Ave Maria Meditations
Old Simeon, having blessed the young couple, turned to Mary and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, opened her eyes to the sufferings her Son would have to undergo and to the sword of sorrow that would pierce her soul. Pointing to Jesus, he said: Behold, this child is set for the ~ and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Commenting on this, St Bernard says: The time will come when Jesus will not be offered in the temple nor in the arms of Simeon, but outside the city walls on the arms of a cross. The time will come when he will not be ransomed with money but will himself redeem others, with his own blood, for God the Father has sent him as a ransom for his people. The suffering of his Mother, the sword that will pierce her soul, will have as their only cause the agony of her Son, his persecution and death, the uncertainty about when these things will happen, and the resistance to the grace of the Redemption, which will be the ruin of many. Mary’s destiny is bound up with that of Jesus, in its operation, and without any other possible reason.
The joy of the Redemption and the pain of the Cross are inseparable in the lives of Jesus and Mary, as if God, through his most beloved creatures in the world, wished to show us that happiness is to be found close to the Cross. Right from the start then, the lives of Our Lord and of his Mother are stamped with the sign of the Cross. To the joy of the first Christmas is soon added privation and anxiety. From these first moments Mary already knows the pain that awaits her. And when her hour comes she will contemplate the Passion and Death of her Son with neither reproach nor complaint: Suffering as no mother could ever suffer, Mary will accept her pain in peace of mind, for she knows its redemptive significance.
Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, endured with her only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her. Mary’s suffering has an especially suitable meaning and is related to the sins of mankind. It is a coredemptive suffering and that is why the Church gives to the Blessed Virgin the title of Co-redemptrix.
We ourselves learn the value and meaning of the sufferings and troubles which are part of every human life, when we meditate on Mary. With her we learn to sanctify pain, uniting it to that of her Son and offering it to the Father. The Holy Mass is the most suitable moment for offering all that is most painful in our lives. And there we will encounter Our Lady.
Our Lady teaches us to co-redeem, offering up pain and contradictions. Simeon, by the will of God, initiated Mary, from the beginning, into the profound mystery of the Redemption, and made plain to her that God had singled her out to playa special role in the Passion of her Son. Thus, a new element entered into the life of Mary through the prophecy of old Simeon, and it remained with her until she stood at the foot of the Cross of Jesus.
The apostles, despite the teachings and many indications of Our Lord, did not come to understand everything until after the Resurrection, namely that it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer much at the hands of the scribes and of the chief priests. Mary had a premonition from the beginning that great suffering was in store for her and that this suffering was in some way bound up with the redemption of the world. She who ‘kept all these things and pondered on them in her heart, must have often reflected on these mysterious words of Simeon. Through a process which we cannot fully understand, she identified her heart with that of her Son. Her redeeming pain is suggested as much in the prophecy of Simeon as in the account of Our Lord’s Passion. ‘This child,’ said the old man, indicating the infant in her arms, ‘is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, and a sword will pierce through your heart also .. .’ In fact, when your Jesus, who belongs to all of us but especially to you, gave up his spirit, the cruel lance did not reach his soul. If without sparing him it opened his side, since he was already dead it did not cause him pain. But your soul it did pierce. At that moment his soul was not there but yours was, and could not be totally separated from him.
God has wished to associate us with all Christians in his work of redemption in the world so that we may co-operate with him in the salvation of all. And we will all fulfill this mission by carrying out, with a right intention, even the least of our duties, offering them for the salvation of souls. Likewise, we will patiently and with peace of mind put up with pain, sickness and opposition, so as to do an effective apostolate with those around us. Ordinarily, God asks us to begin with the people who, through ties of family, friendship, work, study or locality, are closest to us. That is how Jesus and also his apostles set about this task.
Today, in a special way, we ask our Mother Mary to show us how to sanctify pain and contradiction, that we may know how to unite them to the Cross, that we may make frequent acts of atonement for the sins of the world, and that we may grow each day in the fruits of the Redemption.
0 Mother most holy and merciful, who stood by your sweet Son while he was raised on the altar of the Cross for the redemption of all mankind, you who as our co-redeemer joined your suffering to his … conserve and increase in us the fruits of the Redemption and of your compassion.
Fr. Francis Fernandez