The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way to the Cross – Day of Grief
“The voice of my Beloved, knocking: Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled, for my head is full of dew, and my locks of the drops of the night” [Cant. 5:2].
After the sorrow we have considered in the preceding chapter, our Blessed Lord returned home with His Mother and was subject to her, as a child. There ensued from this hour a long period of comparative peace and tranquility to the Blessed Virgin. The holy house at Nazareth was like an outer court of Heaven, where Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived in humility and poverty. The Holy Ghost has not revealed the scenes that transpired in that happy home. There our Lord gave us the example of all heroic virtues, submitting to every hardship, and laboring with His own hands to aid St. Joseph and to support His Mother, yet no one could be near Him and not partake of His spirit, and hence from every word, and look, and feature, the holy Virgin daily drank in godlike lessons of wisdom and conformity with her Son. There can be no doubt that the approaching passion was often the subject of converse, and Mary was taught her part in the great drama of blood. The meaning of the law and the prophets became daily more manifest to her, and the ways of divine providence were illuminated. The hour of separation approached, and then, for the brief space of His ministry, she was to be alone, interceding with God, and waiting for the great hour when all should be consummated. But before the hour of loneliness, St. Joseph, the last of the patriarchs, on who she had so long leaned, was taken to his rest. The death of this great saint was like his life. He expired peacefully, with his head pillowed upon the bosom of Jesus, and with Mary kneeling at his side. As his life was the example of every virtue, so his departure was the pattern of a Christian death, which the Holy Ghost calls a sleep in Jesus. The voice of St. John the Baptist now sounded in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.” This was the knell which told of her separation, and in a few months the Son of God left His Mother to begin His ministry among the Jews. The Virgin was left alone. Yet with a mother’s anxiety she watched the daily report of His wonderful works. She heard of His words to the multitude, of His miracles, of His daily toil, when He had no place to lay His head, save in the wilderness, where His nights were spent in prayer. From His baptism in the Jordan, and His wonderful fast in the desert, she followed His course to the last and final rejection by her own nation. The Jews had often sought His life, but they had no power, for the hour was not come. But now the Mother knew that the hour was at hand, and she waited in fear and distress for the end. He went out in the evening to the garden of Gethsemane, and there the traitor found Him. One of the disciples ran from that scene to tell His Mother how a fearful agony and a sweat of blood had overwhelmed Him. In that weak state Judas found opportunity to betray Him with a kiss. The Mother heard how they threw Him on the ground and bound His hands, and fastening a heavy rope around His waist, dragged Him across the streets of Jerusalem to the palace of the high priest. She heard of the insults and tortures of that long night. The morning came at last, and she watched for the coming of the beloved disciple. He had stood by our Lord the whole night. He had followed Him to the court of Pilate. That unjust judge had pronounced Him innocent, and yet had exposed Him to all the fury of His enemies. St. John told the sorrowing Virgin of that awful and unheard-of scourging, which was far too much for any human tongue to describe. And then, to crown all, Pilate had given order for His crucifixion. The leaders of the people already had the sentence in their hands, and, in the midst of an insulting multitude, they were dragging Him to Mount Calvary. The Mother of sorrows saw now that her hour had come, and she nerved herself for her work. She would go out with St. John, she would see her Son, she would stand by His cross, she would stand by Him to the last. No sooner had they emerged from the house where she was lodging, than she heard the sound of the trumpet proclaiming Pilate’s sentence. From a distance came up the shouts of the mob, and the cry, “crucify Him, crucify Him,” rang in her ears. They hastened their footsteps until they came in sight of the procession. The mob came rushing by with violence, but Mary stood firm, unmindful of their imprecations, until she should see her Son. And O! what a sight for a mother to look upon. He had been almost deformed by the tortures of the night, the lashes of the scourge, and the insults of the multitude. His flesh was all torn off His back, and the blood was running down to His feet and moistening the pavement at every step He was walking to Calvary in His own blood. His head wore a crown of thorns, which were pressing down into the substance of His brain, and on His mangled shoulders He bore the two great heavy beams of His cross. Around His waist they had bound a thick rope, and the shouting rabble were dragging Him along. More than once He had fainted under the load, but His cruel tormentors had no mercy. Here His afflicted Mother met Him. She called Him by His precious name. They had not met for many months. He heard her voice and turned to look upon her, wiping the clotted blood from His eyes, that He might return her compassionate love. Her woe added a new pang to His already broken heart. She rushed to touch Him, to do something of a mother’s office to His bleeding wounds. But the soldiers rudely seized her, and threw her back upon the ground, and the crowd pressed on, and the mournful mother was forced to follow at a distance. With St. John she followed in the steps of her Son’s blood, adoring every moment the great price of redemption.
This dolor of our Blessed Lady is too great a depth for us to fathom. No one but Jesus then knew the immensity of her woe. She suffered in her own heart, she suffered in His heart. She felt all His wounds, and grief full and fervent filled every faculty of her soul. The past, present, and future were blended together. Never from her eyes could the image of sorrow fade away; never could she forget the look of love which He gave her when His eyes were weeping blood. This was her beautiful one, chief among ten thousand, and now He was deformed more than man, and His form than the sons of men. And so the Virgin’s tears were mingled with the blood of Jesus in this great day of expiation.
Here, then, is a place for the sinner to weep. Countless sins have opened all these wounds, and here the ungrateful soul may weep at its own work. There is a time when the fountain of tears should be unlocked, when deep sorrow may atone for deep ingratitude. When the wounds of Jesus are all open, it is time for the sinner’s wounds to be open too. Tears of contrition will fertilize the barren heart, and give new life to the dying soul. Let us weep today with our afflicted Mother. Grief for her sorrows and for our transgressions will be acceptable incense in the sight of Heaven.