Over the course of the week before Lent started, I began to think about the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and how they pertain to Lent. It certainly isn’t the usual association, since the Joyful Mysteries, which include the Nativity, is associated with Advent and Christmas for obvious reasons, while the Sorrowful Mysteries all take place from Holy Thursday through Good Friday. Still, it strikes me as an interesting reflection. Part of what spurred the thinking was an Ash Wednesday homily from a couple of years ago in which the priest commented that the fact that on Ash Wednesday, which is not a day of obligation, masses are more crowded than on some holy days of obligation reflects our understanding that something is not right in our relationship with God, and we look for ways to fix it and to be closer to Him.
The Joyful Mysteries can be thought of as searching for God. With the Annunciation, Mary gave her consent to bring the Messiah into the world–the Messiah for whom the entire world was waiting. At the Visitation, Mary sought out her cousin Elizabeth, who, under the influence of God’s grace, recognized Mary to be the Mother of the Savior–again, Elizabeth was seeking, and found, God. Of course, with the Nativity we have Jesus’ birth, and the whole Gospel narrative of the shepherds, Magi, and yes, even Herod, seeking Jesus. In the Presentation, Joseph and Mary sought to fulfill God’s command, while Simeon and Anna got to see the Savior for whom they had waited. Finally, with the Finding in the Temple, we see Mary and Joseph (in some ways standing in for all of us), looking for Jesus and finding Him in His Father’s house.
In parallel fashion, Lent is about searching for God via the road of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Mary was conceived without sin, and was therefore fit to be the Mother of God; likewise, through our Lenten discipline we aim to strengthen ourselves against temptation and therefore be fit to be with our Savior in Heaven. Elizabeth was open to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit and was able to recognize Mary as the Mother of God; in a similar way, through Lent we seek to get rid of the things that crowd out the Holy Spirit so that we can recognize, and respond to God’s grace. Instead of seeking Jesus in a stable, in Lent we look for him on the road to Calvary and the Cross. God calls us to repent and do penance as part of fulfilling his commands, with Lent being a particularly focused time for this discipline so that we can see the Savior and go in peace (as did Simeon and Anna). Finally, we know that Jesus is present in the tabernacle, and the Lenten call to increased prayer is another way to find Him in His Father’s House.
It may not be the standard line of thinking, and, admittedly, the Presentation is a bit of a stretch, but I at least find it a useful meditation.