The Luminous Mysteries – Introduction

Carnazzo, Rev. Hezekias

Recommended Reading: John Paul II. Rosarium Virginis Mariae. 16 October 2002.

This text can be accessed on the web by searching for Rosarium Virginis Mariae at

For close to a full millennium, the rosary has been for the Roman Catholic faithful a source of meditation on the mysteries of Christ through the eyes of Mary.  “Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.”[1]  This abundant grace has drawn the faithful follower ever more deeply into the life of Christ, calling him to “put out into the deep” (duc in altum, Lk. 5:4), penetrating every aspect of the mystery of the Savior.  It is in the life Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3), that “man’s path is ‘recapitulated,’[2] revealed and redeemed.”[3]  Thus, through the Rosary the Christian is able to enter into the deepest aspects of his own redemption, calling to mind the whole of salvation history as it is lived out in the mysteries of the life of Christ.[4]

            Pope John Paul II explains that “contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in unison with Mary is a means of learning from her to ‘read’ Christ, to discover His secrets and to understand His message.”[5]  Through ‘reading’ ever more deeply the events in the life of Christ through the eyes of the Immaculate Lady, the Rosary becomes a “true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory.”[6]

In light of the Church’s call in the third millennium to “duc in altum,” His Holiness Pope John Paul II has given to the faithful his vision into the depths of the Savior’s life.  This “new gaze” upon Christ is contained in the Mysteria Lucis, which the Pope has unveiled to his children’s eyes in his apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.  These mysteries: the Baptism of Christ, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, are the response to the call of Christ to enter each day more fully into the mystery of His life.  Thus the Holy Father, like Peter, who was called with the words “Tend my sheep” (Jn. 21:16), instructs the children of God how they may themselves “duc in altum.”  By providing his insights on how the faithful may meditate more fully on the life of the Savior, the Holy Father leads his sheep to the “living water” that they may “drink and never thirst” (Jn. 4:10, 14).

Pope John Paul II explains, “against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul.”[7]  By “making our own the words of the Angel Gabriel and Saint Elizabeth contained in the Ave Maria, we find ourselves constantly drawn to seek afresh in Mary, in her arms and in her heart, the ‘blessed fruit of her womb.[8]’”  By bringing the life of Christ before the eyes of the faithful in the hands of the Blessed Lady we are instructed as to the proper way to approach the Son of God who walked among us.  By repeating the words of the Ave Maria the Christian who meditates upon the life of Christ stands within the story of the life of the Incarnate Word, a story revealed to man in the words of the Sacred Scriptures.  As Pope Paul VI taught in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, the Rosary is primarily a “Gospel Prayer,” wherein the faithful explore the mysteries of the life of the “Son of the Virgin.”[9]  Confirming his predecessor, Pope John Paul II exhorts his children to “rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture.”[10]  This is the “valid method”[11] by which the successor of Peter guides the faithful “into the deep” of Christ’s life.  Thus the Holy Father calls for those who seek Christ in the Rosary to “supply a Biblical foundation” in order to reach a greater depth of meditation.[12]  This “Biblical foundation” is supplied primarily by “the proclamation of a related Biblical passage.”[13]

“The proclamation,” however, is only the beginning; it must lead the faithful into an ever-deeper meditation on the passage proclaimed.[14]  This meditation must ultimately lead to the Old Testament, for it was in the Old Testament that God prepared His people for the revelation of His Son.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the New Testament has to be read in light of the Old.  Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament (cf. 1 Cor. 5:6-8; 10:1-11).  As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”[15]  Therefore, by turning to the Old Testament man is provided with a “road map” by which he can see the ultimate plan of God revealed in Christ.  This exegetical principle, namely, that of turning to the Old Testament in order to properly interpret the New, is itself founded upon an even more fundamental principle of Biblical exegesis, the interpretive principle known as the Edenic Paradigm.[16]

Cardinal Jean Danielou teaches: “There can be no serious theology of the Incarnation or the Redemption without referring to chapter three of Genesis.  To leave it in darkness, to be content with only a small part of the subject, is to risk jarring one’s faith in the redemption.  Where original sin is minimized, the redemption takes the same path.  And where redemption in minimized, faith is gone.”[17]    Saint Athanasius states, “The first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been accomplished by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.  Thus, there is no inconsistency between creation and salvation: for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, fashioning the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it at the first.”[18]  By making use of the “Edenic Paradigm,” the exegetical principle which designates the events of the Garden of Eden as the framework for interpreting salvation history, we will have the proper tools to interpret the life of Christ and especially the Luminous Mysteries.  This principle of Biblical exegesis, which is commonly called typology, “the science of the similitudes between the two Testaments,” is a principle founded in Scripture itself. [19]  In the case of the Old Testament, “At the time of the Captivity, the prophets announced to the people of Israel that in the future God would perform for their benefit deeds analogous to, and even greater than those He performed in the past. . . . there would be a new Paradise into which God would introduce the people He had redeemed.”[20]  “The New Testament, therefore, did not invent typology, but simply showed that it was fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth . . . He is the New Adam with whom the time of the Paradise of the future has begun.”[21]

Therefore, this study of the Mysteria Lucis will be based upon the vision of Christ as the New Adam, and the Mysteries of the life of Christ as the recapitulation of “man’s path” corrupted by the Fall of our first parents.[22]  We will see the Luminous Mysteries of the life of Christ primarily as the recapturing of the ancient Paradise where man and God dwelt in a harmony of friendship.  Following the guidance of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II and the Holy Patriarch Athanasius, in hopes of “rediscover[ing] the Rosary in the light of Scripture”[23] “we will begin with the creation of the world,” and, having properly begun our journey, we will come to understand that “the renewal of creation has been accomplished by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.”[24]


  1. Mediation on the mysteries of the Rosary draw the faithful into an ever-deeper union with the life of Christ.   This union with the life of the Savior is a union with and a living out of the person’s own redemption.
  2. Through mediation upon the life of Christ by way of the Rosary, the Christian peers through the eyes of Mary and gains access to the secrets which she holds in her heart.  These mysteries, which lie hidden within the heart of the Mother of God, allow access to the deepest aspects of the life of her Son.
  3. In light of the Church’s encouragement for the faithful to dive ever more deeply into the life of Christ, Pope John Paul II has unveiled the Luminous Mysteries to the faithful by way of the repetition of the Ave Maria.
  4. In repeating the Ave Maria while meditating upon the mysteries of the Rosary, Christians are called into the story of the Gospel, making their own the words of the Angel Gabriel and Saint Elizabeth and entering into to the mystery revealed in the Sacred Text.
  5. Entering into the mystery of Christ through the Rosary meditation requires more than mere recalling of the Gospel text.  In order to access the depths of the message revealed in the Gospel one must be familiar with the narrative landscape within which the Gospel was originally preached.  Thus, in order to grasp the mysteries of Christ we must turn to the Old Testament background as a foundation.
  6. The Old Testament background itself is founded upon the story of the creation and fall of man revealed in Genesis 1-3.  Therefore, in order to grasp Gospel narratives such as the Baptism of Christ we must understand certain themes set out in Genesis as a foundation.
  7. With a foundation in the story of the Garden of Eden we will be well equipped to understand the over-all story of the Old Testament, and thus be prepared to gain insight into the Mysteries of Light.

[1]John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (16 October 2002), Vatican Translation: On the Most Holy Rosary (Boston: St. Paul Books & Media, 2002), section 1.  All further references will be sited by section number.

[2]The theme of recapitulation (Gk. anakefalaiwsij) in Christ, though almost lost in modern scholarship, was common place in the early Church Fathers.  Luigi Gambero explains that, “According to Saint Paul, the Redeemer brought together or ‘recapitulated’ in himself all the things and events that had happened since the first creation, reconciling everything to God.  In this view, the salvation of man appears as a second creation, which is essentially a kind of repetition of the first creation” [Luigi Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church; trans. Thomas Buffer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 52].  This theme is found clearly in Saint Irenaeus of Lyons who writes, “When [the Son of God] took flesh and became man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of men, . . . so that in Christ Jesus we might recover what we had lost in Adam, namely, the image and likeness of God” [Irenaeus of Lyons, Adv. Haer. 3, 18; PG 7, 932; quoted in Gambero, Mary and the Fathers of the Church, 53].

[3]John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 25.

[4]“Listening to the Master in the mysteries of his public ministry, they find the light which leads them to enter the Kingdom of God.”  Ibid.

[5]Ibid., 14.

[6]Ibid., 19.

[7]Ibid., 2.

[8]Ibid., 24.

[9] Paul VI, Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), L’Osservatore Romano translation: no vernacular title given (Hales Corners, Wisconsin: Priests of the Sacred Heart, 1974), section 44.

[10]John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 43.

[11] Ibid., 27.

[12]Ibid., 30.

[13] Ibid.

[14]Although this “deeper” meditation is required regarding every mystery of the life of Christ, it is most necessary regarding the Luminous Mysteries since many of the faithful are not habituated to regular meditation on these events.

[15]Catechism of the Catholic Church (Boston:  Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994), 129.

[16]David Chilton, Paradise Restored (Tyler, Texas: Reconstruction Press, 1985).  The theme of the “Edenic Paradigm” is used by Chilton throughout his work Paradise Restored.

[17]Jean Daniélou, In the Beginning . . . : Genesis I-III (Baltimore, Md.: Helicon Press, 1965), 69.

[18]St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, I.I (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2002), 26

[19]Jean Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956), 4.

[20]Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy, 4-5.  C.f. Hosea 2:14, Ez. 36:35, Is. 51:3.

[21]Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy, 5.  C.f. 1 Cor. 15:45, Rom. 5:14.

[22]John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 25.

[23]Ibid., 43.

[24]St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 1:4.

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