“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” -Luke 2:33-35
As we sojourn together through the final days of Lent, Holy Week, and the current Coronavirus pandemic, we recognize now more than ever that suffering and sorrow are part of the human condition. However, when they are united to the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering and sorrow become part of the supernatural dimension. By virtue of our baptism, all of us are called to participate in the sufferings of Christ in ways that are uniquely our own. I think of this reality as I meditate upon Our Lady’s never-ending fiat.
Theologians tell us Mary’s assent at the Annunciation was also her assent to the tortures of Golgotha. She didn’t understand exactly how God would work it out, but she did understand the proposal at hand: she was to be the mother of the Messiah. Familiar with the teaching of the prophets, Mary also understood what this meant – He would be a suffering servant (Is. 53:3-12), and she, by virtue of her motherhood, would suffer with Him.
Her understanding was confirmed by Simeon when she and Joseph presented Jesus to the Father: “A sword will pierce your own heart,” she heard him say (Luke: 2:33-35). But could she imagine the sword? And how would she respond to it?
Luke gives us insight into Mary’s means of appropriating the sufferings of her Son’s life and, therefore, her life’s sufferings, too. He tells us that she pondered them in her heart. The mystic par excellence, her response was reflective and contemplative. It yielded an unquestioning surrender to the Father’s will each time that will was revealed to her. Thus, from the moment of the Annunciation, Mary actively conformed to the cross that would one day bear her Son.
Long before she stood at the foot of His cross on Calvary’s hill, she interiorly beheld its mystery and embraced it. Ultimately, she entered into it.
This movement of the interior was not unfamiliar to Mary. The Fathers of the Church remind us that Mary conceived Jesus in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb. Would we not then expect that she mystically bore the pain of His Passion and death before He lived it out in time?
Confronted with such a thing, what would a mother do, especially this mother?
Would she not imbue her Son’s sufferings with maternal beatitude? Would she not offer her suffering to the Father on His behalf? Not that she could lessen the pain or add to the eternal merit He was acquiring, but rather, to offer her presence as a consolation to the travail He would endure. Was not her every “yes” to the Father’s will laden with a sweet unction that would be released in her Son’s heart at the moment He needed it most?
Perhaps it was precisely this He experienced as she ministered to Him on His ascent to Golgotha. Beholding her, He beheld pure love. He recognized that Eternal Love from which all true love is generated. In her He saw embodied the self-donating love of the Trinitarian life.
Surely it was this He saw in her when they met on the way. Surely it was this He saw in her as she stood sentry beneath the tree upon which He hung. And surely it was this that breathed with Him as He breathed His last and commended Himself to the Father.
Ultimately, only heaven will give us the answers. But one thing is certain. Each of us, like Our Lady, is called to be present to the mystery. To behold it. To embrace it. To enter into it. To let it enter into us. This is the mission of Lent. It is the glory of Easter. It is the triumph of everlasting life. So be it. And so be you and me in the midst of all things including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Please know that in this difficult time, we stand with you soul-to-soul in a special way. You are invited to join us for a weekly live Women of Grace Warrior’s Rosary Crusade live each Wednesday at 4PM ET until this pandemic is behind us. With God’s grace, we will get through this together.
I faithfully remain…
Your sister in Christ,