Light and Life – Jan.-Feb. 2020, Vol 73, No 1 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
For some of those who have prayed the Rosary throughout their lives, the acceptance of the Luminous Mysteries has been difficult. It seems unimaginable that anyone would dare add mysteries to the Rosary. But Pope St. John Paul II did just that with his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, on October 16, 2002.
However, Pope John Paul was not just any pope; his motto, Totus tuus, expressed his relationship and deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and his understanding of her unique role in salvation history. He says [with his emphasis], “Thanks to St. Louis de Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.”1 As a result, he believed that Marian devotion “not only addresses a need of the heart, a sentimental inclination, but it also corresponds to objective truth about the Mother of God.”2
Thus, for our Marian Pope, the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ emerges in a special way in the Luminous Mysteries, which capture the years of his public life and teachings, beginning with his baptism in the Jordan, and culminating with his institution of the Holy Eucharist on the eve of his passion, death and resurrection. St. John Paul says [with his emphasis], “Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus.”3
Regarding Christ’s Incarnation, St. Peter Chrysologus sees a clear three-fold Epiphany of his divinity.4 God chose to manifest himself to man so that we could understand his true nature and what he set out to do through his Son to redeem the world. This Epiphany is illuminated in three separate mysteries of the Rosary, the third Joyful Mystery, the Birth of Jesus, and the first two Luminous Mysteries, Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan and his Miracle at Cana. Thus, the first two Luminous Mysteries are necessary to complete the triptych.
So, what does all this have to do with the Blessed Virgin Mary? The answer is, Everything! God became perfectly human in all things—which means he took on our humanity as it was before the Fall. Naturally, this would mean he was born of a human mother. At his birth, Mary sees the manifestation of the eternal God in her son. Years later, she hears of the marvelous event of his baptism, how he is anointed by the Father while the Holy Spirit descends upon him, and then witnesses his first sign—through her own intercession—as he commences with his mission to redeem the world. Thus, by the working of this sign at Cana through the intercession of Mary, Jesus manifests himself as the messianic Savior, who is both Son of God and son of Mary.5
As Mary has always been about “proclaiming the greatness of the Lord,” (Luke 1:46) it is apropos that through her Rosary, we go deeper into the great mysteries of the life of the Son of God who humbled himself by becoming one of us so as to bless us with eternal life and save us from an ignominious death.
The Baptism of Jesus
It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11)
The baptism of Jesus—unlike our baptism, which is necessary for the forgiveness of original sin—signifies the beginning of his public ministry. This is a momentous event in salvation history for Our Lord, marked by the presence of both the Father and the Holy Spirit. In this sacred event, Jesus receives his Father’s blessing as he embarks upon the work of proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God (in his Person) and it culminates in his ascent to the cross at Calvary and his resurrection from the dead.
However, an essential element in Jesus’ baptism is that the Father acknowledges him as his own beloved Son. The title, “Son of God” signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus to his Father.6 Hence, Jesus’ baptism is a manifestation or “Epiphany” of Jesus as Messiah of Israel and Son of God.7
After his baptism, Jesus reveals that he came into this world not to do his own will but the will of his Father who sent him. (Cf. John 5) Moreover, he was sent here to do the works that his Father gave him to accomplish. (John 5:36) Likewise, upon his resurrection, Jesus returns to send his disciples forth to preach the Gospel, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) Therefore, our own baptism, noted for its forgiveness of original sin (and actual sins if we were baptized as an adult), is also a sending forth by Christ to preach the Gospel.
In fact, the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20), correlates to his own baptism. Pope Benedict XVI states that there is an arc joining Jesus’ baptism with his Great Commission linking them to the Holy Trinity. The mystery of the Trinitarian God begins to emerge at Jesus’ baptism and then is revealed fully only when Jesus completes the mission that was given him by his Father.8
As a result, in order to be Christian, one must believe in the Holy Trinity and that Jesus is the Son of God.9 Thus, it is no coincidence that Jesus’ public ministry begins and ends with a direct reference to the Blessed Trinity and Jesus’ divine Sonship.
The Wedding at Cana
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there … When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water …” When the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.” (Cf. John 2:1-10)
The miracle at Cana seems to pale in comparison to the other signs and miracles of Jesus and perhaps could cause one to dismiss this event; however, there are details here that foreshadow greater things to come. It all begins when his mother approaches him to ask for help when the wine runs out at a wedding. It seems like an inconspicuous way to begin the work of redeeming the world! Yet, it is the first sign that reveals that the son of Mary and Joseph is more than he appears to be, that there is something deeper at work within him.
The fact that it happens on the “third day” harkens back to the Great Theophany of the Old Testament when the heavens roar in the peals of thunder and lightning as Moses meets God on the mountaintop on the third day while God descends upon the mountaintop in fire (Exodus 19:16-18).10 At the same time, it is a prefiguring of history’s final and decisive Theophany, the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day. On that day, it is the earth that roars as it is torn open and issues forth the Son of God, who once and for all reunites man with his Creator.11
At Cana, Jesus tells his mother that his hour has not yet come. This too is a prefiguring of his final hour when he will be lifted up on the cross and take the sins of the world upon his shoulders. The wedding at Cana in Galilee marks the hour for the first manifestation of Jesus’ messianic power.12 It is a particularly important hour, as St. John the Evangelist tells us that this is the very first sign where the miracle is presented as the beginning of his signs where Jesus reveals his glory and his disciples believe in him (cf. John 2:11). However, on the horizon appears the hour of Jesus’ passion and glorification. It is then that he will proclaim, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you” (John 17:1) as he accomplishes his work of human Redemption.13
One other important aspect at Cana is the fact that Jesus produces a huge surplus of wine—180 gallons—for a private party! We could dismiss this as insignificant or as a sign that something deeper is going on here.14 Pope Benedict believes that another sign at Cana is God’s overflowing generosity. We see it in the miracles of the multiplication of the loaves and here at Cana with the making of water into six stone jars of wine. Pope Benedict says, “God lavishly spends himself for the lowly creature, man. This abundant giving is his ‘glory.’” The superabundance in the wedding at Cana is therefore a sign that God’s marriage feast with humanity, his self-giving for men, has begun in the coming of Jesus.15 When Jesus goes to meet the wedding couple, it is really he himself who is beginning his work as the Bridegroom, inaugurating the wedding feast which is an image of God’s kingdom (cf. Mt 22:2).16 In summary, as we are enlightened by these two Luminous Mysteries, we see how Mary has a special place in the “bookends” of the three-fold Epiphany by being present at Jesus’ Birth, but also at his first sign at Cana—and through God’s design—she is given a key role by which God manifests himself in his Son in the plan of our salvation.
As the life and purpose of the Blessed Virgin Mary has always been to bring Jesus Christ to us, even now she continues in that role given her by God. When we pray the Luminous Mysteries, Mary joins us and intercedes for us as we ponder the teachings of Our Lord and the events that occurred in his years of public ministry. Like the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries contribute to our understanding of the Incarnation and Redemption in the life and death of her Son. It seems then that it is time to acknowledge these Mysteries of Light as having a rightful place in Mary’s Rosary.
(In the next Newsletter, our exploration of the Luminous Mysteries continues …)
1. Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1994, pg. 213.
3. Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #21.
4. St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermo 160: PL 52, 620-622
5. Pope John Paul II, General Audience, December 17, 1997
6. Catechism of the Catholic Church #454
7. Ibid., #535
8. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part One, Doubleday: New York, pg. 23.
9. Catechism of the Catholic Church #454
10. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part One, Doubleday: New York, pg. 250.
12. Pope John Paul II, General Audience, December 17, 1997
14. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part One, Doubleday: New York, pg. 252.
16. Pope John Paul II, General Audience, December 17, 1997
Dear faithful supporters of the Rosary Center & Confraternity, we are grateful for your support. We could not fulfill our Mission if not for our benefactors. After decades of constant use, the Rosary Center, the home of the Rosary Confraternity, is greatly in need of renovation. Please consider making a special gift to help make badly needed repairs, and to refurbish the offices, chapel and kitchen. Thank you for your generosity! Fr. Joseph Sergott, O.P., Director.