The Joyful Mysteries: The Annunciation and Encountering Mystery

Annunciation - Detail from "The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary" by Netherlandish Painter (possibly Goswijn van der Weyden, active by 1491, died after 1538), ca. 1515–20, public domain via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary lead us up to and through the birth of Jesus Christ and his childhood. For that reason, they make for wonderful reflections during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. With that in mind, join me as we reflect on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, beginning with the First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation.

It’s not uncommon for contemporary people, when reading stories such as the Annunciation (the angel appearing to Mary, Luke 1:26–38), to comment along the lines of, “Well, I’d have a much easier time making decisions if an angel appeared to me and told me God’s plan!”

Ah, be careful what you wish for!

The truth is, whenever people in Scripture—including Mary—are confronted by an angel, they react with great fear. As a result, the first words out of the mouths of most angels are, “Do not fear!” So, why are people so afraid of angels? Angels represent encounters with the Divine, and the Divine is always clouded in mystery. And mystery is unnerving.

While the messages of the angels are direct, the “logic” of their messages is usually lacking. In other words, while the angel makes clear what God’s desire is, the recipients of those messages rarely find out the why or the how of God’s plan. It’s frightening to trust someone when we don’t have all the details or if the logic doesn’t quite add up.

The story of the Annunciation reminds us that, while we can indeed come to know God’s desires and plans for us, those desires and plans remain shrouded in mystery; the details are usually left for us to navigate. God points us in general directions—often through the help of angels—but we need to trust every step of the way, as Mary did, that the ensuing decisions we make are indeed leading us where God wants us to go.

During this Advent season, may each of us pause to reflect on the angels in our lives, who have helped us to discern God’s plan for us, and may we each pray for the strength, courage, and faith to trust that God is leading us to a place where our will aligns more closely with his.

And may we not fear the mystery of what is to come!

Image: Detail from “The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary” by Netherlandish Painter (possibly Goswijn van der Weyden, active by 1491, died after 1538), ca. 1515–20, public domain via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Deepen your understanding of the Rosary by reading The Rosary: A Path into Prayer by Elizabeth M. Kelly and The Complete Rosary: A Guide to Praying the Mysteries by William G. Storey.

About Joe Paprocki 2739 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

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