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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Birth of Christ and the Sorrowful Mysteries

Art by Ruth J Smucker - Carrying of the Cross
The Advent season is a time of reflection.  A "mini Lent," it is sometimes referred to as.  This year my spirit is very aware of this.  As we grieve yet another Christmas without children here with us (all have been miscarried, and two just this year), and grieve other hardships we are experiencing.  Yet we look forward to celebrating the Christ Child and time with family and friends.

So much joy, and yet so much suffering around this time of year.  Grief is real for each of us in one's own way.  Whether that pain is of a loved one that has died, or of economic hardship, or of an addiction...everyone has something to grieve over during this season.   

Continuing on in sharing with you meditations on the Rosary that were given to me in prayer.  (Please refer back to the first post on the Joyful Mysteries.)  I am prompted to post about the Sorrowful Mysteries.

It is no secret that Mary "pondered" many things in her heart as the gospel tells us.  As the Christ Child was born, and she held Salvation in her arms, surely she knew of the prophecies regarding the Christ, the Messiah, and the suffering that lay before Him.

Look to medieval or renaissance artwork and you will see depictions of suffering and death intermingled into the nativity scene.  There is good reason for this.  Ultimately Jesus came to bring salvation to men through his suffering and death.  The profound mystery of the joy of His birth and sorrow of His death is vividly shown to us.  In icons of the nativity of Christ you'll find symbols of death as well, the swaddling clothes resembling burial garments, and so on.

We should not be surprised then when we find ourselves in a place of joy and sorrow at the same time.  Somehow it seems so unnatural and generally we wish to flee from these conflicting feelings.  Yet, can there be real joy without suffering?  Can one know true joy, joy that it is not mere pleasure or a hollow happiness, without the experience of pain?  Is joy not deepened through pain and suffering?  Is this not a part of the Christian walk, the journey to God?  Joy is a fruit of the spirit.  It is a fruit of the journey, the journey of crooked ways made straight by God.

So let us delve into these meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries and ponder them.  I believe we can find healing in the Sorrowful Mysteries.  Perhaps it might even be helpful to ponder them alongside the Joyful Mysteries.  I have found much "food for meditation" in pondering two sets of mysteries alongside each other.  

First Sorrowful Mystery - The Agony in the Garden
(Christ prays alone in agony in the garden of Gethsemane while the disciples sleep.)
It is good for us to experience, and allow ourselves to experience the agony of the Son, the agony of those in the world around us, as well as the pain sin has caused us personally, and the pain of our own sin.  We must give ourselves time to weep in the garden with Our Lord.  We must be vigilant and stay awake with Him, regardless of the outlook.

Second Sorrowful Mystery - The Scourging at the Pillar
(Christ is scourged nearly to the point of death by the Roman soldiers.)
Christ's appearance was so marred by the whips...let us remember never to devote much time to vanity.  Our time is better spent in acts of service toward others.  Also, it is good for us to humble and deny ourselves for the service of others, that they may see our goodness in Christ, because it is by our love that we shall be known as His disciples.  We can look most like Him through our actions.

Third Sorrowful Mystery - The Crowning with Thorns
(Christ is crowned with thorns, dressed in a cape, given a "scepter" and roundly mocked.)
We must be willing to go before anyone and be held accountable for our actions and to suffer whatever persecution.  We must also be willing to admit our wrong doing and to hold fast to our moral convictions and hold ourselves to those morals.  Just as Our Lord was put on "trial" crowned with thorns and beaten, so we must also be willing to suffer whatever rebukes necessary.  We must take courage and remain strong no matter the circumstance, we walk a narrow road. 

Fourth Sorrowful Mystery - The Carrying of the Cross
(Christ carries His cross to Calvary by way of the "Via de la Rosa," the "Way of Sorrows.")
Christ, carrying His cross, passed the women crying and told them not to weep for Him but to weep for themselves.  He said to them that, for when they do this when the wood is green, how much more when the wood is dry?  He also said that there would come a time when people would say, blessed are women who have not borne children, whose breasts have not given suck.   The wood is dry. 

Fifth Sorrowful Mystery - The Crucifixion and Death
(Christ is crucified upon the cross with only a few faithful, including His mother, at His feet.)
Our Lady standing at the foot of the cross forgave those around her for what they did and were doing to her Beloved Son.  She forgave us too, each and every one, for our part in His punishment.  Just in as much God forgave us and took us to Himself through Christ, so Our Lady took us as her children.  Forgiveness is a grace we must share.  It was poured out on the cross for all, that we may all be bathed in His blood.  We must share that grace and allow others to be bathed by it as we have been bathed.  All have done evil in the sight of the Lord and must be forgiven.