Mysteries of Light
Recently I have been reading a book about the history of the rosary as a spiritual weapon entitled Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. In it, Calloway discusses the use of the rosary to fight heresy and Satan’s lies in our current time.
Father Calloway talks about how St. Dominic was given the 15 mysteries of the rosary to fight the Albigensian heresy, which was prevalent at the time. He then preached on the mysteries to dispel the heresy. If we look at our current era when Pope St. John Paul II gave us the Mysteries of Light, also known as the Luminous Mysteries, in 2002, we can see he was using the mysteries to address the prevalent heresies of our time. He wrote in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae:
Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way "mysteries of light.” Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the ”light of the world" (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom. In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments – "luminous" mysteries – during this phase of Christ’s life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery.
I would like to examine each mystery so you can see how it is a powerful tool for the world in which we live.
First the Baptism of Our Lord. In this first mystery, we see Christ instituting the first Sacrament by allowing John the Baptist to baptize Him in the Jordan river. The heavens opened up and a dove descended, and God the Father spoke saying “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus did not need to be cleansed of original sin since he was born without sin, but He did so to show us what we needed to in order to wash away the stain of the original sin of Adam and Eve. In our world today, we see that sin is frequently disregarded and original sin is all but forgotten. Baptisms in the Catholic Church have been declining at a significant rate since the early 1970s from over 1 million to just over 600,000 in 2018. Baptism and the truth about its saving power has been under attack for a long time, but by praying this mystery, we will be strengthened to preach the necessity of Baptism.
The Wedding Feast at Cana. Here Jesus performed His first public miracle: changing water into wine. By doing so, He acknowledged the importance and sanctity of sacramental marriage. If we look at marriage and how it has been distorted for the past 60 or so years and the toll the destruction of marriage has had on the family, we will see the importance of this Mystery of Light. Due to many factors, including the prevalent approval of contraception and the separation of the marital act from procreation, sacramental marriage is no longer valued in our society. This is reflected in the fact that marriages have decreased in the Catholic Church by almost 75%. We see this impact this has on faith and family life in the decrease in church attendance as well as the increase in divorce, single parent households and a whole slew of issues in society. I have heard it said where marriage goes, the family goes, where the family goes society goes. Our society is in desperate need of the truth about marriage, as evidence by the pervasiveness of pornography, child abuse, poverty, and the list goes on and on. We need this Mystery of Light more today than ever to fight the world’s belief that marriage can be defined however we like it, is transitory, and is a means to comfort and pleasure, rather than for procreation and the unity of two persons, male and female, intended by God from the beginning.
The Transfiguration The third mystery reflects on the three Apostles-- Peter, James and John seeing the divinity of Jesus to strengthen them for what is about to occur during the passion of our Lord. Today we have people inside and outside of the Church questioning both the divinity of Jesus and, as a result, the constant teaching of the Church on faith and morals. It is popular today in our culture for people to claim that they like what Jesus taught and he was a “good guy” or a “compelling teacher” but reject His divinity. If Jesus was not divine, we cannot trust any of the Christian tradition or the Church’s teachings. We need to affirm Christ’s divinity against these attacks, and transfiguration can equip us to do just that.
The next Mystery is the Proclamation of the Kingdom. We can read in the news on a daily basis that on all sides. We witnessed administrations trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraception and abortion inducing drugs, we have seen cake bakers sued for not wanting to support homosexual marriages by making a wedding cake, we have seen churches burned, police harass and arrest prolife people proclaiming the Gospel of life at abortion clinics. This year, we have seen attacks on the proclamation of the Kingdom in aggressive restrictions on churches during state, county and city-mandated lockdowns. In too many cases, restrictions on churches were far stricter than restrictions on other businesses and organizations. The disparity is indicative of the hostility in our culture towards the Church proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
The fifth mystery is the source and summit of our faith, the Institution of the Eucharist. According to Pew Research, “nearly seven-in-ten Catholics (69%) say they personally believe that during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine used in Communion ‘are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.’ Just one-third of U.S. Catholics (31%) say they believe that ‘during Catholic Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.’” As a kid in Catholic school in the confusing 70’s and 80’s, I saw how poor catechesis and a turning away from traditional Catholic practices such as Benediction, Adoration, and reception of Communion at an altar rail, has led to this widespread error, even amongst those who attend Mass regularly. Understanding and prayerfully reflecting on the Institution of the Eucharist can strengthen us to work for an increase in reverence toward the Eucharist in our churches and throughout our world.
The Luminous mysteries, therefore, address the areas of heretical thought and practice within our culture today. Praying and reflecting on these mysteries, along with the original 15, can be our best weapon and protection against these modern heresies. The Rosary can strengthen us to speak up and correct with charity those we encounter who subscribe to these errors. In this trying time, I would submit we follow the message of Our Lady and the example of our founder Tom: Pray, Fast, and offer Sacrifices daily. The best weapon we have against evil is the Rosary. I personally started praying all 20 decades of the Rosary and attending daily Mass back in December and since added fasting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the conversion of sinners (starting with myself) and peace in our world. Will you join me?
- Chris Reynolds, President of Gospa Missions