Sunday, February 24, 2013

Meditation on the Fourth Station of the Cross: The Meeting of Jesus and Mary

Continuing on my meditations on the Stations of the Cross, I am now on the Fourth Station - Jesus Meets His Blessed Mother.

At this point in His Passion, our Lord has been abandoned by His disciples and followers and endured beatings, whippings and scourgings. He had been subjected to ridicule and taunts, falsely accused of heresy, sentenced to death and then, in His incredibly weakened physical state, forced to carry His Cross to His place of execution. But nothing compares to the pain Our Lord felt when he had to witness the intense agony of His own Blessed Mother on the road to Calvary.

When people have lived with each other for many years, they often become so close that they barely need words to communicate. They know each other's thoughts and moods almost as well as they know their own. Twins are known to be so sensitive to one another that they can communicate almost with a kind of telepathy.

But there was undoubtedly no closer relationship in the history of mankind than that between the Blessed Mother and her Divine Son. They were the only two people in all of human history to not be stained with so much as a trace of sin, both completely pure and innocent, nothing to drive any kind of wedge between them at any point in their lives. There was never a hint of dishonesty between them that harms or destroys so many relationships. They shared a perfect love that is beyond our ability to imagine.

Jesus and Mary were both in perfect union with God the Father. Because of their mutual sinlessness and union with the Father, they were in complete harmony with each other in a way that we, who are filled with sin, cannot begin to understand. Both gave completely to the other in every way possible, building a bond that nothing could break. Jesus and Mary experienced everything almost as one person, which is what true divine love is.

We know that Jesus tried to warn His followers about the Passion for which He was destined, as can be seen in the following verses:
From this time Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer much cruelty from the Elders and the High Priests and the Scribes, and be put to death, and on the third day be raised to life again.  (Mt. 16:21)
As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” (Mt. 20:17-19)
Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? (Mark 9:12)
We know that none of Christ's followers comprehended our Lord's words. They believed He was coming to free them from the Romans and set up a great Jewish kingdom. When He was captured by the temple guards of the Sanhedrin and seemed impotent to do anything about it, they all ran for their lives because despite Jesus' previous attempts to explain, they did not understand what was happening and felt, basically, that the game was over.

If Jesus spent this much time trying to prepare His hard-hearted disciples for the crucifixion, we can be sure He talked many times with His most compassionate and loving mother, helping her understand that this was His entire purpose in becoming a man. We know Mary's first warning of this great sorrow came from Simeon when Christ was presented at the temple. Simeon told Mary that a sword would pierce her soul. And we can be sure that through the years Jesus was opening up the scriptures and explaining to her what He must suffer and why.

Mary's sorrow began long before the moment she met her Son on the Way to Calvary.

From the prophecies of St. Bridget:
A mother's joy is complete when her child is born
and she sees it healthy and perfectly formed.
Her pain and anxiety are over.
Mary rejoiced at Christ's birth,
but she knew that no moment of her life would be free of sorrow
The Prophets foretold,
long before the coming of Christ,
his sufferings and death.
Simeon foretold,
in the presence of Mary and her Child,
the piercing of her heart by a sword of sorrow.
We know that the mind is more sensitive to pain even than the body.
We know that the soul of Mary, even before the death of her Son,
would feel that sword of sorrow more sharply
than all women on earth would feel the suffering of childbearing.
Each day brought nearer the sufferings of Christ.
Each day brought nearer the piercing of Mary's heart.
It was the compassion of Christ alone
which enabled her,
by his presence and his words,
to bear day by day
such piercing sorrow.
Mary and Jesus were walking the Road of Calvary and living with the sorrow and pain their entire lives. According to St. Alphonsus Liguori:
The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that, while on earth, there was not an hour in which this grief did not pierce her soul: "As often," she continued, "as I looked at my Son, as often as I wrapped Him in His swaddling-clothes, as often as I saw His hands and feet, so often was my soul absorbed, so to say, in fresh grief; for I thought how He would be crucified."

We can be sure that Jesus and Mary talked many times and over many hours about the Passion He was to endure. Every moment in her life was overshadowed by the Cross of Her Son.

From "The Glories of Mary" by St. Alphonsus Liguori:
"Mary was a martyr," says Saint Bernard, "not by the sword of the executioner, but by bitter sorrow of heart." If her body was not wounded by the hand of the executioner, her blessed heart was transfixed by a sword of grief at the passion of her Son; grief which was sufficient to have caused her death, not once, but a thousand times. From this we shall see that Mary was not only a real martyr, but that her martyrdom surpassed all others; for it was longer than that of all others, and her whole life may be said to have been a prolonged death.

But there was nothing that could prepare her for the reality of her Son's crucifixion. All that she imagined did not come close to the incredible cruelty and suffering Jesus experienced and that she witnessed and experienced along with Him. Any parent would be in unendurable agony from watching the cruel torture and death of his child and being unable to stop it. But how much worse was it for this most perfect and sinless human being who was united so completely with Her Son.
Moreover, says Saint Antoninus, "while other martyrs suffered by sacrificing their own lives, the Blessed Virgin suffered by sacrificing her Son's life, a life that she loved far more than her own; so that she not only suffered in her soul all that her Son endured in His body, but moreover the sight of her Son's torments brought more grief to her heart than if she had endured them all in her own person. No one can doubt that Mary suffered in her heart all the outrages which she saw inflicted on her beloved Jesus.
The love between the Mother and Son was so pure and perfect that they were as one person, experiencing each painful blow and bloody step together:
"Every torture inflicted on the body of Jesus," says Saint Jerome, "was a wound in the heart of the Mother." "Whoever then was present on the Mount of Calvary," says Saint John Chrysostom, "might see two altars, on which two great sacrifices were consummated; the one in the body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary." Nay, better still may we say with Saint Bonaventure, "there was but one altar-that of the cross of the Son, on which, together with this Divine Lamb, the victim, the Mother was also sacrificed;" therefore the Saint asks this Mother, "O Lady, where art thou? Near the cross? Nay, rather, thou art on the cross, crucified, sacrificing thyself with thy Son." Saint Augustine assures us of the same thing: "The cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified."
When we see the meeting of Mother and Son on the Road to Calvary, we are witnessing perfect love, not just of the love for each other, but their love for all of mankind, both placing themselves upon the altar of Calvary so that we can be freed from sin and eternal death.

To Honor Mary, the Blessed Mother of Jesus, is to honor our Lord because she suffered all the agony of the Cross with Him. She felt all of his pains in her heart and gave to us, His followers and her children, a martyrdom greater than all other martyrs.

She now walks with each one of us just as she walked with Her Son on the Road to Calvary, offering us the some compassion, the same love she gave to our Blessed Lord. Just as her Son will never leave us, so she will never leave us, constantly interceding for us, just as she did at the Wedding at Cana, seeing our needs even before we are aware of them, and pleading with Her Son on our behalf.

From St. Francis' Stations of the Cross:

How sad and how painful must it have been for Mary 
to behold her beloved Son laden with the Cross, 
covered with wounds and blood,
and driven through the streets by savage executioners
What unspeakable pangs her most tender heart must have experienced! 
How earnestly did she desire to die instead of Jesus, or at least with Him! 

O Jesus, O Mary, I am the cause of the pains that pierced your hearts. 
Would that my heart might experience some of your sufferings. 
O Mother, let me share in thy sufferings and those of they Son, 
that I may obtain the grace of a happy death. 

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