First Joyful Mystery 

The Annunciation to Mary and that to Joseph

On this feast day, it is right and fitting to recall that Mary was herself conceived and indeed perfectly so. Of course, St Anne and St Joachim had begotten their daughter in a perfectly natural way, but blessed amongst women as she was, she was not harmed, body and soul, by original sin, the fault which affects all the descendants of Adam and Eve in their very coming to be.
In our human nature, the charity we show others and the help we can offer them work only within a limited range : even the saint does the harm which he knows he should not. And in ourselves the mind and heart are far from living together in harmony, as the saying goes.
This infirmity afflicts all of us, but is something from which Mary never suffered.
And hence the young maiden, recently pledged to the virtuous Joseph, though astonished by the news brought her by the Angel, was able to respond to it with perfect discretion and fearless serenity.
Moreover, the Angel’s first words were not “Be not afraid”, the opening with which each and every messenger from God knew he had to begin his mission.
Much more grandly, Gabriel began: Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art though amongst women…
An unforgettable dialogue, for ever fresh and novel after so many million repetitions, words we have from St Luke, who had them from Mary herself.
And when Mary, taken aback, asked herself what this greeting could mean, only then did the Angel continue:
Do not be afraid, Mary! You have found favour in the sight of God. For you shall conceive and bear a son. And you shall give him the name Jesus. He shall be great,
He shall be called Son of the Very Highest! The Lord God will give him the throne of David, his father. He will reign for ever over the House of Jacob, and his kingdom shall have no end. 

Then Mary said: How shall that come to be, for I know not any man?

The Angel replied: The Holy Spirit will come down on you and the power of the All Highest will overshadow you. That is why the child born of you will be Holy and will be called “Son of God”. And know this also, that your cousin Elizabeth, she also, in spite of her great age, has conceived a child. She who was said to be barren is now in her sixth month. With God, nothing is impossible.

Then Mary said : I am the Lord’s servant, let it be done to me as you say. And the Angel left her.

The annunciation made to Joseph was shorter and more direct, as Matthew tells us.
Mary was espoused to Joseph, but before they came together she was with child by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was an upright man and did not wish to draw attention to her but decided to send her away discreetly.

While he was pondering the matter, lo and behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, Son of David, do not fear to give your welcome to Mary, your spouse. For what is about to be born to her is the work of the Holy Spirit. She will bring forth a son and you shall name him Jesus. He it is who will save his people from their sins.”

It is because of this two-fold annunciation that we are able in our turn to say ‘Hail Mary…’.

Second Joyful Mystery

The Visitation

Soon afterwards, Mary set out for the hills and hastened to the land of Judea. On entering Zachary’s house she greeted Elizabeth.

And as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child she was carrying leapt in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said:
“Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to visit me ? As soon as your voice came to my ears with your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy !”
A moving expression of confidence, something felt each time two women, bearers of hope for the future, modestly share the unfathomable secrets of life.
“Blessed art thou for believing”, Elizabeth continues, “for thereby will what was told you in the Lord’s name be accomplished ».

… and blessed are we for having been told all this by a truthful doctor. St Luke did not fail to observe the details. Elizabeth was in her sixth month when the child leapt in her womb at the coming of our Lord, himself carried by Mary. What marvellous precocity in the Precursor, « filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb of his mother onwards », just as Gabriel had announced his coming in the Temple six months earlier to Zachary.
But if John the Baptist was six months old in the womb, what age was the human form of Jesus at that time ? Saint Luke tells us simply that shortly after the Annunciation, “in diebus illis (in those days)”, Mary hastened to Elizabeth “cum festinatione (at speed)”. As in that countryside journeys are never very long, even on an ass or even on foot, our Saviour must have been extremely young – a few days old, a week perhaps – when John the Baptist recognized him.
What a lesson for the pseudo-intellectuals of our times, those who claim no longer to know when a life starts.
If only they were to re-read the story of the Visitation they would soon acquire the understanding which Elizabeth had, or rather that of a prophet just six months in her womb ! And while Mary intones the Magnificat, along with all the generations of the world, in calling her blessed we repeat the salutation which celled forth all that: Ave Maria.


Third Joyful Mystery

The Nativity

At this time Caesar Augustus published an edict to take a census of the land. The census began when Quirinus was governor of Syria.
Everyone went to be registered, each one in his own town. Joseph, being of the house and lineage of David, set out from Nazareth in Galilee and went into Judea, towards Bethlehem, the town of David, to register, with Mary his betrothed, who was with child.
Now while they were at Bethlehem her condition came to term. She brought forth her first-born son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, for there was no room for them in the inn. There were shepherds in the fields round about, watching over their flocks by night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the Glory of God shone about them. They were stricken with great fear. And the Angel said to them: “Do not be afraid! I have to tell you of a great joy for all people. Today there is born to you a Saviour: Christ the Lord is born in the city of David. And this is how you shall recognize him: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”…
And forthwith a multitude of the Heavenly Host joined the Angel and they sang the praises of God…
”Glory to God in the highest! And peace on earth to men of good will!”…
The angels departed to heaven and the shepherds said one to another: “Let us go to Bethlehem and see what has come to pass and what the Lord has had us told”.
They went there in all haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Child lying in the manger. Having seen him they recounted what had been told them about the child, and those who heard it were astonished at the story told them by the shepherds. As for Mary, she stored up all these words and kept them in her heart.
The Gospel of Mary, reported by Saint Luke, induces us to observe that for those who are gentle and humble of heart it is an angel who comes specially to announce the birth of the child. And even, as an old Christmas air says, “an infinite number of angels appeared in the sky and sing their praises in divine concerts.”
But alas, when the powerful have to be convinced, it is much harder! Although duly warned by science and lucidly taught by the Faith, the political power alleges reasons of State for massacring children! Our own times have made us familiar with that, King Herod having merely shown the way. Though he had children of up to two years old killed to account merely for the newly born (or little ones still in their mothers’ womb, as they do nowadays), that was an error of judgement…
Thanks to calculations by Robert SINNOT it is known that on 17 June in the year 2 BC there was a very close conjunction between Venus and Jupiter, the two planets appearing so close together (0.04 degrees) that to the naked eye they formed only one beam of light, a single star.
Seen from the East, this conjunction, happening at the moment when the stars were setting, took place exactly over Palestine!
SINNOT described poetically, but quite exactly, the Babylonian priests climbing the Ziggurat at Sippar to observe this phenomenon, which they had been awaiting for a long time.
A year and a half in advance of the great Event, this is what the Magi had observed when they told Herod that they had seen in the East the conjunction of the heavenly symbols for Love and Royalty. 
Certainly the movements of planets are less spectacular than those of a star would be, of a kind that the painters portray for other kings. But even a planet can appear to move in one direction and then in another, and what is more to stop altogether: such slow motion that it takes an astronomer to get interested.
And so the star showed the WAY to the Magi, by its movement, and then stopped altogether. Great was their joy on finding the Mother and Child: and going inside, they offered Him myrrh, gold, and incense.
As Herod enquired meticulously of the Magi of the date of the phenomenon, we can understand why he thought it the right thing to do in ordering the putting to death of the newly born children of up to two years old. The cruelty would be hardly credible but for the 18 and a half months’ precession of the astronomical phenomenon on the TRUTH (incarnate).
But the Angel was especially watchful. Thanks to him the Magi returned home by another way. Thanks to him Joseph, warned in a dream to take the Child and his Mother away, fled by night into Egypt, just before the Massacre of the Innocents.
Remembering these first martyrs, and ever mindful of the 500 or so little ones killed by abortion every year in France, we recall the greeting addressed to her who brought us LIFE: Ave Maria… 


Fourth Joyful Mystery

The Presentation of Jesus in the temple

When the time came for the Purification, Jesus was taken to the Temple.
“At this time there lived at Jerusalem a man called Simeon. He was a virtuous, God-fearing man and he awaited the consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him. And the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before he had looked with his own eyes on the Lord’s Anointed.”
This man, then, led by the Holy Spirit, came to the Temple at the very moment when the Child’s parents were there with him to fulfil what the Law required.
Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying: Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: For mine eyes hath seen the salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: A Light to lighten the nations, the Glory of Thy people Israel.
The parents of Jesus were astonished at all that was being said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his Mother: « Behold, this child, just here, he will provoke the fall and the rise of many in Israel! He will be a sign of contradiction…. As for you, a sword will pierce your heart. All this will happen so that the thoughts of many may be revealed.” And there was a prophetess, Anne, the daughter of Phanuël, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years and, after her maidenhood, had lived seven years with her husband. And this widow, now 84 years old, never left the Temple precincts, intent day and night with the service of God, in fasting and prayer. Just at this moment she approached and began to glorify God, speaking of this Child to all who awaited the deliverance of Israel.
Without claiming to discover what neither Luke nor Matthew have stated, it seems quite possible that the group of astronomers come from the East arrived shortly after the Presentation.
And if, as Saint Luke says, the aged Anne, daughter of Phanuël, proclaimed the coming of the Child to all who wished to hear it, then the news would have spread rapidly throughout Jerusalem? And now look how the enquiry by the Magi about the King of the Jews came along with that. Herod and all the town were greatly troubled, with the astrological theory confirming altogether a rumour which was very alarming for the political establishment.
The experts were gathered to say where the Child-King was to be born, he who is the “Bread of Life” (though at the time nobody could have guessed). Even so, with their nose still in the Book, the massoretic scholars asserted that the place in question was the “House of Bread”, in Hebrew ‘Beth-lehem’. Michias had prophesied and Matthew quotes him: “For though Bethlehem of Juda art not the least of of the cities of Juda, for of you shall come the chief, he who will reign over my people Israel; and even in the original text Micheas insisted that “He who will govern my people Israel (is) he whose origin goes back to the most ancient of days, to the days of Eternity”.
The days of Eternity… that is how far back the Word goes, He who took flesh and became incarnate in Mary, just following the annunciation which we invoke: Hail, Mary…


Fifth Joyful Mystery

The Finding in the Temple

The fifth joyful mystery, about the Holy Child with the doctors of law, gives us a picture, so unusual in its intimacy, of the Holy Child’s psychological development, already well grown (at what is for us, shall we say, the age for first communion and confirmation), and so telling a glimpse of Mary’s tenderness and Joseph’s solicitude, that there is really no point in a scientist’s venturing to comment on St Luke’s text, where everything is said in so few words. The parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem, each year, for the Feast of the Passover.
When Jesus was 12 years old they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom, and when the Feast was over they returned, without noticing that Jesus had remained at Jerusalem. Thinking that he was somewhere in the caravan, they journeyed for a day, looking for him among their relations and friends.
Not finding him, they turned back to look for him in Jerusalem. It took them three days to find him at last in the Temple, sitting among the doctors of law, listening and asking questions. All those who heard him were astonished at his intelligence and at his replies to questions.
His parents were beside themselves with surprise.
His mother said, “My son, why did you do this to us? See how upset your father and I have become, looking for you!”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Do you not know that my place is at my Father’s side?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. But then he followed them, went back with them to Nazareth and there was obedient to them. And his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
And it is in recollection of these happy days, when Jesus was growing in years, in grace, and in wisdom before God and men, a blessed time during which we keep in mind the very heart of Mary and the greeting coming back to our lips announcing Salvation. Hail, Mary.