October 7: O.L. of the Rosary (Lk 1:26-38)




            The gospel pictures the mother of Jesus “deeply disturbed” at the Annunciation, and, later, expressing great joy, when she visited her cousin Elizabeth: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:47).


            Our Franciscan tradition speaks of seven joys of Our Lady. Four are connected with the birth and infancy of Jesus and one with his adolescence, and two with resurrection from death. In biblical symbols, "seven" stands for "many". We are to understand, then, that Mary, like her Son, embodied Isaiah's prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh, "a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering" (Is 53:3). At the Annunciation, Mary declared herself to be the Servant (or handmaid) of the Lord, thereby accepting all the consequences of the Incarnation, both sorrowful and joyful.


            It is significant that we celebrate five joys of Mary also as onerous or painful or even sorrowful events, namely, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Visit of the Magi, and the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. In these joyful mysteries, or unfolding of events, there was also sorrowful foreboding, and consequences of suffering and loss.


            Also, the other two joys of Mary, namely, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the Assumption and Coronation of Mary, are consequent upon death.


            The gospels carefully note that neither Jesus nor Mary in their joys and sufferings concentrated their attention exclusively on themselves. Mary wanted to share her joy and her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth. Jesus was able to promise paradise to the man dying beside him (Luke 23:43), and to provide for the future welfare of his mother by giving her to John, and John to her (Jn 19:27).


            They were never victims of self-pity. Rather, as the Letter to the Hebrews (Heb 5:7-9) points out: Jesus through his passion became the source of eternal salvation for all. Our Catholic tradition recognizes that Mary, through her compassion, her suffering with Jesus, became an instrument of salvation for all.


            The Franciscan Crown of Seven Joys and the Rosary of Five Sorrowful Mysteries, therefore, make us aware of the inseparable combination of joy and sorrow in the lives of Jesus and Mary, in our own lives, and indeed in the lives of all. This is especially true of life's greatest moments: birth, marriage, religious profession, ordination, death.


            In our recitation of the Seven Joys or of the five Sorrowful Mysteries, together with Mary, the saints, and the whole Church, let us join the joys and sufferings of our lives to those of Jesus the Redeemer, in a true sacrifice which is pleasing to God.