“Behold, your mother.”
After the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (yesterday) comes the commemoration of Our Lady of Sorrows, noting, as St Simeon prophesied, a sword has pierced Our Lady’s heart. Mary stands at the foot of the cross experiencing loss, a deep painful loss that anyone can understand if they have seen a parent mourn the loss of a child: especially a young child, but any child dying before the parent at all triggers this grief. I think it’s something we all can see – the thought that “I should not be here, parents are supposed to die first.”
And this adds to Jesus’ pain as well, God knows this grief, the pain of watching his own mother suffer, of being unable to help her, to comfort her.
But Mary knows the grief, also, of a widow. There is this image at my parish of the Death of St Joseph, that is so tender, so loving. Joseph laying in Mary’s arms, while Jesus commends Joseph’s soul (in the form of a dove) to heaven. God, too, has experienced this grief: of watching a parent die; of being unable to help his mother even then.
And so this goes on: When God reaches adulthood and must leave home, must leave his widowed mother alone. And her in the keeping of the family, perhaps, or maybe just alone with people to look in on her from time to time. God has things to do, the Cat’s in the Cradle, as the song goes. It’s time to move on, there are things to do: taking care of Mother has to be left as a lesser good. And she knows this – but both feel the pain.
Our Lady knows our pains as well as her divine Son does. She is faithful through them. When she said yes to the incarnation she opened the door to all this pain, all this sorrow. She didn’t know about this stuff at that point. It was all coming though, site unseen she accepted it.
That is our lot as well.
Baptism is a road, a journey. As Bilbo said to Frodo, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
We may bite off more than we think we can chew. Or we may find ourselves alone – quite literally – with no one except God.
And in the end.. what? What comfort in knowing that Mary and Jesus have a sense of this?
I’ve been obsessed for the last few weeks with this line from the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast; this image from after the first Easter, maybe after the Ascension, or some other point… of Jesus meeting Abba Yosef in heaven… and just… crying. Hugging. Abba… Daddy. Although the Second Person of the Trinity was never parted from the Father on the Throne of Glory in Heaven, the baby, Jesus, did not have the brain, the words, the mental skills to know anything (for he was Fully Human) to see aught but the Momma, and the Daddy. And when formulating an image for others of God the Father, Abba Yosef would have been part of that… and they meet in heaven. There is joy and love.
Then a few cosmic moments laters – years later on Earth – when Mary arrives and there is a reunion of the family, the Holy Family, and like the Patriarch Joseph in Egypt, all of God’s household knows and there is rejoicing.
And in the time of all the things, where we are, in the space where there is real sadness and pain, God has stood here and known it intimately. All of our sorrows, all of the swords in our hearts lead only to our salvation. They have been turned from our pain to our healing, by this love, this divine Charity, that doesn’t undo our damage, but repurposes it. The deep magic can’t be undone, but the deeper magic from before time can change and redirect it.
Mary stands weeping at the foot of the Cross – as do we – and in that weeping: salvation.