I was pondering the Joyful Mysteries a few weeks ago using the Magnificat, and these are the thoughts I had. Instead of “fruit of the mystery,” I thought of a concept. I hadn’t thought about a concept for each one when I sat down to pray, it’s just how it worked out.
The First Joyful Mystery – The Annunciation
Concept – Divine favor
In the Magnificat, Mary says that God has looked with favor on his humble servant. Mary herself was conceived without sin in order to undo what was brought into the world by Eve. I don’t think that Eve was a bad person, she made a choice based on what she was being told at the time that turned out to be a bad choice. Sin did, however, enter into the world based on Eve’s choice. I doubt I’d have made a different choice than Eve did. The point here is that both her and Mary were sinless and they both made different choices with that gift. So Mary had the favor of God resting on her from the start. Mary was already a devout and faithful Jew when Gabriel appeared to her. Mary consented the arrangement that God had asked of her. Mary changed the world by living the calling God had for her, despite the fact that she would suffer greatly for it. For Mary, divine favor came with divine responsibility, and it cost her everything, as God’s favor normally does.
The Second Joyful Mystery – The Visitation
Concept – families and origins
Mary in the Magnificat also says that God has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. God didn’t just have a task for Mary, but also for her faithful cousin Elizabeth despite the fact that Elizabeth had been through menopause. I know it’s not trendy to think about menopause, but it’s the experience of most women, and many gender non-conforming people once they reach a certain age. It happens to the body naturally and it’s a reality that is lived through by roughly half of the population. Since Elizabeth had passed that point, there was no way for her to become pregnant naturally. God chose to bless Elizabeth with a child anyway, one that would become important to the ministry of Jesus. Of course, in those days, women without children were seen as lesser. Elizabeth had most likely already sadly accepted the fact that she could not have children. But along with the miracle of the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah conceived a child in their old age and this was an exciting moment.
The Third Joyful Mystery – The Nativity
Concept – calling
In the nativity, we think of the sweet baby Jesus, we sing “away in a manger” and “joy to the world,” celebrating the reasons that Jesus came, and excited about God being with us. But let’s turn now to Mary’s calling. When she visited her cousin Elizabeth, Mary had said “from this day all generations will call me blessed,” because without her consent, this miracle of the Christ child, the Incarnation, wouldn’t have happened. Mary was called to a special, holy task, but in that calling, she would suffer much. She suffered the ridicule of society as an unwed single mother. She was “lucky” that her husband was a man who listened to God and married her anyway. Mary’s calling cost her greatly. Her pregnancy and childbirth were exhausting enough, and her child was seen as illegitimate. Not only that, but Mary would never have another child. She was called to bear this particular child, the Son of God, and obeying her calling gave us Jesus, and in so doing, changed history.
The Fourth Joyful Mystery – The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
Concept – God keeps God’s promises
Mary continues her canticle, and claims that God has remembered his promise of mercy, and God had, by sending Jesus. But there were also other promises that God had made. God had promised a faithful man named Simeon that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, they were doing so in order to fulfill the law, because they were devout and holy people. Simeon was able to hold Jesus in his arms, and could die in peace knowing that God had fulfilled God’s promise to Simeon. The fact that Jesus was here at all meant that God had also kept the promise that was made to Israel to send a Messiah. Sometimes it takes a long time, but God will always do what God has promised to do.
The Fifth Joyful Mystery – The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
Concept – developing personal spirituality in finding our way to Jesus
My spirit rejoices in God my savior, Mary says to her cousin. Bringing Jesus into the world shook up Mary’s spirituality, even though she was a devout Jew, she was the first believer in Jesus. Mary and Joseph had taken a trip to the temple when Jesus was twelve years old. Twelve year olds are annoying a good deal of the time, I know because I have one. On their way back, they realized that Jesus was not with them, and Mary started freaking out. I know she did because I’m a mother whose child got lost one day, and those moments before he was found were gut wrenching moments. So the holy family turns around to head back to Jerusalem in search of their son. They found him in the temple where he was sitting with the religious leaders learning for them. He was pursuing spirituality and wanted to learn so badly he probably hadn’t noticed his parents had left. Mary and Joseph felt such relief in finding Jesus. I know that as my spirituality has brought me to Jesus, it’s been such a relief. Finding Jesus is important for us all.