Reflections on the Five Sorrowful Mysteries

I’ve been re-reading A Western Way of Meditation: The Rosary Revisited. In it, the author helps westerners discover meditation through means of the Rosary. Meditation is somewhat foreign to us here in the US and can carry a negative connotation. Since I’ve begun trying to meditate the Rosary though, instead of merely repeating words, I’ve seen my love for this devotion grow. It’s taken on a greater importance in my daily life. That’s because meditation while I’m “telling my beads” brings me closer to my God and His Mother. I meet them in the words, in the events, in the movement of the beads through my fingers.

One night, while praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, I thought of how God’s Will sometimes brings us pain and sorrow. How “no servant is greater than his master” (Jn. 15.20).  And we pray that His Will be done before each of the mysteries. “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” God’s Will  is then played out for us in the scene of the mystery.

The First Sorrowful Mystery is the Agony in the Garden. Here Jesus knows He is to suffer and die. He is in torment thinking of it, and He is alone. He asks His friends to pray with Him, to keep Him company during this agonizing time, but they fail Him. Sometimes it is God’s Will that we suffer alone, that our friends let us down, that He is the only rock to which we can cling.
first sorrowful

The Second Sorrowful Mystery is the Scourging at the Pillar. Jesus is tortured by the Roman guards. His flesh is stripped as He receives the lashes. His body is bloody and brutalized. This, too, is in God’s Will. Sometimes God Wills that we suffer, for it is in suffering that we learn love. And through pain we aid in the redemption of ourselves and of the world. As St. Paul states in his letter to the Colossians: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (1.24).

The Third Sorrowful Mystery is the Crowning with Thorns. The guards hit Jesus. They spit at him, weave a crown of thorns, throw a dirty purple cloth around his shoulders and mockingly hail him as King. And they did this to the only one in the universe who deserves to be called king. Sometimes God Wills our humiliation, that others mock and abuse us. Not that we are supposed to be doormats for others to walk all over, but there are times when we should not defend ourselves against verbal attack, when we should imitate Our Lord, when “he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and was as a sheep dumb before her shearers, and he opened not his mouth” (Is. 53.7).

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery is the Carrying of the Cross. After His torture, when He is near death, He is forced to carry a heavy wooden cross through the streets of Jerusalem to the hill called Golgotha, the place of execution. In our sufferings, we are sometimes asked by God to carry more, to carry a burden we think is impossible. I’ve noticed that when I am incredibly tired, sick, whatever, that is the time when I’m often asked to go the extra mile. Not to rest, to comfort myself, to have others take care of me, but to take care of others, to give of myself more. God knows what we can carry, and sometimes He Wills us to carry just a little bit more.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery is the Crucifixion. Once at the place of execution, Jesus is nailed to the wood of the cross and left to die. He dies amid jeers, naked, abandoned by all who once followed Him (except for St. John and some women). He dies a horrible death; none of the sufferings did He deserve. Takashi Nagai, in speaking of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, called those who suffered and died, hansai, burnt offerings. Offerings to God to stop the horrible war (A Song for Nagasaki 117). Jesus was hansai for us. And who knows but that God Wills that we be hansai for someone else. Even if we aren’t called to die a tortuous physical death, God does Will that we die to ourselves, a painful death that happens again and again, day after day.

My Jesus, I unite my sorrowful heart with yours. May you deepen my love for you and for my neighbor.

My Jesus, I trust in Thee!


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