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The Sorrowful Mysteries

Friday, July 11, 2014

Death, particularly a gruesome death, and the trials that lead up to it are not things that one would normally wish to contemplate; and yet, each Tuesday and Friday, millions of Catholics around the world will be thumbing their rosary beads doing exactly this. To what end?

Well, first, and more generally, the Rosary draws us into familiarity; familiarity with Christ and familiarity with Mary. It is that familiarity that builds within us the bonds of communion – we know Christ and we know the love of the Father He reveals to us, and there is great value in this.

But, second, and more particularly, contemplation of the Sorrowful Mysteries helps us better to follow Christ in one of His more challenging teachings:

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?’” (Matthew 16:24-26).

Meditating upon the Sorrowful Mysteries prepares us for the struggles that we all must surely have in living as authentic Christians. Our cross, may not be the Cross of Calvary, but we cannot expect to be able to accept and bear whatever struggles we are presented with if we exclude all thought of suffering from our prayer lives. Nor can we make sense of our suffering unless we contemplate the redemptive suffering of Christ, the context for all human suffering . . . suffering that ends not with death, but with the Resurrection.

Each of us can draw upon our personal experience of suffering and use it to unite ourselves to Christ. Most of us will have had our Gethsemane moment, that experience of a sense of having been betrayed and the consequent hurt; the agony of something unpalatable that must be done despite our own desires and fears. Similarly we can also relate our physical sufferings to those of Christ along the way to Calvary.

13 The Crowning with Thorns
Crowning with Thorns: Downside Abbey

But it is not just the sufferings of Christ that we enter into when we contemplate these mysteries. We can unite ourselves to Mary as we draw upon that anguish of being impotent in the face of a loved one’s suffering - that profoundly human hurt that we experience in the face of the suffering of another that we can do nothing about; the beautiful desire of a mother to bear the sufferings of her child in his or her place. And finally, as we contemplate the crucifixion, along with the feeling of horror at the brutality of man to his fellow man; we might also be moved to gratitude, for Christ has taken the burden of our sin upon Himself and redeemed us.


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