Faith for the Journey of Life

My Thoughts on Faith, Life, and 2,000+ Years of Catholicism / Christianity

17 December 2006

Who's Who in the Rosary (Part Four - Moses & Elijah)

While the twenty Mysteries of the Holy Rosary celebrate the life of Jesus and depict events that occurred in the times of the New Testament, the Rosary has a strong foundation in the Old Testament. To the casual observer, the Old Testament foundation is not readily apparent. Jesus Christ - the Son of God made man, the Word made Flesh, Emmanuel - is the living fulfillment of God's promises made periodically throughout the Old Testament.

If we look deeper into the Mysteries of the Rosary, we can see the Old Testament antecedents from which they spring. For example, laying the groundwork for the Nativity when Christ is born into this world, Isaiah had previously prophesied that "the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14)."

Inspired by God's Holy Spirit, Isaiah prophesies at length about the promised Messiah. Most notably, Isaiah prophesies the Messiah's Passion in what is known as the four "Servant of the Lord" oracles. "But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed," says Isaiah (53:5). This words are fulfilled at Calvary.

The strongest and most obvious connection to the Old Testament found in the Holy Rosary occurs in the Fourth Luminous Mystery - "The Transfiguration." And it is in this Mystery that we find the only two Old Testament figures to appear in the Rosary: Moses and Elijah.

During the Fourth Luminous Mystery, Jesus takes St. Peter, St. John and St. James up a mountain to pray. In their midst, Jesus becomes Transfigured before them in a heavenly radiance far surpassing any human glory. Elijah and Moses appear to converse with Jesus. Amazed at the sight before him, St. Peter offers to build shelters for Jesus as well as Elijah and Moses. Then God speaks from heaven: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him (Luke 9:35)."

Moses and Elijah are two of the most important persons in the Old Testament and their presence at the Transfiguration is further proof that Jesus is the living fulfillment.

It was Moses that led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the 40 years in the desert under God's direction. Through Moses, God communicated His Ten Commandments and his directives on how the Israelites should live and worship Him. Just short of reaching the Promised Land, God calls Moses home to Him.

Elijah is one of the most important prophets in the Old Testament. He is a great miracle worker. He brings the widow's son back to life. He defeats Baal's prophets on Mount Carmel. He preaches God's word with great courage. Then God summons him to heaven on a fiery chariot.

Like the Jewish people of our own day, the Jews of Jesus's day expected Elijah to return preceding the appearance of the long-awaited Messiah and to play a major role in the establishment of God's kingdom. But as Jesus points out, "I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased (Matthew 17:12)." St. John the Baptist fulfills this role.

This extraordinary meeting between Jesus and Elijah and Moses dramatically proclaims that Jesus the Son of God is infinitely of greater importance than either of these great human servants of God. Elijah and Moses's service was vitally important as a preparation for the Christ's mission. Now God sends His own Son to guide all of His people. Now Jesus is going to lead all of God's people out of the wilderness of sin and into the Promised Land of God's kingdom. Now Jesus is going to suffer and die for our sins and be raised triumphantly three days later to destroy death.


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