Prayed on Saturdays, Mondays, and every day during the Octave of Christmas
The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
Saint: St. Therese of Lisieux–Known for her “Little Way” of doing small things with great love, St. Therese was a great model of humility and being like a little child before God. We can look to St. Therese and ask her to help us grow in humility.
As She sat quietly working and meditating, the Virgin Mary was suddenly visited by the angel Gabriel. He greets Her with an odd greeting, calling Her “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). Her response to this is very curious and perhaps the most poignant part of the account. She was “greatly troubled.” The degree of humility needed to not even be grateful or prideful when given such a compliment, let alone be troubled at hearing it, is massive. She understood that She was nothing without God and She didn’t want to be singled out or given any praise. Instead, She wished for God to be given the praise. Even at the end of Gabriel’s announcement, She was calm and directed Her response to the Lord: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” This is the kind of humility we all need in order to fulfill the missions that God has planned for us. He deserves all of the glory, not us.
- Do I look to be praised or acknowledged for the things I do for God or others?
- Do I feel happy or fulfilled when I am praised for things I do? How can I use Mary’s life as an example of how to act in humility?
The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation
Virtue: Love of Neighbor (Charity)
Saint: St. Martin of Tours–St. Martin is known for seeing a freezing beggar in the streets, tearing his cloak in half, and giving one of the halves to the beggar. Later, St. Martin saw the man with his cloak in a dream, not as the beggar but as Christ Jesus. We can look to St. Martin as our example and ask him to help us grow in the virtue of charity.
Along with telling Her about the coming of Christ, the angel Gabriel also told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was expecting a child, even in her old age. After hearing this, Mary arose and went “with haste” to be with her (Luke 1:39). She had just been told that She would bear a Child Who would save His people. She was betrothed to a man but did not know him, so Her being pregnant was sure to raise questions. She had all of this suddenly dropped on Her, and yet She immediately went to help Her kinswoman after hearing that she too was pregnant. This is the type of charity that we all must have. Even with our own problems, we must be always ready to assist our neighbors when they are in need. And the way to do this is to be always in prayer and meditation, as Mary was. We must also always be ready to direct any thanks or praise that comes our way back to God, as Mary did when She recited her famous Magnificat after Elizabeth exclaimed, “Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:46-55). In order to have perfect charity, our eyes must be fixed on God first so that we can adequately pass on His charity and love to others.
- Do I often become so wrapped up in myself and my own problems that I tune out others when they are in need?
- Do I easily accept the credit for the good deeds that I do instead of acknowledging that God is the source of all good things?
The Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity
Virtue: Poverty of spirit
Saint: St. Francis of Assisi–St. Francis, although he is known for his physical poverty in order to serve the Lord, can be a tremendous example of being poor in spirit as well. Raised as nobility, St. Francis was a knight until his heart and mind were open to Jesus Christ and he discovered the treasure of renouncing material privileges and relying solely on the Lord. Although it is not necessary to become physically poor in order to be poor in spirit as St. Francis did, we can look at his life and follow his example of consistently relying on the Lord and not focusing our hopes and dreams on the material world.
Heaven and earth rejoices, for our Savior is born. After traveling to Bethlehem for the census, Mary reaches her due date and She and Joseph look for a place to deliver Him, but there is no room except in a stable. A stable. The King of Heaven and Earth and our Redeemer chooses to be born in a building that usually houses animals. And the Child is placed in a feeding trough. He is just a few hours old and our Savior is already teaching us a valuable lesson. This outward showing of poverty is pointing to a much deeper inward poverty that we all must have. Mary and Joseph were having to rely on God for everything and there was no room for their own egos or sense of self-reliance. They had no idea how this birth would go. How would they keep the Baby comfortable? Would it be warm enough in the stable? What if a storm came? But they didn’t flinch; they trusted God and knew He would work everything out. And that is how we must feel and carry ourselves. When we are in what seems to be an impossible situation, we must abandon ourselves entirely to God and not rely on ourselves. This also entails that we must have a hunger for spiritual things and not be materialistic, as our attitudes and desires shape how we conduct ourselves.
- How often and how much do I rely on and trust God when things seem to be falling apart and impossible to fix?
- What is my attitude toward material things as opposed to the spiritual things and desires that will bring me closer to God?
The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation
Saint: St. Joseph–St. Joseph is a wonderful example of obedience to the will of God. He always made quick haste to do what God wanted, some examples being when he was unsure about marrying Mary when he found out She was pregnant and then taking Mary and the Christ Child to Egypt when the Child’s life was in danger. In both cases, he heeded the word of God which came to him from an angel in a dream: he took Mary as his wife and a few years later, he got up from his bed immediately to begin the journey to Egypt.
Eight days after His birth, Our Lord is brought to the temple to be presented and offered to the service of God, in accordance with Jewish custom. Now of course there was no need to do this, as He was God the Son and His life would naturally be spent in service to His Father, ending with the sacrifice of His life to save His people. But Jesus wished to be subject to the law in order to later deliver His people from that same law. It is His obedience as well as the obedience of Mary that we ought to imitate. While in the temple, Mary was approached by the prophet Simeon, who proceeded to prophesy about what both Jesus and Mary would endure in the future. “And you yourself a sword shall pierce,” he tells Mary (Luke 2:35) after explaining the Child’s destiny. Mary must have certainly understood the great pain and suffering that would go along with this mission. But She didn’t shy away from it, because She knew that it was the will of God for Her life and the Child’s and She trusted Him. Her great love for God resulted in Her desire to obey. And that is the same love and desire for Him that we must have. We must look to the Holy Family for our model of obedience and strive to acquire this great virtue, no matter what the cost may be.
- Am I willing to obey God and follow His will for my life, no matter what the obstacles or cost may be?
- If I find myself hesitating to do this, why?
The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
Saint: St. Rose of Lima–St. Rose was often mocked for her piety and was even forbidden to enter a convent by her parents. But she continued to serve God at home in her prayer and work, and became a Third Order Dominican. She did not let the attentions or opinions of others get between her and her service to God, and she even rubbed her face with pepper to ruin her beauty. St. Rose can be a big help to us when we struggle to remain faithful to God in today’s society and especially when we are calumniated for this faithfulness.
When talking about this mystery, a lot of people point to the fact that Jesus was eager to begin His public ministry and that He was shown by His parents that He wasn’t ready yet. But when you look at the account in Scripture and think about it, it seems that the real issue was that Mary wasn’t ready. And She is a big part of our salvation history, so She had to be ready. In order to intercede for us and be our Queen and Mother, She had to be entirely at God’s disposal. Now, Mary was without sin and was in tune with the will of God. However, this doesn’t mean that She was always understanding and completely on board. For instance, Her anxiety and worry about Jesus got the best of Her in this situation. And on a practical level, that’s a good thing. I mean, we would question anyone’s parental skills if they DIDN’T worry about their child when he or she went missing for three days. But, in order to be completely God’s servant, Mary would need to learn to rid Herself of even selfless anxiety and worry and rely totally on God for everything. She had to be at peace with what was going on and with how God was using Her Son. “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Mary didn’t understand these words because She had been so anxious about Her missing Son. She didn’t think about the people Her Son was impacting in the temple, beginning His work on His “Father’s business.” But in the years between this event and the start of Jesus’s public ministry, Mary would complete Her training through prayer and discernment and come to understand fully Her role and that of Her Son’s. In fact, the change is visible in the account of the second Luminous mystery, the Wedding at Cana. Her piety would grow in those years, and ours must continue to grow as well. And we can ask Mary to help us overcome the obstacles, because She overcame them.
“Why were you looking for Me?” So often we look for Jesus in the things of this world and get anxious and worried when really all we need to do is to go to a church. Go to adoration. He is there. Go to Mass. He’s there too. And He’s within us, so if it’s not Sunday and we can’t get to a church, find a quiet place to sit and look within ourselves and pray. Through prayer, our piety will continue to grow stronger with each day.
- Am I often anxious and worried about things, even if it’s on behalf of other people?
- How can the account of the Finding in the Temple help me to strengthen the pious feelings that I need in order to be God’s instrument?