Why St. John Paul II Added the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary
Nov 14, 2022

Why St. John Paul II Added the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary

Twenty years ago, St. John Paul II published the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, adding five Luminous Mysteries to the traditional 15 meditated on in the rosary.

The Luminous Mysteries refer to Christ’s public life, and are his Baptism in the Jordan; his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana; his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion; his Transfiguration; and his institution of the Eucharist, “as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery,” according to the letter.

In his apostolic letter, the Holy Father explained that “the rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer” and that it had “an important place” in his spiritual life during his youth.

In fact, two weeks after being elevated to the Chair of Peter, St. John Paul II publicly confessed: “The rosary is my favorite prayer.”

The pope proposed the Luminous Mysteries to “highlight the Christological character of the rosary.” These mysteries refer to “Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion,” the Holy Father explained.

Thus in these mysteries “we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God,” the pope said, since it is he who “declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands.”

St. John Paul II also noted in his apostolic letter that “it is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: ‘While I am in the world, I am the light of the world’ (John 9:5).”

Thus, for the rosary to “become more fully a ‘compendium of the Gospel,’” the pope considered it appropriate that there be “a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry, following reflection on the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ (the joyful mysteries) and before focusing on the sufferings of his Passion (the sorrowful mysteries) and the triumph of his Resurrection (the glorious mysteries).”

The pope stressed that adding the Luminous Mysteries is done “without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer’s traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary’s place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory.”

St. John Paul II explained that each of the mysteries of light “is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus.”

This presence is manifested in a particular way in each one of the Luminous Mysteries.

In Baptism, Christ “became ‘sin’ for our sake (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21),” the Father proclaims him the Beloved Son and the Holy Spirit “descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out.”

At the wedding at Cana, Christ, by transforming water into wine, “opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers.”

With the preaching of the kingdom and the call to conversion, Christ initiates “the ministry of mercy,” which continues through “the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church.”

For St. John Paul II, the Transfiguration is the “mystery of light par excellence” since “the glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to ‘listen to him.’”

The institution of the Eucharist is also a mystery of light because “Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies ‘to the end’ his love for humanity (John 13:1), for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice.”

The Holy Father pointed out that “apart from the miracle at Cana, the presence of Mary remains in the background.” However, “the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout his ministry,” with her maternal counsel: “Do whatever he tells you (John 2:5).”

St. John Paul II considers this counsel to be “a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ’s public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the ‘mysteries of light.’”

The pope then proposed that these mysteries of light be contemplated on Thursdays.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Image Source: AB/L’Osservatore Romano

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