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Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary: The Call of Light

“we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God” -Pope St. John Paul II

Each Thursday, millions of Catholics around the world pull out their Rosaries to pray the Luminous Mysteries. Although these mysteries predate me in existence (and the events they recall probably predate even my great-great grandparents), historically speaking, they are a fairly new and beautiful addition to the original set (the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious).

Pope St. John Paul II instituted them in 2002, just at the turn of the century, in his apostolic letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae”. And just like the others, they have served as a well-spring of spiritual truth, life, and love, and an inexhaustible, ever-green field for contemplation.

They shed light on the public ministry of Christ, parts people feel they may be very knowledgeable about, and place them in a new, well-deserved, and even more contemplative focus. 

Each of these mysteries bears a particular spiritual fruit, which I will get to in a minute. But apart from the light that these mysteries bring into our hearts through contemplation on them, there is another thread that intimately ties them together. 

And that is the radical call to obedience. 

Let’s see how this plays out in each mystery.

The First Luminous Mystery: The Baptism in the Jordan

Spiritual Fruit: Openness to the Holy Spirit

Jesus Christ, in profound humility, was baptized by John in the Jordan River. As He was the spotless Lamb of God, this of course was not necessary. In fact, John says that he himself should be the one getting baptized by Christ!

However, Jesus undergoes this Baptism, not so much for Himself, as for us. He is the type of the New Man we hope to become. And in being baptized, He set a pattern for us to, “go and do likewise”. To be baptized as He was, and so become the sons of God.

And so that we might receive the Spirit (in which, as St. Paul writes, we cry “Abba! Father!”), He tells His Apostles to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, all three Persons fully present at Jesus’ own baptism. In an age where Baptism is no longer seen by many Christians as essential, the light of this mystery shines on the importance of obedience to Christ’s command to be baptized, so that we may enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The Second Luminous Mystery: The Wedding Feast at Cana

Spiritual Fruit: To Jesus through Mary

Jesus performs his first miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana. Here, he turns water into wine, gladdening the hearts of all at the feast. But He does so at the prompting of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who notices that the newlyweds have run out of wine, and presents the situation to her Son. He, in turn, tells her His hour has not yet come.

What follows is truly worthy of note. In an impeccable pronunciation of faith, she tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you”. A profound call of faith to faith. Oh that these words would be etched into our hearts! For we run to Mary, and she brings us and our intentions to the throne of grace, and tells us the same thing. “Do whatever He tells you.” And these are her last words in all of Scripture. In one sentence, the Virgin’s life is encapsulated. A life of trust and obedience. 

The Third Luminous Mystery: The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God

Spiritual Fruit: Repentance and Trust in God.

Jesus Christ commences His ministry, preaching repentance and belief in the Gospel. This mystery was incredibly central to Christ's mission, as well as ours today.

Christ’s call for the sinners to repent are actually His first recorded words in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 1:15). But He calls on sinners not to just turn from their evil ways, but to turn to God, a God who can be loved and trusted.

In this mystery, Christ teaches us that belief in the Gospel, the good news of salvation, is an integral and essential step in the spiritual order. This seed of trust in God’s power to save us from the yoke of sin and death, in turn bears the fruit of wholehearted obedience, which is more pleasing to Him than numerous burnt offerings and sacrifices (1 Samuel 15).

The Fourth Luminous Mystery: The Transfiguration

Spiritual Fruit: Desire for Holiness

Jesus ascends Mount Tabor with His disciples, Peter, James, and John, and is transfigured before them. The preface of the Transfiguration in the Roman Missal beautifully illustrates the significance of this mystery,

“...For after He had told the disciples of His coming Death, on the holy mountain He manifested to them His glory, to show, even by the testimony of the law and the prophets, that the Passion leads to the glory of the Resurrection…”

Prominent figures of the Old Covenant (Moses and Elijah) and the New Covenant (Peter, James, and John) are present in this mystery, foreshadowing a fulfillment of the former and an establishment of the latter in and through the person of Christ. But probably most prominent is the Father’s voice heard distinctly from the cloud above, telling the Apostles (and all reading this story) to listen to His beloved Son. In this command, we hear the echoes of the Virgin from John 2:5.

In both scenarios, Christ is revealed in His divinity, and we are called to listen to Him and obey Him.

And even when this obedience brings us to the most difficult of places, we can be encouraged by the glory of that reward that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard”(1 Corinthians 2:9). For indeed the trial of the Passion is always followed by the joy of the Resurrection.

The Fifth Luminous Mystery: The Institution of the Eucharist

Spiritual Fruit: Adoration

Jesus shares the Last Supper with His disciples, giving them His body and blood. In the Institution of the Eucharist, that symbolized in the Transfiguration is made real at this meal.

Christ offers Himself to the Father and to the disciples as the New Passover Lamb, which will fulfill all the sacrifices of old, and usher in the New Covenant. His Apostles seated at table with Him, will become the priests of this new covenant, having received from Christ the command to “do this in remembrance of Him” (Luke 22:19-20).

While our minds are brought to the mystery of this supper, we are also taken back to John 6, where Christ commands His disciples to eat His flesh and drink His blood, promising eternal life unto them that do (John 6:58). It was certainly a very radical call, and many of His disciples ceased to follow Him thereafter. Save, of course, the Twelve Apostles. And their response to this is one that very well sums up the life of faith, a life that trusts in God and in His Word. Peter replies,

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

And so in the narrative of the Institution, we come to heed Christ’s call to the Paschal banquet of His flesh and blood. The question remains for us, will we trust and obey, just as the Apostles did? Or will we, like the other disciples, also go away?


And so these are the events of Christ’s life put forth in the Luminous mysteries. We see in them the inevitable and unmistakable call to obedience. And that is because Christ Himself stands at the center of each mystery as our own model for the faith. For He Himself was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

Are we?


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