Iucunda semper expectatione
Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the Rosary, 8 September 1894.
The recourse we have to Mary in prayer follows upon the office she continuously fills
by the side of the throne of God as Mediatrix of Divine grace; being by worthiness and by
merit most acceptable to Him, and, therefore, surpassing in power all the angels and
saints in Heaven. Now, this merciful office of hers, perhaps, appears in no other form of
prayer so manifestly as it does in the Rosary. For in the Rosary all the part that Mary
took as our co-Redemptress comes to us, as it were, set forth, and in such wise as though
the facts were even then taking place; and this with much profit to our piety, whether in
the contemplation of the succeeding sacred mysteries, or in the prayers which we speak and
repeat with the lips.
First come the Joyful Mysteries. The Eternal Son of God stoops to mankind, putting on
its nature; but with the assent of Mary, who conceives Him by the Holy Ghost. Then St.
John the Baptist, by a singular privilege, is sanctified in his mother's womb and favored
with special graces that he might prepare the way of the Lord; and this comes to pass by
the greeting of Mary who had been inspired to visit her cousin. At last the expected of
nations comes to light, Christ the Savior. The Virgin bears Him. And when the Shepherds
and the wise men, first-fruits of the Christian faith, come with longing to His cradle,
they find there the young Child, with Mary, His Mother. Then, that He might before men
offer Himself as a victim to His Heavenly Father, He desires to be taken to the Temple;
and by the hands of Mary He is there presented to the Lord. It is Mary who, in the
mysterious losing of her Son, seeks Him sorrowing, and finds Him again with joy. And the
same truth is told again in the sorrowful mysteries.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is in an agony; in the judgment-hall, where He
is scourged, crowned with thorns, condemned to death, not there do we find Mary. But she
knew beforehand all these agonies; she knew and saw them. When she professed herself the
handmaid of the Lord for the mother's office, and when, at the foot of the altar, she
offered up her whole self with her Child Jesus--then and thereafter she took her part in
the laborious expiation made by her Son for the sins of the world. It is certain,
therefore, that she suffered in the very depths of her soul with His most bitter
sufferings and with His torments. Moreover, it was before the eyes of Mary that was to be
finished the Divine Sacrifice for which she had borne and brought up the Victim. As we
contemplate Him in the last and most piteous of those Mysteries, there stood by the Cross
of Jesus His Mother, who, in a miracle of charity, so that she might receive us as her
sons, offered generously to Divine Justice her own Son, and died in her heart with Him,
stabbed with the sword of sorrow.
Thence the Rosary takes us on to the Glorious Mysteries, wherein likewise is revealed
the mediation of the great Virgin, still more abundant in fruitfulness. She rejoices in
heart over the glory of her Son triumphant over death, and follows Him with a mother's
love in His Ascension to His eternal kingdom; but, though worthy of Heaven, she abides a
while on earth, so that the infant Church may be directed and comforted by her "who
penetrated, beyond all belief, into the deep secrets of Divine wisdom" (St. Bernard).
Nevertheless, for the fulfillment of the task of human redemption there remains still the
coming of the Holy Ghost, promised by Christ. And behold, Mary is in the room, and there,
praying with the Apostles and entreating for them with sobs and tears, she hastens for the
Church the coming of the Spirit, the Comforter, the supreme gift of Christ, the treasure
that will never fail. And later, without measure and without end will she be able to plead
our cause, passing upon a day to the life immortal. Therefore we behold her taken up from
this valley of tears into the heavenly Jerusalem, amid choirs of Angels. And we honor her,
glorified above all the Saints, crowned with stars by her Divine Son and seated at His
side the sovereign Queen of the universe.
If in all this series of Mysteries, Venerable Brethren, are developed the counsels of
God in regard to us--"counsels of wisdom and of tenderness" (St. Bernard)--not
less apparent is the greatness of the benefits for which we are debtors to the Virgin
Mother. No man can meditate upon these without feeling a new awakening in his heart of
confidence that he will certainly obtain through Mary the fullness of the mercies of God.
And to this end vocal prayer chimes well with the Mysteries. First, as is meet and
right, comes the Lord's Prayer, addressed to Our Father in Heaven: and having, with the
elect petitions dictated by Our Divine Master, called upon the Father, from the throne of
His Majesty we turn our prayerful voices to Mary. Thus is confirmed that law of merciful
meditation of which We have spoken, and which St. Bernardine of Siena thus expresses:
"Every grace granted to man has three degrees in order; for by God it is communicated
to Christ, from Christ it passes to the Virgin, and from the Virgin it descends to
And we, by the very form of the Rosary, do linger longest, and, as it were, by
preference upon the last and lowest of these steps, repeating by decades the Angelic
Salutation, so that with greater confidence we may thence attain to the higher
degrees--that is, may rise, by means of Christ, to the Divine Father. For if thus we again
and again greet Mary, it is precisely that our failing and defective prayers may be
strengthened with the necessary confidence; as though we pledged her to pray for us, and
as it were in our name, to God.
Excerpted from Leo XIII's encylical letter on the Rosary, Iucunda semper expectatione,
8 September 1894.
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