From Ave Maria Meditations
ECCE MATER TUA
THE THIRD WORD FROM THE CROSS
The third message of Our Lord from the Cross contained exactly the same word that was used in addressing His mother at the marriage feast of Cana. When she, for the sake of the embarrassed host, made the simple prayer that the guests had no wine, He answered: “Woman, what is that to Me when My Hour is not yet come?” Our Lord always used the word “Hour” in relation to His Passion and His death.
In our own language, Our Lord was saying to His Blessed Mother at Cana: “My dear mother, do you realize that you are asking Me to proclaim My Divinity-to appear before the world as the Son of God, and to prove My Divinity by My works and My miracles? The moment that I do this, I begin the royal road to the Cross. When I am no longer known among men as the son of the carpenter, but as the Son of God, that will be My first step toward Calvary. My Hour is not yet come; but would you have Me anticipate it? Is it your will that I go to the Cross? If I do, your relationship to Me changes.
You are now My mother. You are known everywhere in our little village as the mother of Jesus. But if I appear now as the Savior of men, and begin the work of Redemption, your role will change too. Once I un?dertake the salvation of mankind, you will not only be My mother, but you will also be the mother of everyone whom I redeem. I am the Head of humanity; as soon as I save the body of humanity, you who are the mother of the Head will become also the mother of My Mysti?cal Body or the Church. You will then be the universal mother, the new Eve, as I am the new Adam.
“To indicate the role that you will play in Redemption, I now be?stow upon you that title of universal motherhood; I call you “Woman”. It was to you that I referred when I said to Satan that I would put enmity between him and “the woman”, between his brood of evil and your seed, Which I am. That great title of woman I dignify you with now. And I shall dignify you with it again when My Hour comes and when I am unfurled upon the Cross like a wounded eagle. ‘We are in this work of Redemption together. What is yours is mine; from this Hour on, we are not just Mary and Jesus, we are the new Adam and the new Eve, beginning a new humanity, changing the water of sin into the wine of life. Knowing all this, My dear mother, is it your will that I anticipate the Cross and that I go to Calvary?”
Our Blessed Lord was presenting to Mary not merely the choice of asking for a miracle or not rather He was asking if she would send Him to His death. He had made it quite plain that the world would not tolerate His Divinity, that if He turned water into wine, some day wine would be changed into blood.
Three years had passed. Our Blessed Lord now looked down from His Cross to the two most beloved creatures that He had on earth? John and His Blessed Mother. He picked up the refrain of Cana, and addressed Our Blessed Mother with the same title He gave Her at the marriage feast. He called her, “Woman.” It was the second Annuncia?tion.
With a gesture of His dustfilled eyes and His thorn crowned head, He looked longingly at Her, who had sent Him willingly to the Cross and who is now standing beneath it as a cooperator in His Re?demption; and He said: “Woman, this is thy son.” He did not can him John; to do that would have been to address him as the son of Zebedee and no one else. But, in his anonymity, John stood for all mankind. To His beloved disciple He said: “This is thy mother.”
Here is the answer, after all these years, to the mysterious words in the Gospel of the Incarnation which stated that Our Blessed Mother laid her “firstborn” in the manger. Did that mean that Our Blessed Mother was to have other children? It certainly did, but not according to the flesh. Our Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was the unique Son of Our Blessed Mother by the flesh. But Our Lady was to have other children, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.
There were two great periods in the relations of Jesus and Mary, the first extending from the Crib to Cana, and the second, from Cana to the Cross. In the first, she was the mother of Jesus; in the second, she began to be the mother of all whom Jesus redeemed-in other words, she became the mother of men. From Bethlehem to Cana, Mary had Jesus, as a mother has a son; she even called Him familiarly “Son,” at the age of twelve, as if that were her usual mode of address. He was with her during those thirty years, fleeing in her arms to Egypt, living at Nazareth, and being subject to her. He was hers, and she was His and even at the very moment when they walked into the wedding feast, her name was mentioned first: “Mary, the mother of Jesus, there.”
But from Cana on, there is a growing detachment, which helped to bring on herself. A year after Cana, as a devoted mother she followed, Him in His preaching. It was announced to Our Lord that His mother was seeking Him. Our Lord with seeming unconcern, turned to the crowd and asked: Who is my mother? (Mt 12:18)
Then revealing the great Christian mystery that relationship is not de?pendent on flesh and blood, but on union with Divine nature through grace, He added:
Here are my mother and my brothers. ” Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, my sister, my mother”. (Mt12:50)
The mystery came to an end on Calvary. There she became our mother the moment she lost her Divine Son. What seemed an alienation of affection was in reality a deepening of affection. No love ever mounts to a higher level without death to a lower one. Mary died to the love of Jesus at Cana, and recovered Jesus again at Calvary with His Mystical Body which He redeemed. It was, for the moment, a poor exchange, giving up her Divine Son to win mankind, but in reality, she did not win mankind apart from Him. On that day when she came to Him preaching, He began to merge the Divine maternity into the new motherhood of? all men; at Calvary He caused her to love men as He loved them.
It was a new love, or perhaps the same love expanded over the wider area of humanity. But it was not without its sorrow. It cost Mary something to have men as sons. She could give birth to Jesus in joy in a stable, but she could give birth to Christians only on Calvary, and in labors great enough to make Her Queen of Martyrs. The Fiat she pronounced when she became the Mother of God now became another Fiat, like unto Creation in the immensity of what she brought forth.
It was also a Fiat which so enlarged her affections as to increase her pains. The bitterness of Eve’s curse-that woman would bring forth children in sorrow was now fulfilled, and not by the opening of a womb but by the piercing of a heart, as Simeon had fore?told. It was the greatest of all honors to be the mother of Christ; but it was also a great honor to be the mother of Christians. There was no room in the inn for that first birth; but Mary had the whole world for her second. Recall that when Our Lord spoke to John, He did not refer to him as John for then he would have been only the son of Zebedee. Rather, in him all humanity was commended to Mary, who became the mother of men, not by metaphor, or figure of speech, but by pangs of birth. Nor was it a mere sentimental solicitude that made Our Lord give John to His mother, for John’s mother was present at the Cross. He needed no mother from a human point of view. The import of the words were spiritual and became fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Christ’s Mystical Body became visible and operative, Mary as the mother of redeemed and regenerated humanity was in the midst of the Apostles.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
The Fourth Sorrow: On The Way to Calvary, Mary Meets Jesus
MY DEAR LORD approaches slowly; not through the brambles and the briers to find me hurt and helpless, to heal and cleanse me, to take me lovingly in His arms and carry me back to the fold.
Not stealing quietly into my room to listen to my prayers. Nor along the altar rail, the King of Glory, white and resplendent, restoring hopes as He passes, filling sad hearts with sweetness, giving Himself in a fore?taste of heaven. No, He comes now, stooped and staggering beneath a cross, along the road to Calvary.
And Mary, His mother, with a little band of saints around her, waits on a knoll beside the way, patient and mute and still. She is in black – black that looks warm and kind against her somber cheeks, against her bloodless hands.
Awhile ago I saw my God in Pilate’s hall, stand?ing erect and kingly, in the purple robe by which men mocked His kingship, with the reed they gave Him for a scepter, with the crown of thorns set deliber?ately askew in ribald malice.
Awhile ago, as Pilate washed his hands, I saw men snatch the reed and lash my Lord across His pitying eyes. I saw them spit upon Him. I saw them take the purple rag from Him. It caught on the thorns, points sharper than the fangs of adders. A soldier yanked the circlet off His head, not caring how it raked and tore, not caring what bits of flesh and hair came with it.
I saw His back – an altar cloth, blackened and scorched and striped by fire, hacked by impious hands into a snarl of lace and ribbons, and smeared with a sticky wine, a holy red wine seeping from a broken chalice.
I saw them put His own clothes on Him, jam?ming the crown once more down hard to gouge His sacred flesh. I saw them kick Him, smash Him with their fists, pummel His whip-torn back, pelt Him with clubs and stones and filth and offal, and hustle Him, in drunken exultation, to the waiting cross.
And I saw Him, though not clearly, outside the Praetorium, in the midst of a noisy rabble.
“I am the reed that struck You,” I cried, “the bruised reed You did not break. I am the beloved who sold You. I am the judge who found You innocent ?and condemned You.”
The dust hid Him from me. My mouth was filled with it, and my nostrils. And I smelled the sweet new wood of the cross, and the sweat of mules and men. And my ears were filled with blasphemies and curses.
“I have done this,” I murmured, “and I shall do more. I shall strip You naked, Jesus. I shall drive great nails of iron through You. Through Your quiver?ing, shuddering flesh I shall beat spikes. I shall ham?mer and bludgeon and pinion You to that cross that weighs You down; fasten You hand and foot securely. And as Your fingers curl and writhe and dance with pain; as Your shocked blood scurries from the nails, and then returns, in panic, to the open wounds; as spasms of agony ripple through Your body, then I shall mock You, Jesus!
“0 God, my Savior, for my sins, I pray You, turn me back into the dust from which Your Father made me. Strew me in this road before You. Let me be deep and cool and soft, to ease Your burned and blistered soles. Let me be mingled with the common dust, and be unknown, forgotten, lost. Lost in the dust beneath Your sacred feet!
”Yet, for the love I bear You, let me kiss the feet that spurn me. Let me absorb and hold the precious blood that drips upon me. And, in Your own time, lift me on the wings of all the winds and scatter me throughout the world that I may bring the power and the glory and the fire and the love of You to all my fellow sinners!”
“Dust crying unto dust,” a soft voice whispered.
“But He has heard you, Blindman.” St. Francis de Sales looked down upon me. “Aye, dust you are, and dust will be again. And you do absorb the precious blood each morning at Communion. Not only His blood, but His whole Body, His Soul, and His Divinity!
“Oh dust that wraps God in yourself, you will be lifted up on wings and spilled across the earth, in His good time. But on the wings of words, which are mightier than the wings of any winds that blow, which carry farther, and which cannot die.”
“Patron of writers,” I begged him, “give me an alms of tears, and lead me whither I may see Him best.”
”You must be close to Mary, if you would see Him best,” the saint replied. And now I stand with Mary, outside the Genath Gate, and Jesus is coming toward us. St. John, a tall gaunt stripling, sobs aloud; but Our Lady keeps her silence.
She must be fifty now, or near it. Yet never was a woman of her age so lovely. Why are her cheeks still soft and young and fresh, her mouth still beautiful and tender? Why have her sorrows left no lasting mark upon her face? Is it because she lived so long, so intimately with Jesus, the essence and the source of beauty? Is it because her wounds are far too deep to show their scars?
She must have known great anguish when she lost St. Joseph – and when she said goodbye to Jesus, that day He started on His Father’s business. She must have borne long heavy crushing days without Him. She must, at times, have journeyed far in the hope of gazing at Him – and not found Him. Yet, she seems but little older than when I saw her at the Presentation.
Straight she stands, resigned and patient. But a vein throbs madly in her temple, a signal whipping in a gale of sorrow, flashing a code not hard to read. Her bosom falls’ and rises with the tides of her emo?tions. And her hands, her dead-white screaming hands, the way she holds them, the way her knuckles stare at me – like wee white ghosts that whimper-?her hands reveal more woe than even her pain ?steeped eyes. There is such hurt in her that all the world is wounded.
And desperation pounds its fists in all my veins, desperation at my helplessness to aid her – and the sense of guilt that fills me.
“It is the will of God she suffer,” says St. Francis. “And her will too. By suffering is the world redeemed. And you would dull her anguish with the anaesthesia of tears?”
“If I could, St. Francis.”
“Tell me, when you saw the Savior, flogged and mocked and ridiculed and beaten – disfigured and distorted as He was – did you not thrill to see Him? Did you not feel a heavenly wonder seeping through you? Did you not see Infinite Grandeur, Infinite Rapture,Infinite Love? Did you not see Jesus?
“Thus will His mother see Him. With joy as well as sorrow. And who shall say which steel shall strike more keenly – the sword of sorrow or the rapier of joy?”
“The sword of love will cut most deeply,” says St. Thomas of Aquinas. “Christ is her life, yet she wills that He must suf?fer, that He must die. For unless He suffer, and unless He die, how can we, her much loved children, live?
“Was ever woman placed in such a situation, that she must pray, that she must hope to see the death of Him she loves with all her heart – and must rejoice when He is dead – because of her love for those who slay Him?”
“Ah, she should hate us!”
“She cannot hate, since hate is sin, and she immaculate. She loves us. No human heart can hold such depths of love, save that shaped in her womb.”
“Her love for Jesus and for us,” exclaims St. John Chrysostom. “A two edged-sword! And ah how cruelly sharp its edges. But yet she welcomes it.
“In her own way, she too will suffer crucifixion for us. Behold our Coredemptress!”
“How wonderful we are,” cries St. Augustine, “that God must die for us, and Mary suffer!
“Oh lavish, wastrel, infinite love of Jesus! It is not enough to give us all He has. He must add His mother’s love to His. “0 Virgin-Mother, made immaculate by God, wooed by God, and filled with God, how wonderful we are – and how unworthy!”
Dust blazes now upon the road before us, and light gleams in its yellow swirling – the sun rays shattered and scattered by the Roman. spears. And clamor grows, and furious confusion.
“He comes,” Our Lady says. Her voice is low and soft, stirring the heart in my constricted bosom. The throbbing in her temples stills. Her hands are hidden. Her eyes are veiled by their long lashes. The tides in her have ebbed, and left her breathless.
The dust is nearer.
And now a man breaks through it, a soldier on a restless horse, the centurion, Longinus. He comes as from a fog. And men on mules come after him, and a soldier bearing an inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” then squads of soldiers, and a host of shouting, cursing, snarling, spitting, lusting men.
And there is Jesus, bent almost double by the heavy beams. The crown of thorns, dull green and ugly brown, is plaited tight about His shining head, gashing it in a hundred places. His face is wet with tiny rills of blood, with perspiration, with the spittle of the mob, and with the divine love of sinners that wells from His half-blinded eyes. Feebly he walks, despite the urging of the mob, who scarce can wait to see Him die.
He falls. Abruptly. He pitches forward, striking His head against the wood, driving the lances of the thorns deep into His skull, tearing His hands and feet on the jagged stones in the way and on the hard splinters of the cross. And resin, oozing from the sun? scorched timber, drips like molten acid to smirch and sear Him.
A moment He lies there in the dust and grit, steam rising from His wet red back. They jerk His head up by the chin. They dig hard fingers into the hollows of His shoulders, and pull Him upward. They prod Him with the tips of spears, and smack His soles with the flat of swords.
The cross is on His shoulder once again, biting into it, crushing it, grinding it with every step He takes, churning it crimson raw. Again He stumbles onward toward us, His face streaked now with dust as well as tears and sweat and slime and blood – but still the King of Kings.
And now He sees His mother!
“0 saints so rich in words,” I plead, “preach to me of this look that burns in the eyes of Son and mother; this look of lightning that destroys Them both yet does not kill Them; tell me of the love that both consumes and strengthens them, the love They sacrifice for us.”
But the saints are silent, more eloquent thus than ever they were in script or sermon.
Mary wavers with the shock. And Jesus falters. That He should see her thus, so dear, so beauti?ful, so wracked with grief and pity, so docile and resigned! That she should see Him so!
(The Fourth Station)
Fr. Eddie Doherty: Splendor of Sorrow
The Last Words of the Man of Sorrows
The Martyred Mother of Mankind
Jesus, Man of Sorrows, You are not alone in offering Your sacrifice. To follow You to Calvary is the most certain proof of love. That is the reason why Mary, Your Mother, stands beneath Your Cross, nailed in spirit, a co-victim with You. No one ever loved You as did Your blessed Mother, therefore no one ever suffered for You like her. The day has come on which Simeon’s prophecy is to be fulfilled in her, “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Luke 2:35). As You see Your own Mother of Sorrows there, You say simply, “Woman, behold thy son.”
Jesus, Your Mother understands what You mean. She is pleased to know that Your farewell expresses a request most dear to Your Heart, that she should be the Mother of those for whom You are shedding Your Blood. Her present sorrows are the pains of childbirth by which she becomes the martyred Mother of Mankind, as in Bethlehem she became Your Mother, for You are her First-born. Jesus, I am Your parting gift of love to Your Mother.
His Deathbed Gift of Love
Jesus, Man of Sorrows, You well know that I and all Your spiritual brothers and sisters crave a mother’s love and ten?der protection. Having already given me Your Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and Your life on the Cross, You would still give me a final gift – Your deathbed gift of love – Your Mother, to be my very own. Therefore, in the person of St. John You speak to Your Church … and to me, “Behold thy Mother.” You gave the peni?tent thief paradise; now You give me, and all mankind, a claim on, and the assurance of paradise in giving me Your Mother to be my own. She is the dearest and loveli?est of mothers – the ideal Mother ?whom You have created for Yourself ac?cording to Your own Divine desires, created in every way immensely superior to all other mothers: the outstanding blessed one among women.
Jesus, what a privilege! It is to me that You bequeath Your own Mother at Your death. You reserve this gift of Your Mother for the very end, that both she and I may prize and cherish it all the more, since it is Your deathbed gift of love to me. It is a gift from my God whose good?ness knows no bounds and whose generosity is without measure and without end. I thank You, dear Lord, for so good and amiable a Mother. May I love her as much as she deserves to be loved, more according to the way You love her. May I, like St. John, take her to be my very Mother, that in life she may make me Your very own, and in heaven God’s very own for all eternity
Fr. Lawrence Lovasik