Features.