The darkness and silence make me uneasy. I can hear Jesus’ slow and shallow breathing. I wish I could breathe for him, but that would only prolong his anguish. The ground beneath the cross is soaked with the blood of the Sacrificial Lamb. That bloof should be mine, not his. How can he love me this much? ~Ecce Matrr Tua – Behold, Your Mother: Marian Stations of the Cross, Twelfth Station
As we move into Holy Week, those lines from Ecce Mater Tua are swirling about my head and encircling my heart. They bring back to me the hours before my dad finally passed away. I say finally, not because we were anxious to get rid of him – it was far, far from that – but because he struggled for air while the blood clots and congestion filled his lungs. I wished I could breathe for him, but I knew that would only prolong his anguish.
And so, this Holy Week I’ll be thinking of Mary as she accompanies her Son during his final hours, likely wishing she could suffer for him yet knowing she should not. She must not. I understand that feeling, at least to some degree. For me, it was a middle-aged man in a hospital room surrounded by medical staff. For her, it will be a young man hanging on a cross surrounded by soldiers and criminals. Jesus’ body will be covered with gouges, welts, and gashes. He’ll be held to the cross by nails pounded through his hands and feet. People will mock and insult him as he cries out to his Father and wonders why it feels as though he has abandoned him.
When the father of a family dies, the entire family is shaken. When the Savior of the world dies, the entire universe is shaken.
The universe will be shaken this coming week, and Mary will be at the center of it all,, enduring every minute of agony for our sakes. She knows that preventing the Passion and Crucifixion of her Son will prevent the salvation of you, me, and all of mankind. She’ll follow along this week, her heart torn apart and yet her faith intact.
We have much to learn from Mary, and she will educate us if we let her. This Holy Week, I’m challenging myself and now I’m challenging you to walk along with Mary through the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus experienced his agony and was arrested, past the prison in which he was jailed, to Pilate’s court where he was unjustly tried, to the pillar at which his flesh was ravaged, up the hill over which he hauled the heavy beam of the Cross, and to Golgotha, where he was brutally murdered. Through all of that, Mary never let her faith waver.
Mary won’t be much mentioned during this week’s readings, but she’ll be there nonetheless. She’ll be present for her Son, but she’ll be there for us, too. As it dawns on us that our sins are responsible for Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion, and as we grapple with the consequences of our human weakness, Mary will be right beside us. She’ll assure us that, no matter who we’ve been or what we’ve done, she and her Son forgive us completely and love us unconditionally.
When we accompany Mary through this week, she’ll show us how to remain steadfast in our faith even when our universe is shaken. She’ll show us how to cling to God’s will even when we feel abandoned. She’ll show us how to love even when our hearts are being torn apart.
She’ll lead us to the Foot of the Cross and will show us how to await the Resurrection.
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Image: Stabat Mater, Josse Lieferinxe, 1493-1508, CC