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The Mysteries of the Rosary Beads

Author: Lena Santos

For Roman Catholic Christians, the Rosary is a big part of their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a form of prayer that consists of a series of Our Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory Be to the Father. The word Rosary came from the Latin word rosarium, which means rose garden. The term pertains to the repeated prayer as well as to the prayer beads used in the devotion.

The origin of the Rosary has several views, but there is one that has gained more popularity than the rest. Roman Catholic tradition tells that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave the Rosary to St. Dominic in the year 1214 during an apparition in the church of Prouille. Eventually this apparition of the Blessed Mothered was called Our Lady of the Rosary.

The conventional Rosary beads are composed of a crucifix and a total of 59 beads corresponding to the different prayers. The crucifix represents the Apostle’s Creed, which is the first prayer in the series right after the Sign of the Cross. This is followed by one Our Lord’s Prayer, three Hail Mary and one Glory Be to the Father before the main sets of Hail Mary separated into five sets of ten beads each.

Although the Rosary is a sequence of repeated prayers, there are different Mysteries of the Rosary on which each decade of the bead is meditated. These Mysteries represent special events in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ together with His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Traditionally there are 15 Mysteries of the Rosary based on the Roman Catholic customs set by Pope St. Pius V in the 16th century. The mysteries are divided into three groups of five, namely the Joyful mysteries, Sorrowful mysteries and Glorious mysteries, each meditated on specific days of the week. In the year 2002, Pope John Paul II added five more mysteries to the earlier 15 making the total number of Mysteries of the Rosary to 20. The additional five mysteries are collectively called the Luminous mysteries or the Mysteries of Light.

The Joyful mysteries are meditated on every Monday and Saturday. They pertain to the early years in the life of Jesus starting from the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary of her conception of Jesus. The second Joyful mystery is the Visitation in which the Virgin Mary paid her cousin Elizabeth a visit upon learning of her pregnancy. Elizabeth at the time of the Visitation was also pregnant with St. John the Baptist. The third Joyful mystery is the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. This is the story of the first Christmas and a meditation on the journey of Jesus’ parents to a safer place in order to save Him from King Herod. The fourth Joyful mystery is the presentation of the Child Jesus and the final mystery in this set is His Lost and Finding at the temple.

The Sorrowful mysteries meditate on Jesus’ passion and death. Prayed every Tuesday and Friday, this group of Mysteries of the Rosary begins with the Agony in the Garden, which meditates on the night Jesus was praying hard in the Garden of Gethsemane. The second Sorrowful mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar. It is followed by the Carrying of the Cross, the third Sorrowful mystery that remembers the start of Jesus’ journey towards Mt. Calvary where He will be crucified. The fourth Sorrowful mystery is the Crowning with Thorns while the fifth and final mystery is the Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.

After meditating on a series of sad yet very important events in the life of Jesus, the faithful shifts to meditating on triumphant events in the life of Our Lord on Wednesdays and Thursdays with the Glorious mysteries. This set starts with the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is followed by the Ascension, which meditates on the event that Jesus went up to heaven. The third Glorious mystery is the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. This mystery pertains to the coming down of tongues of fire from heaven and their descent on the head of Jesus’ apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary where the former were able to speak in different languages. The fourth Glorious mystery is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven and finally, The Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth.

The Mysteries of Light are meditated on every Thursday and commemorates other important events during Jesus’ public ministry. The first mystery in this set is His Baptism in the River Jordan. This is followed by Jesus Manifestation at the Wedding at Cana where He turned water into wine. The third Luminous mystery is Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God with His Call to Conversion. The Fourth Mystery of Light is Jesus’ Transfiguration where He was illuminated on top of a mountain and talked to Moses and Elijah. The final Mystery of Light is Jesus’ Institution of the Eucharist as the sacramental Expression of the Paschal Mystery. This mystery pertains to the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his apostles before His death and resurrection.

The Rosary may be prayed alone, silently or aloud, but it is more commonly said as a group with one leader as the others respond. It may also be meditated with or without the aid of Rosary beads. Our Lord’s Prayer begins each mystery of the Rosary while Glory Be to the Father ends it, followed by the Fatima Prayer. After the meditation on the five mysteries for the day, the Hail Holly Queen is also said and finally, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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