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Rosary Meditations: The Sorrowful Mysteries

“I would like to suggest to everyone to renew the prayer of the Rosary in the upcoming Year of Faith,” said Pope Benedicti XVI in October.

 

Committing to a daily rosary would be a great New Year’s resolution on the Jan. 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. These scriptures and points of meditations can help.

 

The First Sorrowful Mystery

The Agony in the GardenJesus prays in Gethsemane on the night before his death.

Scripture

Luke 22:39-46 – Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.”

 

Points for Meditation

  • In Gethsemane, “Jesus encounters all the temptations and confronts all the sins of humanity” (Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae 22).
  • This Yes of Christ reverses the No of our first parents in the Garden of Eden (Rosarium, 22).
  • “The cup of the new covenant, which Jesus offered at the Last Supper, is afterward accepted by him from his Father’s hands in his agony of the garden” (Catechism, 612).
  • Jesus “expresses the horror that death represented for his human nature” (Catechism, 612).
  • “By accepting in his human will that the Father’s will be done, he accepts his death as redemptive” (Catechism, 612).
  • The everyday obedience of Jesus to Joseph and Mary both announced and anticipated the obedience of Holy Thursday (Catechism, 532).
  • “Could you not stay one hour with me?” Christ would like us to make a holy hour in the presence of the Eucharist (weekly, if possible).
  • “Father, if you are willing …” It is no shame to pray, and hope for, pain to pass me by …
  • “Still, not my will but yours” – But I should remember that sometimes God wants me to accept suffering for a greater purpose.
  • The disciples disobey Christ’s command not because they are “wicked” but because they give in to their desire for easy comfort. That’s often the reason I sin.

 

The Second Sorrowful Mystery

The Scourging at the Pillar Christ is scourged by the soldiers at Pilate’s command.

 

Scripture

Mark 15:6-15 – Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion. The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed. Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what do you want me to do with the man you call the king of the Jews?” They shouted again, “Crucify him.” Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

 

Points for Meditation

  • A handle held together three leather whips in the kind of scourges used on Christ. At the ends were spiky pieces of bone or lead.
  • Roman scourges would tear away flesh and the victim would lose blood, weakening him for crucifixion. The soldiers avoided striking over the heart, to keep the condemned man alive.
  • That the manner of his death was foreseen “does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God” (Catechism, 599).
  • “[T]he Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus” (Catechism, 598).
  • “Christ’s whole life was lived under the sign of persecution. His own share it with him” (Catechism, 530).
  • If he suffered this for me, there is nothing I should refuse to do for him.
  • Consider small “scourges” to suffer for love of Christ. Eating and not getting quite full? Accepting slights in traffic? Forgoing TV?
  • In the garden, heaven’s help was obvious – an angel. In the scourging, the interior grace of hope is his only help. I can expect the same sometimes.
  • When I give in to angry or vengeful thoughts and make cutting remarks or judgmental gossip, I behave like the soliders.
  • When I leave cutting remarks unanswered or let judgmental thoughts die in my mind, I behave like Christ.

 

The Third Sorrowful Mystery

The Crowning With Thorns Soldiers weave a crown of thorns and place it on Christ’s head.

 

Scripture

John 19:1-8 – Then Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid.

 

Points for Meditation

  • When he fed the multitudes, they wanted to make him king. But thorns were the only crown he accepted.
  • That there was something special about Christ was obvious to many at a glance. This is what gave the soldiers their delight when they mocked him.
  • “Jesus atoned for our faults and made satisfaction for our sins to the Father (Catechism, 615).
  • “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer” (Catechism, 605).
  • The blood vessels in the face bleed profusely. The crown of thorns made it difficult for Christ to see.
  • The crown of thorns is an antidote to self-pity, to prevent me crowning myself for my own slight sufferings.
  • Empty religious practice is like crowning Christ with thorns.
  • We might avoid evangelizing because we’re afraid of ridicule. But without risking ridicule, we’ll never fully imitate Christ.
  • Giving a deep, honest, thorough confession is one way to imitate Christ, who exposed himself to contempt.
  • Even the Rosary can be an empty crown if I “say” it without trying to “pray” it.

 

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery

The Carrying of the Cross – Jesus struggles up Calvary with his own cross on his shoulders.

 

Scripture

John 19:16-22 – Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.  Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

 

Points for Meditation

  • Christ accepted his heavy cross without professing his innocence – because he was carrying it for the guilty. For me.
  • It was horrible for Mary to have to watch this; she would rather she were allowed to suffer it herself.
  • In the stories of Simon and Veronica, we see that Christ accepted the assistance of others as he redeemed the world.
  • It is easy to imagine Christ struggling in front of our admiring eyes. But, abandoned by his friends and rejected by the crowd, it’s truer to think of him being alone.
  • Christ was a strong man. He fell three times, tradition tells us. Sleepless, scourged, crowned with thorns and carrying a heavy cross, he kept getting back up.
  • The cross I’ve been given has been hand-tested by Christ so that it will be neither too heavy – nor too light.
  • The Blessed Mother of Jesus was close when her son was suffering. She’s close when we, her other sons and daughters, suffer.
  • Christ carries his cross – and helps carry ours as well.
  • Am I sick of trying to be holy and always failing? My struggle for holiness, with all of its falls, is my lifelong way of the cross.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery

The Crucifixion – Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies.

 

Scripture

Matthew 28:1-8 – After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.

 

Points for Meditation

  • “It is love ‘to the end’ that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction” (Catechism, 616).
  • It took a great effort for Christ to speak from the cross; he had to raise himself up on his wounded hands. Yet he did – to forgive.
  • “He knew and loved us all when he offered his life” (CCC, 616).
  • Christ died for the very people who were mocking him, blaspheming him – and killing him.
  • “Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven” (CCC, 618).
  • “Since our sins made the Lord Jesus Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew” (Catechism, 598).
  • The crucifix teaches us about God’s mercy – but also about his anger at sin. We must remember both.
  • To crucify my pride is necessary for me, because I am by nature egotistical and prone to hurt others selfishly.
  • To imitate Christ’s forgiveness is necessary for me, because those I am close with are by nature egotistical and prone to hurt me selfishly.
  • The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception (Catechism, No. 605).

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes is vice president of college relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer and then spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. He writes weekly for Catholic Vote, the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Catholic Digest. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and nine children.