Meditations on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

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Meditations on the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

A statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, Italy.
A statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, Italy. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary are the final of the three traditional sets of events in the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother upon which Catholics meditate while praying the rosary. (The other two are the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. A fourth set, the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, was introduced by Pope John Paul II in 2002 as an optional devotion.)

The Sorrowful Mysteries ended with the Crucifixion on Good Friday; the Glorious Mysteries pick up with Easter Sunday and the Resurrection, and cover the establishment of the Church at Pentecost Sunday and the unique respect showed by God to the Mother of His Son at the end of her earthly life. Each mystery is associated with a particular fruit, or virtue, which is illustrated by the actions of Christ and Mary in the event commemorated by that mystery. While meditating on the mysteries, Catholics also pray for those fruits or virtues.

Traditionally, Catholics meditate on the Glorious Mysteries while praying the rosary on Wednesday, Saturday, and the Sundays from Easter until Advent. For those Catholics who use the optional Luminous Mysteries, Pope John Paul II (in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, which proposed the Luminous Mysteries) suggested praying the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and on Sundays year-round (but not on Saturday).

Each of the following pages features a brief discussion of one of the Glorious Mysteries, the fruit or virtue associated with it, and a short meditation on the mystery. The meditations are simply meant as an aid to contemplation; they do not need to be read while praying the rosary. As you pray the rosary more often, you will develop your own meditations on each mystery.

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The Resurrection - The First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary

Stained-glass window of the Resurrection in St. Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. (© Scott P. Richert)
A stained-glass window of the Resurrection in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. Click on image for a larger version. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The First Glorious Mystery of the Rosary is the Resurrection, when Christ, on Easter Sunday, rose from the dead as He had claimed He would. The fruit most commonly associated with the mystery of the Resurrection is the theological virtue of faith.

Meditation on the Resurrection:

"Why seek you the living with the dead? He is not here, but is risen" (Luke 24:5-6). With those words, the angels greeted the women who had come to Christ's tomb with spices and ointments, to care for His body. They had found the stone rolled back, and the tomb empty, and they did not know what to make of it.

But now the angels continue: "Remember how he spoke unto you, when he was in Galilee, Saying: The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" (Luke 24:6-7). And Saint Luke simply says, "And they remembered his words."

Unless Christ rose from the dead, Saint Paul tells us, our faith is in vain. But He did rise from the dead, and faith—the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen—is not vain, but a virtue. We know that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross accomplished our salvation, not because we know that He died, but because we know that He lives. And in living, He brings new life to all who have faith in Him.

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The Ascension - The Second Glorious Mystery of the Rosary

Stained-glass window of the Ascension in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. (© Scott P. Richert)
A stained-glass window of the Ascension of Our Lord in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. Click on image for a larger version. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Second Glorious Mystery of the Rosary is the Ascension of Our Lord, when, 40 days after His Resurrection, Christ returned to His Heavenly Father. The virtue most commonly associated with the mystery of the Ascension is the theological virtue of hope.

Meditation on the Ascension:

"Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Just as the angels announced Christ's Resurrection by reminding the faithful women of His words, so now they remind the Apostles, standing on Mount Olivet, looking up into the clouds into which Jesus had ascended, that He had promised to come again.

"Art thou the Christ the Son of the blessed God?" the high priest had asked (Mark 14:61). And Christ had answered, "I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62). His answer had enraged the high priest and the Sandhedrin, and gave them a reason to put Him to death.

For those who believe in Christ, though, the answer brings not rage, nor fear, but hope. In ascending to Heaven, Christ has left us for a little while, though He has not left us alone, but in the loving embrace of His Church. Christ has gone before us to prepare the way, and when He returns, if we have been faithful to Him, our reward will be great in Heaven.

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The Descent of the Holy Spirit - The Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary

Stained-glass window of Pentecost in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. (© Scott P. Richert)
A stained-glass window of the Descent of the Holy Ghost in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. Click on image for a larger version. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary is the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, ten days after the Ascension. The fruit most commonly associated with the mystery of the Descent of the Holy Spirit is the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Meditation on the Descent of the Holy Spirit:

"And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak" (Acts 2:4). After the Ascension, the Apostles had gathered with the Mother of God in the upper room. For nine days they had prayed, and now their prayers are being answered. The Holy Spirit, like a mighty wind, like tongues of fire, has come upon them, and just as at the Annunciation, when the Spirit of the Most High overshadowed Mary, our world is forever changed.

Christ had promised not to leave them—us—alone. He would send His Spirit, "the Spirit of truth," to "teach you all truth" (John 16:13). Here in this upper room, the Church is born, baptized in the Spirit and endowed with the truth. And that Church becomes for us not only Mother and Teacher, the certain measure of truth, but the conduit of the Spirit. Through Her, through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descends upon us as He did upon them, through the Church that He gave birth to on that day.

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The Assumption - The Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary

Stained-glass window of the Assumption in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. (© Scott P. Richert)
A stained-glass window of the Assumption in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. Click on image for a larger version. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Fourth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when, at the end of her earthly life, the Mother of God was received, body and soul, into Heaven. The fruit most commonly associated with the mystery of the Assumption is the grace of a happy death.

Meditation on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

"And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet . . . " (Revelation 12:1). This holy vessel, this Ark of the Covenant, she whom all generations will call blessed because of the great things God has done for her, has completed her life on earth. Mary wants nothing more than to be once again with her Son, and she expects nothing more than to leave this life behind. How could God honor her more than He already has by choosing her to be the Mother of God?

And yet He has one final gift in this life for His most humble of servants. Mary's body shall not suffer the corruption of death, but shall become the first fruits of Christ's Resurrection. Her body, as well as her soul, will be assumed into Heaven and be a symbol for us of the resurrection of the body.

Every Sunday at Mass, we recite those words in the Nicene Creed: "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come." And in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we get a glimpse of what they mean. Though we know that, at our death, our body will suffer decay, we can still look forward with hope because we know that Mary's life in the world to come will one day be ours as well, so long as we unite ourselves to her Son.

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The Coronation - The Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary

Stained-glass window of the Coronation in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. (© Scott P. Richert)
A stained-glass window of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Saint Mary's Church, Painesville, OH. Click on image for a larger version. (Photo © Scott P. Richert)

The Fifth Glorious Mystery of the Rosary is the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The fruit most commonly associated with the mystery of the Coronation is final perseverance.

Meditation on the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

" . . . and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1). While the Assumption was God's final gift to Mary in this life, He had another to bestow on her in the next. "The Almighty has done great things to me"—and now He does one more. The humble servant of the Lord who became the Mother of God is crowned the Queen of Heaven.

Twelve stars: one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, whose entire history led to that moment, that first Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Annunciation. When Mary submitted herself to the will of God, she had no idea what He had in store for her—neither the heartaches and sorrows, nor the glory. At times, as she pondered all of these things in her heart, she must have wondered where it all might lead. And perhaps she even wondered if she could bear the burden, and persevere to the end.

Yet her faith never wavered, and she did persevere. And now the crown is placed upon her head, a symbol of the crown of sainthood that awaits each one of us, if only we follow her example, by following her Son.