The Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary through the eyes of Mary, Widow of Joseph
The last scriptural episode of the Holy Family occurs when Jesus is twelve and stays behind in the temple. The passage concludes saying that he went back to Nazareth and remained subject to Joseph and Mary (Lk 2:51). We hear no more until he begins his public ministry at the age of 30 (Lk 3:23). During Jesus’ ministry Joseph is absent, even when Mary and the apostles accompany Jesus to the wedding feast at Cana. From the cross Jesus entrusts Mary to John the beloved disciple. Tradition has concluded from this biblical data that Joseph therefore must have died before Jesus began his ministry. This is the basis for St. Joseph being invoked as “Patron of a Blessed Death” for presumably having died in the arms of Jesus and Mary.
Mary was therefore a widow during Jesus’ ministry, a fact seldom if ever alluded to. For perhaps 30 years she and Joseph had lived together with the Son of God. Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). They were certainly present to her as she witnessed or heard of the mysteries of the final three years of Jesus’ life. It may help our appreciation of the mysteries of the Marian rosary to consider them through the eyes of the Widow of Nazareth.
First Luminous Mystery, The Baptism of Jesus
Mary recalls how when Jesus was only eight days old, Joseph saw to it that Jesus was circumcised to fulfill the covenant with Abraham, while knowing that he would be the one to usher in a New Covenant. As Jesus passes through the baptism of John, the Trinity is manifest. The Holy Spirit was present as he had been at the annunciation. The voice of God the Father declares Jesus to be his beloved Son, as Mary had also been told at the annunciation. These sacred mysteries, now finally made public, had been shared only by her and Joseph during all those years at Nazareth. Jesus’ baptism prefigures the Sacrament by which we are made children of God.
Second Luminous Mystery, The Miracle of Changing Water into Wine at the Wedding Feast of Cana
At the age of twelve Jesus had told Joseph and Mary that he must be about the business of God his Father. Yet, now 18 years later, after having continued to live a hidden life in the family of Nazareth, he respectfully replies to Mary that his time has not yet come. Her mother’s heart, in spiritual harmony with his heart, nevertheless tells the servants to do whatever he tells them. This first miraculous sign attests to the power of Mary’s intercession. The wine may be seen as a symbol of the Eucharist. The setting of the wedding recalls the sacred relationship of the Holy Spouses, the Christian sacrament of marriage, and the future wedding feast of the Lamb in Heaven.
Third Luminous Mystery, The Announcement of the Kingdom and the Call to Conversion
Mary remembers the annunciation of the angel to her, as well as the annunciation to Joseph in his quandary, and how those annunciations changed their lives. How the faith and obedience of the Holy Spouses had been rewarded throughout the years! Their Son now invites everyone to repent and believe the Good News. Mary is filled with joy, wishing perhaps that Joseph were also present to witness the announcement with her, even while trusting in his spiritual closeness. The Holy Spouses intercede for us to respond wholeheartedly to the call.
Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration
While Mary and Joseph had witnessed certain revelations of Jesus’ identity through events such as the arrival of the shepherds, the prophecy of Simeon, and the adoration of the magi, for the most part Jesus appeared totally ordinary in their daily lives. By faith they enjoyed the divine presence, not transfigured, but in the simplicity of daily prayer, work, and family life. Peter, James, and John with lesser faith need this glimpse of glory to carry them through the challenge of the cross. God gives each of us the light we need to follow Jesus in faith.
Fifth Luminous Mystery, The Institution of the Eucharist
Joseph and Mary had faithfully celebrated the Passover with Jesus each year (Lk 2:41). On returning from Egypt they were part with Jesus of the new Passover to be brought about by God’s own Son (Mt 2:15). When Jesus openly proclaims that he is the bread come down from Heaven, the people find the claim incompatible with his being known as the son of Joseph. Mary understands why Joseph had to pass from the scene so as not to cause even more confusion regarding Jesus’ revelation of his heavenly Father and his own divine nature. Jesus will remain present to the Church until the end of time through the Blessed Sacrament of his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
First Sorrowful Mystery, The Agony in the Garden
Along with the joys of the Incarnation, Joseph and Mary experienced sorrows, such as the lack of room in the inn and the death threat by murderous Herod. The first drop of Jesus’ blood shed at the circumcision was already a prelude to his salvific agony. In the home of Nazareth Jesus “learned obedience” (Heb 5:8). He is now “obedient unto death” (Php 2:8), sweating blood as he cries “not my will, but thine be done.”
Second Sorrowful Mystery, The Scourging
Mary would remember how in their study of the Scriptures Joseph and she, together with Jesus, had reflected upon the prophecy of Isaiah: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (53:5). Faith in the redemption taking place is the only consolation amidst this cruel and unjust pain.
Third Sorrowful Mystery, The Crowning with Thorns
From the magi’s mention of the “newborn king of the Jews” King Herod jealously had tried to kill any potential rival. The flight into and return from Egypt were unforgettable for Mary. Now the envious religious leaders and the weak Roman governor torture and mock Jesus, but his Kingdom of Love reigns above all our petty little earthly kingdoms. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords suffers for us.
Fourth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus Carries His Cross
From Joseph the Carpenter, Jesus had also learned to work with wood. He also came to be known as “the Carpenter” (Mk 6:3). Art has often portrayed Joseph and Jesus together in the workshop of Nazareth making a symbolic cross as Mary looks on. Together Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had born the crosses of daily life. The Carpenter is now unjustly condemned to carry the wood of the cross for his own execution.
Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus Dies on the Cross
When Joseph and Mary had presented Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth, Simeon had prophesied that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary’s heart. Joseph had to listen quietly, helplessly unable to protect his beloved wife from this suffering. Throughout life he supported her total faithfulness to the will of God. The woman of staunch hope at the foot of the cross has already been widowed of her beloved husband. Now her immaculate heart suffers the great sword of pain on seeing her Son die on that cross.
First Glorious Mystery, The Resurrection
While appreciating God’s love in their humble everyday life, the Holy Family also lived with faith in Jesus’ future kingdom that would last forever (Lk 1:33), in a blessedness recognized by all generations (Lk 1:48), and in the rising of many (Lk 2:34). All these hopes are fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection, including Mary’s desire to see Joseph again in eternity. Sin and death are conquered. Life reigns immortal.
Second Glorious Mystery, The Ascension of Jesus
With Jesus’ Ascension, human nature is elevated in eternal glory at the right hand of the Father. The Son of God, who had been incarnate in Mary’s womb, born at Bethlehem, raised in the Holy Family of Nazareth, now takes that human existence into Heaven. He has won for sinful humanity the opportunity to reign with him in beatific vision.
Third Glorious Mystery, The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Throughout their lives Mary and Joseph alone had shared the secret of the virginal conception of Jesus through the Holy Spirit coming to her at her annunciation. Now Mary is present with the apostles in prayer as the birth of the Church occurs through the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. At last the secret she had shared only with Joseph can be shared and accepted by the Church, preserved in Scripture and Tradition, and passed on to us who are blessed to receive the same spirit through our Baptism into Christ and the Church.
Fourth Glorious Mystery, The Assumption of Mary
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is taken body and soul into Heaven. She is the first to share in the glory of Christ’s resurrection, meant for all of us. Amidst her desire and intercession that all of us unite with her in God’s eternal glory, she first of all must await Joseph, her beloved husband and Jesus’ chosen earthly father.
Fifth Glorious Mystery, The Coronation of Mary
Although humble Joseph had been chosen for the service of heading the Holy Family, Mary was always the queen-mother of the Savior, Joseph’s queen in life, the queen of the family. She is similarly queen of the household of the Church, on earth and in Heaven. Joseph is next to her in that Eternal Bliss in which we all hope to share.