We continue our Patristic Rosary Project today with the:
3rd Luminous Mystery: Proclamation of the Kingdom
There are many moments in the Gospels we could use to illustrate this Mystery so we must make a choice.
Consider what the Lord says in Mark 1:15, after John has been arrested when Christ is in Galilee: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." In a sense, many of the things Christ says after this extend and exemplify the "good news", the "proclamation of the Kingdom".
Since I am dealing these days with many apples, their eating and general enjoyment, my mind is drawn to something that St. Jerome (+420) wrote:
The sweetness of the apple makes up for the bitterness of the root. The hope of gain makes pleasant the perils of the sea. The expectation of health mitigates the nauseousness of medicine. One who desires the kernel breaks the nut. So one who desires the joy of a holy conscience swallows down the bitterness of penance. [Commentary on the Gospels]
These are not the Glorious Mysteries. Christ is preaching Good News which, at this point, is the Kingdom is at hand. He will say to skeptics and onlookers in different times and ways that if the blind see and lame walk and miracles are being worked by Him, then the Kingdom of God is upon them. In a way, His own sacred Person is the Kingdom of God in small. Entrance into the Kingdom of God and into Christ requires the bitter before the sweet, suffering before joy, penance before peace. The Cross precedes the glory. But is it not true that even in the anticipation, the preparation, the purification and perseverance the glory is already present? Didn’t Christ wear a crown already while on the Cross? This Mystery reminds us that the Kingdom, although already (but not yet) at hand, requires us to repent as contituent element of the enjoyment of the Good News. What a gift we have in the sacrament of penance.
To that end, one of the most amazing and conforting dimensions of Christ’s proclamation of the Kingdom, the announcement that we are slaves to sin no more and, instead, we are to be adopted children of the Father, is the gift of the sacraments and, in particular, the sacrament of penance, wherein repentence and the Good News of forgiveness converge.
When Christ healed the paralytic in Mark 2, He forgave his sins. St. Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan (+397) offers this:
In their ministry of the forgiveness of sin, pastors do not exercise the right of some independent power. For not in their own name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit do they they forgive sins. They ask, the Godhead forgives. The service is enabled by men, but the gift comes from the Power on high. [The Holy Spirit 3.18.137]
And were there ever greater words about the Kingdom spoken than those Christ uttered before His Ascension? He breathed on the Apostles and gave them His own power to forgive His in His stead. So, the priest, acting in the person of Christ, forgives sins. St. Augustine (+430) explains something important:
He exhibits Himself as occupying a middle position when He says, He me, and I you. "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost." By breathing on them He signified that the Holy Spirit was the Spirit, not of the Father alone, but likewise His own. "Who soever sins," He continues, "ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever ye retain, they are retained." The Church’s love, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, discharges the sins of all who are partakers with itself, but retains the sins of those who have no participation therein. Therefore it is, that after saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," He straightway added this regarding the remission and retention of sins." [tr. Io. eu.]
Christ is truly the "middle position", the one Mediator between God and man. The priest, so closely associated with Christ by the power the Holy Orders, is another middle man with Christ’s own power to forgive sins. The sinner must be with the Church to be forigven. So must also the priest. So important is this sacrament that the priest himself must have more than just the sacrament, the "power" to forgive, he must also have the mandate from the Church. This is all according to the will of God, who desired that the gates of heaven be opened, the bonds of sins broken and the Good News be proclaimed by a Mediator. And the words "I absolve you from your sins" are Good News.
The key to forgiveness, on the part of God and the priest and the penitent, is love. Love must be part of the mix, not just fear (though fear really helps!). About the woman "who loved much" and obtained from Christ forgiveness of her sins in Luke 7, we hear from Ambrose:
A kiss is a mark of love…. He truly kisses Christ’s feet who, in reading the Gospel, recognizes the acts of the Lord Jesus and admires them with holy affection. With a reverent kiss, he caresses the footprints of the Lord as He walks. We kiss Christ, therefore, in the kiss of Communion: "Let him who reads understand." (Mt 24:15) The Church does not cease to kiss Christ’s feet and demands not one but many kisses in the Song of Songs. (1.2) Since like blessed Mary she listens to His every saying, she receives His every Word when the Gospel or the Prophets are read, and she keeps all these words in her heart. (Luke 2:51). The Church alone has kisses, like a bride. A kiss is a pledge of nuptials and the privilege of wedlock. [ep. 62]
Christ walked all over as He proclaimed the Good News. His feet could be a matter of reflection for us. St. Alphonsus de Liguori says in his Stations of the Cross, "Nail my heart to Thy feet." A baroque flourish, perhaps, but it is another way of kissing, like the penitent Mary Magdalene, the feet of the Lord as she weeps over them on account of her sins and her confidence in His mercy. Christ dirtied His own feet in proclaiming and washed the feet of the Apostles who walked with Him. His feet are beautiful: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’" (Isaiah 52:7)
Each bead of the Rosary can be like a footstep along the path leading to our salvation and the blessed relief of the souls in Purgatory.