Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The “good news” comes with a large dose of suffering

Praying the mysteries of the Rosary means that each week, after meditating on joy, glory, and light, we wake up to sorrow. Just another day but suddenly there is the agony, scourging, and death. Gone is the warm glow of the nativity, the presentation in the temple, the coronation of the Virgin.

Instead, like Job waking up one morning to his life falling apart, sorrow comes on suddenly, just as it so often does in our daily lives. Few sudden slides from joy to sorrow are easy to understand. There’s often no ready explanation, or none that “make sense.”  A bad diagnosis, an accident, a miscarriage—these things come out of the blue. And they are an inevitable part of life.

Madonna del Rosario, Ambrogio Oliva, 1580.
That’s why the prosperity gospels, propounding the belief that we are destined for only happiness in this life if God loves us, if we do the right things, if we truly believe, are so wrong.

The mysteries of the Rosary remind us of that each week. That joy turns to sorrow, and sorrow turns to glory, and we don’t always understand why, and we didn’t necessarily do anything to deserve it. We don’t have the sorrowful mysteries coming just because we meditated on joy the day before, and we don’t deserve endless days of glory, joy, and light (this side of heaven) either.

As a culture, we prefer to turn that frown upside down, to take those lemons and make lemonade: to run far and fast from suffering. We would rather focus on what is easy and uplifting. But there’s a lot to be said for a horrible day coinciding with the sorrowful mysteries—remembering that Jesus is intimately acquainted with sorrow, as is his Mother.

The very Queen of Heaven had her soul pierced seven times. If this is the path God’s most perfect creature walked, who are we—in our struggling piety and less-than-perfect devotion—to escape suffering? To skip out on the cross and experience only unbridled joy?

The mysteries of the Rosary consist of more than just the “good news”—they mirror the reality of our earthly lives, which are a jumble of jubilation, frustration, and suffering. When the Virgin Mary gave us the Rosary, she never promised temporal material gain to those who pray it. Rather, she offered devout souls the blessing of her protection, great graces, and eternal life—each of which is of far greater value than “health and wealth” in this world. The choice is ours: escape the cross or meditate upon it as Our Lady’s beloved children.

Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross. —St. John of the Cross

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