A New Glorious Mystery?

10 April 2007

Sometimes when I put my son to sleep —especially when he won’t calm down and I lie with him for a little bit— I pray the Rosary.  It’s a good Catholic habit to keep, if only to freak people out.

It also helps me make sure time is actually passing.  Sitting in a darkened room with nothing but a toddler’s breathing and fidgeting to keep you company . . . five minutes can seem like twenty.

I have no problem with the Rosary until you get to the fifth Glorious Mystery.  Partly because it’s extra-biblical, but also because it seems way out of the tradition, perhaps a monarchist throwback.  “The Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth” just doesn’t seem to me to be a “mystery” to be contemplated.

Which leaves me the question, what would the fifth mystery be then?  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used it as the fifth mystery all my life and still do, but I wonder if there’s any alternative to it.

Traditionalists reading this ‘blog might object that I’m picking and choosing what parts of the Tradition I want, and this is true.  I would respond that the Rosary is a private devotion, and the three-sets-(now-four-sets-)of-five-mysteries Rosary we know is just one of many variations on repetitious, memorized prayers used by Christians for centuries when they either could not read or not get their hands on a psalter, prayer book, or breviary.  I could make up my own devotion (and have), but I have a particular attachment to the Rosary, just not to the fifth Glorious Mystery.

Any thoughts, folks?


4 Responses to “A New Glorious Mystery?”

  1. The way I spiritually approach the “Crowning of Mary” is by way of its scripturo-theological content, rather than by way of its “literal” sense.

    I approach the notion of “queen” as an archetypal “mother”.

    From the injunction of Jesus at the cross to his disciple (therefore to me), John 19:
    When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

    The disciple takes her manner of discipleship and testimony (as depicted at Cana according to John) into his own life and lets that manner of discipleship mother or rule his own discipleship.

    According to Luke-Acts, Mary has her “pentecost” at Nazareth and conceives the Son in physical flesh and blood, but Mary is later present in the upper room (the womb of the Eucharistic flesh and blood of her son) where the Church now has its Pentecost and the Church is manifested as the Body of Christ, and emerges from the Eucharistic womb fully empowered to preach publicly the death and resurrection of Christ. The testimony of Luke-Acts is: (1) that Mary keeps the mysteries of Jesus pondering them in her heart (Luke reports this at Bethlehem and at the finding in the temple); (2) that the Church receives power from the Spirit by prayer together with Mary in the Eucharistic womb of the Church. Mary’s example at Nazareth, at Bethlehem, at the finding in the temple, serves to show how the Church is to respond to God’s annunciation and Spirit, how to keep the mysteries of Jesus in one’s heart and ponder them; her example “midwifes” the Church’s manifestation on Pentecost.

    This one is more mysterious. Luke 2 testifies that Simeon under the inspiration of the Spirit says to Mary personally:
    “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising [(Greek, resurrection)] of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against AND A SWORD WILL PIERCE THROUGH YOUR OWN SOUL ALSO, THAT THE THOUGHTS OF MANY HEARTS MAY BE REVEALED.”
    Jesus is to be a sign that is opposed, and the Spirit-inspired testimony of Simeon joins to the destiny of Jesus the eventual piercing of Mary’s soul, and the piercing of Mary’s soul will be instrumental in the revealing of the thoughts of the hearts of the many.
    Whatever the full and real meaning of that Spirit-inspired testimony might be, it is clear that the piercing of Mary’s soul in association with the opposition to Jesus is to play some causal role for others, for their resurrection, for the revealing of what’s in their hearts.
    According to the Spirit-inspired testimony of the Gospel, clearly the Anointed (Messiah), the King, has an associate: Mary. Call her “queen mother” if you will.

    By joining her in prayer through the Rosary, we repeat the obedience of the Church of the apostles and disciples that gathered together with Mary in the Eucharistic Birth-Chamber of the Church to hold the mysteries of Jesus (Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, Glorious) in our hearts, pondering them, and prayerfully asking to receive the power of the Spirit from on high.

  2. Lee Says:

    I realize this isn’t really an answer to your request for alternatives, but I like to meditate on the Crowning of Mary as a symbol of the ultimate consummation of the Church in heaven. Since Mary represents the Church, we can contemplate it as depicting the gifts that God will shower upon his redeemed creation in heaven, preeminently the gift of himself and his presence.

    Evangelical Anglican Tony Price puts it this way in his little booklet on the Rosary:

    The Coronation of the Virgin Mary: In a similar way we can use the Mystery of Mary’s heavenly reward as a meditation on the reward that all believers will receive after this life, when they share the life of God in heaven. Suitable Bible passages are Romans 2.6-11 and 1 Corinthians 3.10-15. We can reflect on what ‘reward’ we might expect from God, and how we might need to change if we desire a better one! But we should use this Mystery notonly for self-examination, but also to reflect on the Communion of Saints, the fellowship that exists already between the Church Triumphant, and the Church still struggling here on earth.


  3. Lee and Fr. Stephanos,

    Thank you for your responses. Although the Rosary was a pretty strongly recommended devotion growing up —and one I did on my own time and still do— the Fifth Glorious Mystery was poorly catechized.

    Now this mystery makes sense to me! Or at least as much as a mystery can. Thanks!

  4. Actually, in revelations the redeemed are all given crowns. This again demonstrates how Mary, who is given the crown of crowns, is the archetype of all Christians and the model of what we all hope to become.

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