The Holy Rosary
Meditations of Blessed John XXIII
First Joyful Mystery. The Annunciation.

This is the brightest point which links heaven and earth, the greatest event of the centuries. The Son of God, the Word of the Father—by whom all was made that was made in the order of creation—took on human nature to become the Redeemer and Savior of the whole human race.
Mary Immaculate, the most beautiful and fragrant flower of creation, at the voice of the angel, accepts the honor of divine maternity, which with her "Behold the handmaid of the Lord," was fulfilled in her at that moment. And we all, as brothers and sisters redeemed in Christ, become her children. She is the Mother of God and our mother.

As we prayerfully contemplate the annunciation event, we resolve to daily acquire the habit of thanksgiving, and sincerely strive to acquire that humility, purity and great charity of which the Blessed Virgin gives us such an amiable example.

Second Joyful Mystery. The Visitation.

What tenderness and gentleness there was in that three-month visit of Mary to her beloved cousin. Both are custodians of an imminent maternity, but for the Virgin Mother it is to be the most sacred maternity possible to imagine on earth.
What sweetness of harmony in those two intertwining hymns. From one, "Blessed are you among women" (Lk 1:42), and from the other, "He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed" (Lk 1:48).
This vision at 'Ain-Karim, a few miles west of Jerusalem, illuminates with a heavenly light, at the same time very human, the relations of good families brought up in the ancient school of the Rosary recited each evening in the home among the members of the family.

This is done in all parts of the world where people are called by the lofty inspiration of the priesthood, or where one is called by missionary charity or the apostolate or even by lawful motives of different natures, such as work, military service, study, teaching and the like.
What a beautiful coming together this is in which, during the recitation of the ten Hail Mary's of this mystery, so many souls are united by the bond of blood, by domestic bonds, by all those things which sanctify and strengthen the sentiments of love among those closest to one another—parents and children, brothers, sisters, relatives, neighbors, citizens—united in an act which supports and illuminates universal charity, the practice of which is the joy and honor of life.

Third Joyful Mystery. The Birth of Jesus.

At the proper time, according to the laws of the assumed human nature, the Word of God made man emerges from the holy tabernacle which is the immaculate womb of Mary.
He appears for the first time to the world in a manger used for feeding hay to animals. Silence, poverty, simplicity and innocence fill the scene.
The voices of angels are heard in the heavens announcing the peace which the newborn Infant brings into the world. The first to adore him are Mary his mother and Joseph his foster father. Then come the humble shepherds, called down from the hills by angelic voices. Later a caravan of illustrious men will come, led from distant lands by a star, and they will offer precious gifts full of significance.
Through it all, everything in that night of Bethlehem assumes a language of universality.
In this third mystery, which compels every knee to bend before the cradle, some like to see the smiling eyes of the Divine Infant in the act of beholding all the people of the earth passing before him one after another as in a procession.
He identifies them: Jews, Greeks, Chinese, Africans, all people from every region of the universe, from every age of history, past, present and future.
Others prefer, instead, during the recitation of the ten Hail Mary's of this mystery of the birth of Jesus, to recommend to him the countless numbers of children of the human race who have been born into the world in the past 24 hours of the day and night.
All of these children, baptized or not, belong to Jesus of Bethlehem and to the continuation of his reign of light and peace.

Fourth Joyful Mystery. The Presentation.

While still in his mother's arms, the life of Jesus unfolds to the meeting of the two Testaments. He is light and revelation to the nations, the splendor of the chosen people. St. Joseph must be present and also participate in the rite of offering prescribed by the law.
This episode is perpetuated in the Church. As we recite the Hail Mary's of this decade, it is beautiful to observe the joyful hopes of the perennial reflowering of the promise of priests, religious, deacons and dedicated lay people who cooperate in great numbers in the kingdom of God.
Here also are the young students of the seminaries, of religious houses, of Catholic schools as well as other youth of a future lay apostolate whose growth in numbers—in spite of difficulties and setbacks, and harassed even by persecutions in many nations—never ceases to be a comforting sight which evokes words of admiration and joy.

Fifth Joyful Mystery. The Finding in the Temple.

Jesus is now twelve years old. Mary and Joseph accompany him to Jerusalem for the ritual prayer of that age. Suddenly he disappears from the sight of his loving and vigilant parents. There is great anxiety in the three-day search.
He is found in the Temple reasoning with the doctors about the law. How significant are the words of St. Luke who describes him so clearly. They found him sitting in the midst of the doctors "listening to them and asking them questions" (Lk 2:46).
That meeting place of the doctors constituted everything in those times: knowledge, wisdom and practical directives in the light of the Old Testament.
In every age, this is the duty of human intelligence: to gather together the voices of the centuries, to transmit the good doctrine humbly and to make way for the vision of scientific investigation about the future.
Christ is found everywhere in the midst of people, and that is his proper place: "You call me Teacher... and you are right, for that is what I am" (Jn 13:13).
This fifth decade of Hail Mary's of the joyful mysteries is a special prayer for the benefit of all those who are called to the service of truth and charity: in research, in teaching and in the use of the new audiovisual techniques of communication.
All of them are urged to imitate Jesus: scientists, professors, teachers, journalists—yes, particularly journalists, who have the characteristic duty of honoring truth always without the counterfeit of fantasy.

First Sorrowful Mystery. The Agony in the Garden.

The mind, moved with emotion, turns to the image of the Savior in the hour of supreme abandonment: "...and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground" (Lk 22:44).
This expresses the intimate suffering of the mind, the extreme bitterness of solitude, the failing of the broken body. The agony is caused by the imminence of that which Jesus sees most clearly: the impending passion. The scene at Gethsemane encourages the exertion of the will to accept suffering: "Not my will but yours be done" (Lk 22:42).
These are heartrending words which teach one how to suffer, and they give the last touch to the acquisition of the most distinct merits. But they are also of real and interior comfort for all souls who suffer the most acute and mysterious pains.
In this light, what tender confidence does the invocation of Mary acquire, who underwent this burning sorrow in union with her Son.

The intention of prayer is raised in devout reference to the Pope, seen in his universal responsibility, the object of pressing concerns which he keeps in his heart, but which he entrusts however to the ceaseless assistance promised by Christ to his Vicar.
The intention of this decade invokes furthermore strength and consolation for those who suffer with Christ, for those who are troubled and afflicted.

Second Sorrowful Mystery. The Scourging at the Pillar.

This mystery arouses memory of the ruthless torture of the beating of the immaculate and innocent limbs of Jesus.
The human being is composed of body and soul. The body suffers the most humiliating temptations. There is, then, in this mystery a call to that salutary penance which can encompass and protect the true welfare of human beings in their totality as corporal and spiritual beings.
A great lesson for everyone is drawn from this. We are not called to a bloody martyrdom, but to the constant and daily discipline of suffering. Along this path one arrives at an ever more perfect likeness to Jesus Christ and to a participation in his merits.
The sorrowful Mother sees him thus scourged. How many mothers would like to have the joy of seeing their children pass through the disciplines of education and instruction to a wholesome life. Sometimes, instead, they must weep at seeing the collapse of their hopes and toil.
The intention here, then, will be to ask the Lord for the gifts of purity of habits in the family and in society, but especially in the souls of youth who are the most exposed to the seductions of the senses. At the same time we pray for strength of character, for fidelity to good resolutions made and to lessons received.

Third Sorrowful Mystery. The Crowning with Thorns.

This mystery can best be contemplated by people who carry the burden of grave responsibility of caring spiritually for others; those also who are elected or appointed to uphold the common good. It is therefore the mystery for popes, bishops and priests; the mystery for presidents, governors, legislators and judges.
The crown which authority places on their heads carries a halo of dignity and distinction. It is also a crown that weighs heavily and pierces with thorns and annoyances. Wherever there is authority, the cross cannot be wanting. Sometimes it comes in the form of misunderstanding, contempt, indifference or loneliness.
Another application brings to mind the grave responsibilities of those who have received the most talents and who are bound to make them bear fruit in the constant exercise of their faculties and intelligence. The service of the intellect, of being a light and a guide to others, which is the duty required of those who are more gifted, must be borne with patience. Such people must reject temptations of pride, egotism and that dissension which destroys.
The prayer in this decade, then, is for the leaders of humankind—both religious and civil—who bear the responsibilities of the pen, of thoughts and of artistic creation.

Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. The Carrying of the Cross.

Human life is a long, continuous and burdensome pilgrimage along the rock-strewn path indicated for everyone.
In this mystery, Christ represents the human race. Woe to us, if there were not a cross for each one of us. Without it, we would be tempted by egotism, hedonism, insensibility, and we could be overcome.
The fruit which comes from the contemplation of Jesus on Calvary is that of embracing and kissing the cross, carrying it with generosity and joy, according to the words of The Imitation of Christ: "In the cross there is protection from one's enemies and the effusion of a heavenly sweetness" (Book II, ch. XII, 2).
There is likewise in this mystery an extension of the prayer to the Sorrowful Mother who followed Jesus with a spirit of participation in his merits and in his sorrows.
The intention (of the mystery) opens our eyes to the immense vision of the afflicted: the orphans, the aged, the sick, the prisoners, the weak, the exiles, and we ask for strength and consolation which hope alone gives: "Hail, O Cross, our only hope."

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.

Life and death represent two precious and orienting points of the sacrifice of Christ. We picture the Infant of Bethlehem smiling on all human beings as they begin their journey on earth. We picture Jesus on the cross as he draws his last breath. He has the power to sanctify all our sorrows, to cancel all our sins.
And Mary is near the cross, as she was near the Babe of Bethlehem.
We pray to her, this pious Mother, that she herself may pray for us, "now and at the hour of our death."
Here is also included the great mystery of obstinate sinners, of unbelievers, of those who did not receive and will not receive the light of the Gospel, who are unable to take heed of the Blood shed also for them by the Son of God.
And the prayer expands into a sigh of saddened reparation, into a horizon of missionary fullness, because the Most Precious Blood, shed for all people, gives to all salvation and conversion: "Blood of Christ, pledge of eternal life."

First Glorious Mystery. The Resurrection.

It is the mystery of death dominated and overcome. From death we are led to the splendors of victory and glory.
It marks the greatest triumph of the Holy Catholic Church over the adversities and persecutions of past history and those of the future. "Christ triumphs, reigns, rules." It is helpful to remember that the first apparition of the risen Christ was to the pious women who were close to his life and his sufferings even at Calvary.
In these splendors the gaze of the faith contemplates, united to the risen Jesus, the most dear souls, those with whom we have enjoyed the closeness and with whom we have shared the pains. Thus in the light of the resurrection of Jesus there comes alive the remembrance of our dead. They are recalled and blessed in the sacrifice of the risen Lord.
It is not for naught that the Oriental Liturgy concludes the funeral rite with an Alleluia for all the dead. For them we invoke the light of the eternal tabernacle, while the mind thinks also of the resurrection which awaits our mortal remains: "and I expect the resurrection of the dead."
Wait and hope in the very sweet promise, the sure pledge which is given to us by the resurrection of Jesus.

Second Glorious Mystery. The Ascension.

In this picture we contemplate the consummation of the promises of Jesus. It is his answer to our longing for heaven. The final return to the Father, from whom he came into the world, is a certainty for all of us, to whom he promised a place on high: "I go to prepare a place for you" (Jn 14:2).
This mystery contains the spiritual movement which leads to sanctification, the desire for constant ascensions which prepare the soul for the "mature measure of the fullness of Christ" (cf. Eph 4:13).
And united in this effort for perfection are priests, men and women religious, men and women missionaries, lay men and women, all who wish to be "the aroma of Christ" (cf. 2 Cor 2:15), and who live already in the hope of heavenly life.
The teaching of this decade is an exhortation not to allow ourselves to be held back by that which weighs us down but to abandon ourselves to the Lord who bears us on high.

Third Glorious Mystery. The Descent of the Holy Spirit.

The apostles gathered together around Mary in the Cenacle to receive the last gift of Christ: his Spirit, the Comforter and Advocate.
With the descent and diffusion of the Holy Spirit, the heirs of Christ, still filled with fear and anxiety, receive the seal of catholicity, which spreads beyond all boundaries.
The Holy Spirit continues to pour forth effusions on his Church every day; the centuries and the nations belong to him. His triumphs are not always evident from without, but they are in fact rich in surprise and wonder.

Fourth Glorious Mystery. The Assumption.

The sweet image of Mary shines and radiates in supreme exaltation. How beautiful is the sleep of Mary, as seen by the Christians of the East. She lies in the peaceful sleep of death with Jesus at her side, and he holds the soul of the Virgin close to his breast like a child, to indicate the miracle of immediate resurrection and glorification.
It is a reason for comfort and confidence in the days of sorrow for those privileged souls—and we can all be privileged souls—whom God prepares in silence for the highest triumphs.
The mystery of the assumption keeps us familiar with the thought of our death, in the light of peaceful abandonment in the Lord, whom we like to hope will be close to us at the time of our agony to gather our immortal soul into his hands.

Fifth Glorious Mystery. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Behold the synthesis of the whole Rosary, which closes the great vision, opened by the herald angel. A single flux of life runs through the individual mysteries and reminds us of the eternal plan of God for our salvation: the beginning hidden, the conclusion in the splendor of heaven.
The meditation applies to ourselves, to our vocation to become associated one day with the angels and the saints, the mysteries and comforting reality which sanctifying grace anticipates in this life.
Oh, what joy! What glory! We are "citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone" (Eph 2:19-20).