Saturday, September 27, 2014

How Did Pope John Paul II Have the Nerve to Create Those Mysteries of Light?

I personally love the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary (also called the Mysteries of Light), even though some traditional Catholic friends of mine won't pray them.[1] The objection of some conservative Catholics to the addition of the Mysteries of Light seems to be that the Rosary was revealed by Our Lady to St. Dominic and for that reason it should not be changed in any way. To that objection, I have no real answer. 

But I do want to point out that the gentle suggestion that the new mysteries might be profitably added to our rosary meditations was made by a pope who has been declared a saint by the Church, Pope Saint John Paul II. And it is also significant that the pope of the Mysteries of Light was so devoted to Our Lady that his dedication to her was expressed in his motto, "Totus Tuus," "All yours."

In St. Peter's Square, this mosaic of Mary, Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church, was erected under Pope John Paul II, in gratitude for his having been spared death from an assassin's bullet. Note his motto beneath the Madonna, to the right of his coat of arms: Totus Tuus

The Mysteries of Light were first proposed by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginae Mariae, which was released on October 16, 2002. In Rosarium Virginae Mariae, Pope John Paul II wrote with great devotion about the rosary and its significance as the Church's prayer of meditation on the life of Christ. He explained why he created a new set of mysteries in this way, "to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary, it would be suitable to … broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's ministry between his Baptism and his Passion."

Pope John Paul II went on to write about why he called the new mysteries the Luminous Mysteries  "It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light. 'While I am in the world, I am the light of the world' (John 9:53)." 

He was writing at a time when Marian devotion was being viewed even by some Catholics as Mariolatry (idolatry of Mary). There had been unfortunately a kind of Protestant reaction against Marian devotion in some parts of the Church after Vatican II, and the rosary was included by many in the general disdain.[2]

Some of the Cardinals who elected Karol Wotyla, who then took the name Pope John Paul II, had thought of him as a forward-thinking candidate. Wotyla, for example, was a proponent of Mass in the vernacular, which was one of the liberals' favorite platforms. So the more-liberal Catholics were baffled by and very critical of what turned out to be Pope John Paul II's intense Marian devotion, along with what reformers came to think of the new pope's reactionary stance on the preservation of Church doctrine in many other areas that the reformers had previously thought were up for grabs. 

Using the left's favorite techniques of amateur psychoanalysis, his critics  downplayed this pope's love for Mary merely as a psychological compensation for the early loss of his mother.  

One of the objections of the anti-Marian-devotion camp to the Rosary before the Apostolic Letter was released had been to point out that the rosary was too much centered on the sorrows of Mary, not Christ-centered enough. The events of Christ's life between the Finding in the Temple and the Agony in the Garden were not part of the original three mysteries.

I believe that the Mysteries of Light (Mysteria Lucis) almost certainly came about because John Paul II was guided by Our Lady to whom he consecrated himself. But the new set of mysteries certainly also appropriately addressed the objections of those who thought the rosary was not focused enough on Christ. Some say they bring a missing dimension.  See this comment I got when I started posting about this idea on Facebook earlier today: 

Candid Heart Some Traditionalists do resent this. But personally, I did wonder why the Rosary lack some of the aspects of our Lord's pilgrimage on earth. So, when Saint JPII promulgated the inclusion, my heart, so to say, was ready for it. . . .

I personally have another reason to love these mysteries, because I privileged to be able to visit the sites where they happened when I went on a pilgrimage to Israel in 2005. I stood in the Jordan River, visited Cana, the site of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Transfiguration, and the upper room where Jesus instituted the Eucharist, and those places all come to mind when I pray these mysteries. Actually, at the end of our pilgrimage, someone pointed out that we had visited all the sites of the Rosary, except the site of the Visitation.

Mural of the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor

  How to Pray the Mysteries of Light

The Mysteries of Light (Mysteria Lucis in Latin) are typically prayed on Thursdays, which in Latin is called Feria V, because it is the fifth day of the week.
Following are the mysteries in English and Latin. Several different titles for the mysteries are used. After some consideration, I used the same titles that are used in the Rosary recordings of both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The usage of two popes is authoritative enough for me.

Luminous Mysteries (Thursday, optional)
  • Jesus is baptized in the Jordan
  • Jesus reveals Himself at the Wedding at Cana
  • Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus is transfigured on the mountain
  • Jesus institutes the Eucharist
Mysteria Lucis (Feria V, arbitraria)
  • Iesus in Jordane baptizatur
  • Iesus apud Canense Matrimonium se autorevelat
  • Iesus regnum Dei proclámat
  • Iesus in monte transfigurátur
  • Iesus Eucharistiam instituit

[1] Often because of sometimes shocking abuses they witnessed after the Second Vatican Council, many devoted Catholics came to hate any changes that were introduced to the liturgy or the devotions of the Church during and after the council, more or less on principle. Let's have a little compassion here. These folks are quite likely to be suffering a kind of PTSS - post traumatic stress syndrome. I have a touch of that PTSS too. I often quote Mother Angelica on this topic. She called the mainstream post-Vatican II Church, the electric Church, because you never know when you go to Mass whether you'll get a shock. A sign of the PTSS syndrom is a knee-jeck reactin of hatred for anything that changed after the council. I just ran across a commenter at Fr. Z's blog who called the Mysteries of Light "JPII's contamination of the rosary.”

[2] Come to think of it, I might as well add that I love all of the Rosary, even though some Catholic friends don't pray any of it at all.

Pope Saint John Paul II's Coat of Arms symbolically shows Mary at the foot of the Cross

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