This is the sixth and final article in a series focusing on the rosary. You will find links to the other articles in this series at the end of this article.
The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary: An Overview
Of the four sets of mysteries contemplated during the praying of the rosary, the glorious mysteries are the conclusion of the cycle of prayers. While you are free to pray whichever set of mysteries you choose at any time (and I recommend praying those that seem pertinent to your situation when you are praying), it is traditional for the glorious mysteries to come last. For those of you who wish to split up the praying of the rosary over the course of a week, the glorious mysteries of the rosary are traditionally prayed on Wednesdays and Sundays. (I tend to vary which mysteries I pray on Sundays depending on the calendar of the liturgical year. I typically pray the glorious mysteries on Sundays during the Easter season, as it seems most appropriate to focus on these mysteries during that time of the liturgical year.)
These final five decades of the rosary, the glorious mysteries, “lead the faithful to greater hope for the eschatological goal towards which they journey as members of the pilgrim People of God in history [that] impel[s] them to bear courageous witness to that ‘good news’ which gives meaning to their entire existence” (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 23). Although separate from the strictly “joyful” mysteries of the rosary, the glorious mysteries contain their own joy in the hope of resurrection, and in the feelings of joy that permeated Christ’s disciples who came face to face again with their master. We move from the gut-wrenchingly painful, sorrowful mysteries, back again to hope, bookending our journey through the gospels with joy.
The glorious mysteries of the rosary are unique among all the sets of mysteries of the rosary. Unlike the joyful, luminous, and sorrowful mysteries, the glorious mysteries of the rosary contain extra-Biblical mysteries. The Assumption of Mary, and her coronation as Queen of heaven and earth are not to be found in the Bible. Rather, they are part of our sacred tradition. The Assumption is a mystery that has been declared to be true by the pope in an infallible declaration. (For more on what this means, please read my previous article on the Assumption here.) The coronation is strictly tradition.
Because of the extra-Biblical nature of these mysteries, piecing together biblical quotes for the scriptural version of the rosary requires a little bit of creativity. The ascension of Christ into heaven, while part of scripture, is told several different ways, and are only briefly described. This means that piecing together a scriptural version of this mystery also involves some creativity, and you will see that I have selected passages from Mark, Luke, and Acts for this decade. The remaining two mysteries are neatly recounted in the gospel of John.
The instructions for praying the rosary may be found in my previous article here. Below, you will find a guided meditation on the mysteries themselves, as well as Scriptural references if you are choosing to pray the scriptural version of the rosary. The passages referenced below are of my own choosing, as they are the verses I use when I pray the glorious mysteries as a scriptural rosary. (For the passages related to the final two decades of the glorious mysteries, I have borrowed the structure of the scriptural references from other sources who have used scripture to paint beautiful imagery of these mysteries. These are also the passages I use when praying the scriptural rosary.) If you choose to pray the scriptural rosary, you may, of course, select any passages that will aid your ability to put yourself in the scene and contemplate the glory of God, and the joy of new life during this prayer.
If you aren’t praying the scriptural rosary, you may use the paragraphs before and after the Scriptural references as a guide, letting the scenes play out according to your own imaginations. Some people find using icons (such as the images in this article) to be a helpful starting place for each mystery, rather than praying the scriptural version. You should choose whatever method works best for you.
How to Pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary
The First Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection
Before beginning this decade, quiet your mind, tune out distractions. As you pray the Lord’s Prayer just before the decade, check your breathing, relax. Then, place yourself in the company of Mary Magdalene (patron saint of Catholic Majority) as she encounters the Risen Christ.
Pay attention to Mary Magdalene throughout this mystery, and note the actions of the apostles Peter and John. All three disciples present in the mystery are convinced not that Christ has risen from the dead, but that his body has been removed. Watch Peter and John’s faces as they discover the empty tomb, and then leave to return to their homes. What do they seem to be thinking? Stay with Mary as she remains outside the tomb, weeping for her lost master. Join in her fear and her joy when she learns that the man who assumed to be a gardener is actually the Risen Lord. Enter…
- Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved […]. (John 20:1-2)
- [Mary Magdalene] said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. (John 20:2-3)
- [Simon Peter] went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7)
- [T]he other disciple […] also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. (John 20:8-11)
- As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. (John 20:11-12)
- They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:13)
- When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:14-15)
- Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15)
- Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:16)
- Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” (John 20:17)
Pause before moving on to the Doxology. Stay with Mary and Jesus. What does she do next? The Lord has commissioned Mary specifically to spread the word of his Resurrection, instructing her to tell the disciples that he will meet up with them and ascend to heaven. Think about that. Spend some time with Mary in silence and listen. Then, move on to the Doxology, thanking God for your experience at the resurrection.
The Second Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
As before (and every time you are about to begin a new mystery), be still and silent. Pray the Lord’s prayer. Settle in to the next scene. Bring with you to this next scene the feelings you had at the end of the last. Mary just received incredibly surprising news. The disciples have now been told of the resurrection and are meeting together. Suddenly, Christ, in his glorified body, appears to them for the first time. Be in the room with the disciples. Receive the Holy Spirit with them.
Midway through this mystery we will flash forward in time by one week. Thomas, who had not been present at the first appearance, is now with the other disciples, expressing his doubt. Again, Christ appears, assuaging Thomas’s doubt, and delivering a message to both his disciples, and to you.
- When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, […] Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
- After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20)
- Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
- When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
- “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23)
- But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. (John 20:24)
- So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my fingers in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
- A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)
- Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)
- Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29)
Pause again before moving on to the Doxology. Let these last words of Jesus wash over you. You were just present in a mystery where Jesus specifically referred to you as “blessed.” And not only you, but all those who believe in Jesus, though we live thousands of years after his life on earth. Express thanks for that, then pray the Doxology.
The Third Glorious Mystery: The Ascension of Christ
Christ has now appeared in his glorified body to hundreds of people. He has brought forth the Holy Spirit to stay with his disciples, and has commissioned them to spread the gospel (good news) of his message and his life. All that he had promised would happen has come to pass. And now, as Christ told Mary Magdalene, it is time for him to depart the Earth and ascend to his Father in heaven. Pray the Lord’s prayer, and go deeply into it. Our Father, who art in Heaven… Let these words prepare you for the words you are about to hear from Scripture, and know that this prayer was shared with us from Christ himself. Take a breath. Join the disciples as they receive Christ’s final blessing.
- Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. (Luke 24:50)
- So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. (Mark 16:19)
- While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. (Acts 1:10)
- They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” (Acts 1:11)
- “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
- And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. (Luke 24:52)
- [A]nd they were continually in the temple blessing God. (Luke 24:53)
- And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere. (Mark 16:20)
- [T]he Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:20)
- Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women. (Acts 5:14)
Pause before the Doxology to consider the two men in white robes, and the message that they have just delivered to the disciples, and to you. Dwell on that message. Consider how what you just experienced was the beginning of what we may think of as the Church following Christ’s earthly mission. From this small group of disciples, we are now, thousands of years later, spread out all over the earth – billions of us. We are part of the believers, men and women, who have been “added to the Lord.” Consider this in the spirit of thanksgiving, then, pray the Doxology and pause again before the next mystery.
The Fourth Glorious Mystery: The Assumption of Mary
Pray the Lord’s prayer, and quiet your mind. We turn now to Mary, the mother we share with Christ. As these next two mysteries are not recounted in narrative form in the Bible, we will focus on beautiful imagery that is found elsewhere in the Bible, construed in such a way as to tell the story of how this happened.
Of all the mysteries, these words paint the most vivid picture. Place Mary before you as you dwell on these verses. Let the sights and sounds wash over you as you read each passage, and keep those images in mind as you pray each Hail Mary. Be conscious that the prayer you are repeating is addressed to the same person who is entering heaven.
At each repetition of “blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus” let your mind hearken back to the initial decades of the rosary, contained within the joyful mysteries, when Christ is incarnated and we spent so much time with Mary as a new mother. Note the beauty of this circle closing, and be thankful that you have been enveloped within that circle of joy, light, sorrow, and now glory.
- My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” (Songs 2:10)
- “[F]or now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.” (Songs 2:11)
- “[L]et me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” (Songs 2:14)
- Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. (Revelation 11:19)
- A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun[…] (Revelation 12:1)
- […W]ith the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1)
- The daughter of the king is decked in her chamber with gold-woven robes; in many-colored robes she is led to the king. (Psalm 45:13-14)
- “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all other women on earth.” (Judith 13:18)
- Your praise will never depart from the hearts of those who remember the power of God. (Judith 13:19)
- “You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the great boast of Israel, you are the great pride of our nation!” (Judith 15:9)
Pray the Doxology, and move to the next, and final, mystery of the rosary. These events, happening in heaven, are outside of what we think of as “time.” Enter the next mystery immediately.
The Fifth Glorious Mystery: The Coronation of Mary
Ensure that your mind is quieted, pray the Lord’s prayer, and immediately begin the next mystery, considering all the same elements you considered for the previous one. You will be singing the praises of Mary within a larger prayer to Mary, and her role in our own salvation.
- Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun […]? (Songs 6:10)
- [L]ike the sun shining on the temple of the Most High, like the rainbow gleaming in splendid clouds; […] like a green shoot on Lebanon on a summer day. (Sirach 50:7-8)
- I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys. (Songs 2:1)
- My throne was in a pillar of cloud, […] and for all the ages I shall not cease to be. (Sirach 24:4,9)
- Come to me, you who desire me, and eat your fill of my fruits. (Sirach 24:19)
- Like the vine I bud forth delights, […] for the memory of me is sweeter than honey. (Sirach 24:17,20)
- And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. (Proverbs 8:32)
- Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. (Proverbs 8:33)
- Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. (Proverbs 8:34)
- For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 8:35)
Pause before the Doxology to consider the final six verses quoted above. Even as we experience the mystery, we are fulfilling the requests. The circle is complete. Continue to pause and experience this for as long as you are able without your mind wandering. Close with the Doxology.
The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary: Conclusion
In his apostolic letter, Rosarium Virginia Mariae, Blessed Pope John Paul II writes:
The contemplation of Christ’s face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One! The Rosary has always expressed this knowledge born of faith and invited the believer to pass beyond the darkness of the Passion in order to gaze upon Christ’s glory in the Resurrection and Ascension. Contemplating the Risen One, Christians rediscover the reasons for their own faith and relive the joy not only of those to whom Christ appeared – the Apostles, Mary Magdalene and the disciples […] – but also the joy of Mary, who must have had an equally intense experience of the new life of her glorified Son.
I hope that you have enjoyed experiencing a different way of praying the mysteries of the rosary, and that you will consider making the practice of praying the rosary as a contemplative prayer a part of your life each day.
If you’ve found this experience to be difficult, do not let that stop you from practicing. We are, all of us, human beings, and prone to slip-ups. As long as we are in our mortal bodies, we will have needs that become urgent at inopportune times. At the same time, we have the flexibility of praying the rosary whenever we find time to. Even Pope Francis in his recent interview mentioned falling asleep during prayer, and taking opportunities to pray as he found them, such as waiting at the dentist’s office. What a remarkable thing to share with us! So do your best. You don’t need to feel particularly holy to participate. You will get from the prayer what you need. (And if that is a little shut-eye, then so be it.)
Thank you for joining me in this series. I hope that you will return to these articles again and again throughout the coming years as you work to deepen your spirituality and prayer life. This upcoming Tuesday is the beginning of October, known as the Month of the Most Holy Rosary. I hope you will consider making a special effort during this month to practice praying the rosary as contemplative prayer.
Here are the links to all of the articles in this series, for your future reference.
- September 6: The Rosary: An Introduction
- September 7: How to Pray the Rosary
- September 8: The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary
- September 15: The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary
- September 22: The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary
- September 29: The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary