Thursday, 2 August 2012

Joyful Intentions

We begin our reflections on the suggested intentions for the Mysteries of the Rosary with the Joyful Mysteries. They show us how we have to begin our spiritual lives, with humility, charity, poverty of spirit, obedience, and piety. This is true whether we are baptised into the faith as infants, or come to Christ later on. Yet even while we must begin here in our conversion to Christlikeness, we can never become complacent in our level of attainment of these particular virtues (or, for that matter, of any virtue). Even though we can never come to God without humility, we must always strive to grow in humility.

The life of faith always begins with God's prevenient grace. In the Rosary, this is exemplified by the introductory prayers--especially the three Hail Marys, which are offered for an increase of Faith, Hope, and Love, the "theological virtues", so called because they are given to us directly by God. They then symbolise God's initial work in our lives, and the mysteries and the intentions associated with them model our response as we strive to patter ourselves on the example of Jesus and His blessed Mother.

Our response begins with humility just as the Gospel begins with the Annunciation, but we must continually strive for humility just as we continually return to the recitation of the Rosary. Growth in the spiritual life is as repetitive and cyclical as the chain of beads on which we pray the Rosary.

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
For Humility

What is the foundational virtue? Faith? Love? I don't think so. While these virtues, and all the others, are necessary to cultivate, I believe humility must be and become the basis of all growth in the spiritual life. It precedes faith and love because unless you are humble, you will never allow yourself to believe in something you cannot know for certain, or rely on someone other than yourself. Without humility, you can never see another person as having equal or greater importance than yourself. You will never be willing to give of yourself for the good of another. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent tempted Adam and Eve away from God by appealing to their pride. If we are to undo the effects of their fall in our own lives, we must begin by overturning that vice into which Adam and Eve first fell. We must strive for its antidote: humility.

In the Angel's annunciation that Mary would bear the Christ into the world, we see humility modelled in both characters: in Gabriel, the angel who addresses a lowly human girl with a royal greeting; and in the Blessed Virgin Mary's trusting acceptance of God's will for her. Let us allow Mary to teach us through this Rosary to have her same humble submission to God's will: "Let it be..."

The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation
For Love of Neighbour

When we begin to learn humility, we are able to recognise other people as people, as others deserving of love, respect, and dignity. We begin to be able to live lives of charity--of a self-giving love for our neighbours. Without charity, all our acts on another's behalf are motivated by ulterior motives--how we'll seem to others, what we can get out of our acts of kindness. Meeting another's need is always accompanied by the ideal, whether thought or voiced, of "What's in it for me?" Charity, on the other hand, is humility in action. It seeks simply to work for the good of the other, because that other is a person who deserves our love and help--simply because they are a person. Clearly, like humility, charity is a virtue very difficult to attain, and so we need to return to the Rosary often, asking for the grace to grow in virtue!

In Mary's visitation to her elderly cousin Elizabeth (herself pregnant with John the Baptist), we see the charity of a young girl thinking less of herself, and more of the needs of her cousin, so much so that she would leave on a long journey and remain with Elizabeth during her likely difficult third trimester, and in so doing, she brings that first light of Christ to Elizabeth.

The Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity
For Poverty of Spirit

Once we begin to live in humble charity, we begin to see our own imperfections and limitations. Se grow in greater awareness of the spiritual life, and recognise our own weakness and need. This is the spiritual poverty that Jesus refers to in the Beatitudes. We begin to recognise our soul's need for redemption, for love, for God. Through this awareness, we can really begin to let Him in to the poor and unworthy abode of our hearts.

The Mystery of Jesus' nativity reveals how God Himself, out of His great love for us, deigned to come to us as a man. And like every other man, He began His life among us as a baby. But as if that were too small a thing, He chose to be born in a stable and laid in a manger, because the family He chose as His own was too poor and unimportant to be able to afford proper lodging. Jesus chose to be poor, small, and helpless to show the depth of His love for us, and to make us realise that the poverty of our own spirits is not enough to keep Him away. Christmas invites us to remember tha God wants us to draw near to Him, to welcome Him, even into the poor stables of our own hearts, so that He can begin to transform them into temples for His Holy Spirit.

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation
For Obedience

As God begins to move in our hearts, the desire to love and to know Him increases. We grow in the desire to know and to do His will. As we grow to love Him in return, that love works itself out in obedience to His will and to His laws. Recognising our need in our spiritual poverty, we recognise as well the answer to that need in living the way God designed and intended us to live. That is why He has given us His Law, to help us realise the beautiful and abundant life for which He has created us! The Laws of God become not burdensome, but delightful, not enslaving, but liberating!

Our Lady herself exemplifies this fact in her own obedience to the Law of Moses, when she presents her infant Son in the Temple. If anyone could claim to be above the Law, it would be Jesus, who is God Himself, and His Mother, whom He created free from all sin. And yet she brings Him to the Temple in perfect obedience to the Law He Himself prescribed. Her example is a sign to all of us of the paradox that freedom to be found in obedience.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery: Finding Jesus in the Temple
For Piety

In Romans 2:6-8, St. Paul tells us that God "will render to every man according to his works. To them indeed, who according to patience in good work, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: But to them that are contentious, and who obey not the truth, but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation." In our striving to be obedient to God's Law, we work for glory, honour, and incorruption. We seek after that goodness, truth, beauty, and freedom that is God, and the abundant life that He offers us. This striving for holiness is called "piety". But so very often, the distractions of the world tempt us away from the pure goodness, truth, beauty, and freedom, to pursue lesser goods, half-truths, imperfect beauty, and false freedom. When the things of this world tempt us away from the pursuit of God, we fall into error and sin, and need to turn once more to Him.

When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem for His first Passover, they left the city without Him, mistakenly thinking He was travelling among others in their caravan. After three days, they realise with horror their mistake, and return with haste to Jerusalem, frantically searching for Him. When they find Him, He is teaching the scribes and elders in the Temple! When His earthly parents question Him about this, He asks with the innocence of a child, "Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"

In this fifth Joyful Mystery, we seek to continue to be about our Father's business--pursuing holiness of life. So we turn to His Mother, who found Him about His Father's business so long ago, to lead us to Him in our journey to redemption. Until we have been baptised, and entered fully into the Covenant Family of God, all our own efforts have only served to show us our own poverty of spirit and our need for greater humility. While we have cooperated with God's prevenient grace until this point, He is waiting to lavish upon us the fullness of grace, giving us His Spirit and adopting us as His children!

And after we have been baptised, we still get distracted and wander away. So we ask our Blessed Mother to lead us back to her Son, especially in the Sacrament of Confession. Through this opportunity of Grace, we again can resolve to piously be about Our Father's business.

As we continue our spiritual journey, we make our way toward baptism and entrance into the Covenant, or, for the baptised, we redouble our efforts to live our baptismal promises, and continue to grow in our faith. This is the theme of the Luminous Mysteries...

No comments: