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The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

This post is by Brody Stewart, Verbum Marketing and Promotions Coordinator

The Sorrowful Mysteries have always seemed the easiest for me to meditate upon. There’s something altogether relatable about Jesus in his moments of weakness, anxiety, and suffering. While we see Jesus being tempted by Satan (Lk. 4:2), or weeping at the death of his friend (Jn. 11:35), we get a real sense of his humanity in the first of the Sorrowful Mysteries: The Agony in the Garden.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matt 26:36-46, NABRE)

The first thing that strikes me about this account of Christ’s agony is that he is “sorrowful even to death.” The first time I read this passage, I was taken aback. “Even to death?” I wondered, “Isn’t that a bit… melodramatic?” But we see in Saint Luke’s account of events that Jesus isn’t just using dramatic language:

He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (Lk 22:44, NABRE)

We’ve all experienced some amount of sadness, anxiety, or depression. Some of us have experienced more than our share. But have you ever been so agonized that you sweat blood?

There’s a reason Jesus is so perturbed: he’s God. He knows precisely what awaits him in a few short hours. He knows precisely how he will suffer at the hands of Roman soldiers. And he knows precisely when and how he will die.

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The Agony in the Garden by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, 1772.

As the God of the universe, Jesus could choose to prevent all of this. But what does he do instead? He prays to his Father that “this cup [might] pass from me.” He asks for a way out. This is exactly what you or I would do in our own sorrowful circumstances. Jesus has lowered himself to the level of broken humanity.

But Jesus continues his prayer: “yet, not as I will, but as you will.” He recognizes his own dependence upon the Father. He sees the necessity of his mission. He resolves to carry it out.

Jesus participates in our suffering, and models the proper response.

After his first hour of prayer, he returns to find his disciples asleep. He’s understandably upset. He’s lived and travelled with these men for the last three years. These are his most loyal servants. These are his closest friends. And they can’t stay awake for one hour.

Jesus withdraws to pray again, and again, finds disciples asleep. This happens not once, not twice, but three times. The men Jesus trusted most—Peter, James, and John—have failed him three times. And, on this most agonizing night, their failure is followed by Judas’ ultimate betrayal.

Imagine the tone in Jesus’ voice when he asks, “Are you still sleeping? Look, my betrayer is at hand.”

With the weight of the world on his shoulders, he is failed and betrayed by his closest friends.

Jesus’ bodily suffering may not have begun yet, but in the Garden of Gethsemane he experienced the fullness of spiritual, mental, and emotional agony.

When I meditate upon this portrait of Jesus, I see a God who intimately understands our sufferings. I see a God who cares to share in our sorrows. I see a God who is truly man.

The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

This post is by Kathryn Heltsley, Product Marketing Copywriter for Verbum.

“. . . and his mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

The fact of the Annunciation is the reality that was in front of Mary throughout all the events of her Son’s life. When we arrive at the Temple in Jerusalem in this Joyful Mystery, Mary and Joseph had lived in the presence of this child, God made flesh, for 12 years. This presence became the consciousness in which they lived.

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The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple by William Holman Hunt, 1862.

In his reflections on the Most Holy Rosary, Monsignor Luigi Giussani writes,

“Consciousness is an eye wide open to reality, which by its very nature never ends…For the Virgin, [reality] was the presence of that child.”

Because of the Annunciation, Mary knew that this child was God. Yet he came to her in human form, the frailty of his human body entrusted to her care. It was by faith she knew he was God, not by the evidence of what she could see. What a mystery it must have been to her the first time he skinned his knee! Think of the preconceptions that we would have in the same situation. The doubts we would feel that “there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to [us] by the Lord!” (Lk 1:45) Every piece of evidence pointing to Jesus’ mortality would attack our faith, would clash against our idea of what it meant to be the Son of God. Like the apostles, we would be scandalized by the reality of what the Messiah must face, by the fact of his suffering and sacrifice.

the-navarre-bible-saint-lukes-gospelMary encountered these things that she did not understand. But she did not allow her lack of understanding to separate her from reality. “Thus,” writes Giussani, “we pray to our Lady to help us take part in the consciousness by which she lived…” Mary offers a perfect example of faith for us to follow: “[her] faith was the basis of her generous fidelity throughout her life—but there was no reason why it should include detailed knowledge of all the sacrifices God would ask of her, nor of how Christ would go about his mission of redemption. That was something she would discover as time went by, contemplating her Son’s life” (Navarre Bible: The Gospel of Luke).

When Mary and Joseph discover Jesus in the Temple, he had been there three days, amazing the teachers with his understanding and insights. Upon their arrival, his words to Mary and Joseph reveal his divine Sonship, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49). And so, despite her anxiety at being separated from her young son—and even her anger at his treatment of her (Lk 2:48)—this is a Joyful Mystery. The joy of being reunited with Jesus, and of seeing him as he truly is for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation

This post was writtten by Brandon Rappuhn, Marketing Copywriter at Faithlife.

Does anyone else experience feelings of melancholy while praying through this mystery?

After three joyful mysteries related to the divine birth of the Messiah, the holy Son of God, the Presentation brings me feelings of joy, but also melancholy. This mystery also uniquely announces the purpose of Christ’s mission in theological and physical terms: to fulfill the old laws, to bring open the kingdom of God to the Gentiles, and finally, to die for the sins of his people.

This mystery comes from the Gospel of St. Luke (Lk 2:22–38). Three major events occur in this mystery, any one of which provides enough to contemplate for the duration of ten Hail Marys.

Jesus Begins Fulfilling the Old Laws

Jesus is presented before the Lord in accordance with the Jewish law. St. Luke is explicit, perhaps partly for the benefit of his non-Jewish readers, in that every male “shall be consecrated to the Lord” and that sacrifice is needed. Not only is it significant that a sacrifice is given, but the matter of the sacrifice carries its own significance, as well. Church Father Venerable Bede (672-735) explains the meaning of this sacrifice:

Now this was the victim of the poor. For the Lord commanded in the law that they who were able should offer a lamb for a son or a daughter as well as a turtle dove or pigeon; but they who were not able to offer a lamb should give two turtle doves or two young pigeons. Therefore the Lord, though he was rich, deigned to become poor, that by his poverty He might make us partakers of His riches.

The Lord, rich in terms of spiritual wealth and holiness, made himself poor in terms of worldly wealth and material possessions, so that, through him, he could share with us the wealth of holiness. A faithful Jew, Mary upheld the letter of Jewish law by presenting him to the priest with their humble offering of sacrifice. Mary and Joseph would continue throughout their life to raise the child Jesus in accordance with God’s laws and traditions. After all, Jesus did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.

Jesus’ Messianic Kingship is Predicted

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Saint Simeon by Deborah Anderson

Simeon was an elderly, devout man who awaited the coming of the Messiah. When Mary brought Jesus to the temple, Simeon was filled with the Holy Spirit. Simeon knew that the Messiah for whom he had waited for was upon him, and Simeon he rushed to greet him Lk 2:25. Simeon then predicts the purpose of Christ’s mission, saying, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” He and Anna, the prophetess, recognize that the “redemption of Jerusalem” was at hand. “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel,” Simeon said. And Jesus sets himself up not only as king of the Jews, but king of the Gentiles as well; for the first time, opening the doors to the kingdom of God for those beyone the nation of Israel.

The Cross is Foreshadowed

Simeon further predicts one final thing, which is the hardest truth of them all. To Mary, he says, “and you, yourself, a sword will pierce” Lk 2:35. Mary herself will not be unaffected by Israel’s reaction to Jesus, but she hears and obeys Jesus by not intervening during his trial and crucifixion Lk 11:27-28.

In the midst of the joyful mysteries of the infancy and childhood of Jesus, we find a mysterious foreshadowing of his crucifixion. At this point in the mysteries, considering the crucifixion while Christ is still a child may feel disturbing and even shameful. But if we are to think of Christ as our king, we must also think of his cross as his throne. Only then do we take Christ as he is: the lowly king Phil 2:5–8, the Messiah of nations Phil 2:10, and the ransom of his people.

For now, while we’re still praying the joyful mysteries, our Savior is an innocent child, with his whole life ahead of him. Yet, as I pray this mystery, I can’t help but think of the worldwide mission ahead of Jesus, with the cross planted firmly at the end of the long road.

Let us pray the rest of these mysteries, remembering where Christ came from, where he is headed, and that he will return again.

The Third Joyful Mystery: The Nativity

Nativity by Deborah Anderson

Nativity by Deborah Anderson

This blog post is dedicated to my mother, Eleanor, whose strong faith has inspired me throughout my life.

Regarding the birth of Christ, there is a much-quoted opening to Meister Eckhart’s Christmas sermon in which he states, “St. Augustine says that this birth is happening continually. But if it does not happen in me, what does it profit me? What matters is that it shall happen in me” (Meister Eckhart, from Whom God Hid Nothing, 45).

What I think Eckhart means is that we need to “give birth to” God’s will in our lives. He also says, “We are all mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

As I look back over my experience as a mother, with the joys and the sacrifices that motherhood entails, “giving birth” seems to be the perfect metaphor for change, and especially the kind of unpredictable transformation that being open to God’s will can bring.

But it takes time and willingness to discern God’s will for our lives. My mother and her best friend from grade school have said the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena together for 55 years, even though they live in different states. To me, the novena represents a meditation on the moment of Christ’s birth “in piercing cold” that can bring us closer to aligning our wills with God’s.

Saint Andrew Christmas Novena

debanderson_motherandchildHail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen. (Say 15 times a day from St. Andrew’s Day, November 30th, until December 24th.)

 

The Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation

This post was written by Greg Hoerter, Manager of Strategic Partnerships for Verbum Catholic Products.

The Joyful Mysteries are my favorite mysteries to pray. After all, we are all seeking joy in our lives and wish to pray that God brings joy to our loved ones and us.  But the mystery that I always had problems with was the Visitation. I used to wonder, “What was so joyous about traveling 80 miles to the hill country on a mule to help out an older, pregnant relative for 3 months?”

Of course, reading the scripture passages surrounding any mystery will help you better understand the entire context of that mystery, and Verbum is a great tool for doing just that. But in the case of the Visitation, I found some very pleasant surprises by going just a little deeper.

Visitation of Mary by Rogier van der Weyden, 1445.

Here’s how to dive more deeply into the meaning of the Visitation in Verbum:

Besides all of the Ark of the Covenant typology you will find between 2 Samuel 6:9-11 and Luke 1:39-56, I recommend you run a Bible Word Study on the word “exclaimed” (Greek: ἀναφωνέω anaphōneō) in Luke 1:42. You will notice it occurs only once in the whole New Testament, which should make you wonder about the special significance of this particular Greek word.

In the Bible Word Study, if you scroll down and look at the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, and you will find that it occurs only five times in the whole Greek Old Testament.  Every occurrence, such as 1 Chronicles 15:28, have to do with offering loud praise and music to the Ark of the Covenant. Here, Gospel writer Luke uses the word “exclaim” to indicate that Elizabeth literally shouts out blessings to Mary as the NEW Ark of the Covenant!

And speaking of blessings, do a quick bible search for these words: blessed NEAR women. Your results will bring you the stories of the only two other women in scripture that were called “Blessed among Women”: Jael and Judith. Both of these women—Jael in Judges 5:24 and Judith in Judith 13:18—crushed the head of the enemy of God’s people.

Luke, then, is featuring Mary as the New Eve, based on the promise of Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Douay-Rheims).

In just one verse, we see the New Ark of the Covenant and the New Eve if we just look beneath the surface. Elizabeth knew this, and she wanted us to know this as we meditate on the Holy Rosary.

 

 

 

Images of the Annunciation

Traditional depictions of the Annunciation including angel wings, halos, lilies, and Mary’s downcast eyes abound on Christmas cards. In fact, it may at times be easy to skip quickly past the Annunciation in our excitement for the coming Christmas celebration.

As Verbum celebrates the Holy Rosary throughout October, we invite you to reflect on the significance of the announcement that changed the world.

Below are just a few paintings of the Annunciation from the last hundred years or so. Some of the traditional symbols have changed or even disappeared in these paintings, but they all reflect a true encounter between the divine and the human.

Each featured artist below has brought to light a different interpretation of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary. See, for example, the serentity of George Hitchcock’s Mary, the shock of Murashko’s Mary—who, interestingly, is herself an artist. In Tanner’s Annunciation, Mary seems to be cringing with anxiety before the light in her room.

The deFeo piece is intriguing because it is most abstract; is it a torso? wings?

Perhaps there are no limits to the ways the Annunciation can be portrayed, because there is no limit to the way we encounter the Holy Spirit.

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Annunciation by A. Murashko, 1909

 

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1896.

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The Annunciation by Jay deFeo, 1959.

 

 

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

This post is by Juan Pablo Saju, Verbum’s Representative to the the Spanish-speaking world. He is based in Argentina.  the-navarre-bible-saint-lukes-gospel

For this post, Juan-Pablo has made reference to  Navarre Bible: The Gospel of Luke, available from Verbum’s digital library!

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Gospel of Saint Luke

In this first joyful mystery, I invite you to contemplate Mary, the mother through whom God chose to incarnate and thus dwell among us. God created and filled Mary with many gifts. She is a pure and humble Mother, and she bears in her womb the one who is the purest and most humble: her Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.

The third Gospel throws special light on the Mother of Christ, a light which gently reveals the greatness and beauty of her soul. The Gospel of Luke is a basic source for doctrine of our Lady and also for devotion to the Mother of our Redeemer. Luke’s recounting of the Annunciation has inspired much Christian art in which Mary figures. With the logical exception of Jesus, no other protagonist in the Gospel story has been described with such love and admiration as Mary.

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Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci, 1475

Nor has any other human creature received such sublime and singular graces as she:

1-      She is “full of grace”(Lk 1:28)

2-      The Lord is with her  (Lk1:28)

3-      She has found favor with God (Lk 1:30)

4-      She conceived by the work of The Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35)

5-      She is the Mother of Jesus (Lk 2:7)

6-      Yet she is a virgin (Lk 1:34)

7-      She is intimately involved in the redemptive mystery of the Cross (Lk 2:35)

8-      She will be blessed by all generations, for the Almighty has done great thing for her (Lk 1:49)

9-      With good reason does the woman in the crowd cry out in praise of Jesus’ Mother (Lk 11:27)

Our Mother has received many graces because God wanted to prepare her to be His Mother. Actually the greatest title of our Mother is to be “the Mother of God.”

Our Lady responds to these gifts in the most faithful and generous way:

1-      Elizabeth calls her blessed because she has believed (Lk 1:45)

2-      The virgin received with humility the archangel’s announcement that she is to become the Mother of God (Lk 1:29)

3-      She asks, in all simplicity, what she has to do to obey God’s will (Lk 1:34)

4-      She surrenders herself completely to God’s plan (Lk 1:38; 2:50)

5-      She hastens to help others (Lk 1,39,56)

6-      She is full of gratitude for the gifts she has received (Lk 1,46-55)

7-      She faithfully observes God’s law (Lk 2,24)

As Paul VI said, Mary “is not only the sublime type of the creature redeemed by Christ’s merits, she is also the type of all mankind as it makes its pilgrim way in faith.”

Welcome to Verbum’s Month of the Rosary from Verbum Director, Deacon Kevin

During the month of October, we celebrate our Mother Mary and reflect on the Rosary.

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Virgin and Child with a Rosary. Barolome Esteban Murillo. 1650

In the 16th century, Pope Pius V grouped the long-standing custom of praying to Mary into three sets of mysteries: the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and the Glorious Mysteries. In 2002, Saint Pope John Paul II supplemented the three sets of mysteries with a fourth: the Luminous Mysteries.

We pray the Rosary to participate in Mary’s life, to grow closer to her experiences, and share in her life with her Son, Jesus Christ. As we pray and meditate on the mysteries, we can better appreciate the life of our Savior. We can put ourselves into the Mystery and live the moment with our Lord.

I vividly remember those evenings in the early 1960’s when my mother and my brothers would kneel around her bed and pray the rosary. My father was an army officer serving a tour in Vietnam—we prayed for his safety and his safe return home. We continued the tradition for a long time after his return home! I have prayed the rosary for favors granted and for favors requested.

I remember many years ago watching a film about the life of Christ. and the Redemptorist priest came on at the end of the film (no, not a video!) and said that we should always remember that Mary can do anything Christ can do… Christ does it through his will, but Mary does it through prayer. That thought has stayed with me throughout my life, giving me hope and inspiriation.

Kevin Bagley headshot.JPG.opt279x419o0,0s279x419This October, let us pray the rosary for ourselves, for our families, our faith communities, and our Church. Let us pray it for peace in the world, the health of the Holy Father, for the unborn, the sick, the marginalized, and for those babies who will not be born. Try to pray it daily, alone or with loved ones, friends or fellow parishioners. We demonstrate our faith in Mary, who will intercede to her Son for us, by praying the Rosary.

This month you will be treated with stories, reflections, and thoughts from the staff at Verbum. They have volunteered their reflection this month that we all may grow closer as Catholics.

I pray that you feel the love our mother Mary has for you, and I bid you peace,

Deacon Kevin

Welcome to the Month of the Rosary at Verbum!

For the month of October, we will be exploring the mysteries of the rosary every day on the Verbum blog.

Starting October 6 with the Joyful Mysteries, we will offer a daily reflection on each decade of the rosary. The Sorrowful, Luminous, and Glorious Mysteries will follow, with each member of the Verbum team offering a meditation on their favorite mystery.

Be sure to check out the Pray with Verbum page, where you can sign up for Verbum blog notifications, join Faithlife and receive a $5 Verbum credit, and take part in the Verbum Prayer request community.

We hope that you will join us!

Feast of Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and the Archangels

The devil. Satan. Maybe we don’t like to think about him. Today’s reading from Revelations, however, reminds us of the reality of evil. As St. Paul states in his letter to the Ephesians, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12, KJV). Ultimately, of course, the story of Michael the archangel re-affirms God’s power over all the powers in heaven and earth:

Арханёл_Міхал._Канец_XVІII_ст._Пінск Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Rev. 12:7-9)

The war has been won; God is victorious. Our job as believers is to continue to pray and work for the coming of the kingdom to save our “place in heaven.” As the church celebrates the Feast of the Archangels, it is worth considering these powerful allies and asking for their protection. As St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, advises us:

Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.

St. Francis de Sales is just one of the writers features in the 10-volume set Classic Wisdom Collection featured on the Verbum Monthly Sales! Take advantage of 27% off through September 30th.

 

 

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