March 2002 Issue
At The Foot Of The Cross
sorrows will now engage our attention. We shall see how great
her sufferings were: because she suffered in her heart and
soul; because her sufferings were the result of her great
love for her divine Son; because she saw that Jesus would
die in vain for countless souls who would not profit by His
many years Mary had known what her sufferings were to be.
In her soul she treasured fearfully the prophetic words which
Simeon had addressed to her on the occasion of the Child's
presentation in the temple: "And thy own soul a sword
shall pierce" (Luke 2: 35).
words were fulfilled to the letter. For, as St. Jerome remarks,
the tortures that wracked the sacred members of Christ's body
were all collected in Mary's heart - the thorns, the nails,
the cross, the wounds, the bruises, all the pains and spasms.
All these Mary suffered in her heart while she stood at the
foot of the cross under the gaze of her dying Son (Jn.
19: 25-27). For this reason St. Anselm turns to her
and says: "O Mary, all the most cruel torments that
were inflicted on the bodies of the martyrs were as nothing
compared with what thou didst suffer in thy most tender heart!
I would not believe, 0 most sweet Virgin, that thou couldst
endure so much suffering without losing thy life, were it
not that thou wert sustained by thy divine Son." With
reason, then, does Holy Church invoke Mary under the title
Queen of Martyrs: "Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.
sufferings were great because they were caused by her love
for her divine Son. In fact, the measure of our suffering
for others is always in proportion to the love which we bear
them. Hence, in order to measure the intensity of Mary's sufferings
it would be necessary to understand thoroughly her love for
her divine Son. Mary's love for Jesus was threefold: natural
love, acquired love, supernatural love.
the first place, Mary's love for Jesus was a natural love
because she was His Mother and He was her Son. As it is only
natural that every mother should love her children, it is
equally natural that her heart should be always ready to share
in their sufferings. And the more tender and affectionate
a mother's heart is, the more she is inclined to take part
in her children's sufferings. Now, Mary was the tenderest
and most affectionate of all the mothers that ever lived upon
this earth. Moreover, Mary had a greater claim to be the Mother
of Jesus than other women have to be the mothers of their
children. Her motherhood is unique in that she conceived and
bore her Son without the intervention of any human agency.
For Jesus Christ "was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary". Thus, as Mary shared with
no one the honour and happiness of her divine motherhood,
she shared with no one her tenderness and love for her divine
Son. In fine, Mary's natural love for her Son surpassed by
far the love of all parents for their children.
the second place, Mary had in her heart an acquired love for
Jesus. By this we mean a mother's love that is derived from
the special qualities of her child; for instance, if he is
an only child, if he is attractive, if he has all the attributes
of a model child. Now Jesus was Mary's only child. He was
the most beautiful, the most gracious, the most affable, the
most amiable of all men. Of Him the Psalmist says: "Thou
art beautiful above the sons of men" (Ps.
44:3). And the Apostle speaks of Christ Jesus "in
whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge"
(Col. 2:3). Jesus was indeed the
most perfect among all children and the most worthy of Mary's
love. And her love of Him grew with the years. Holy Church
calls Mary the "Mother of the sole-begotten one"
(Stabat Mater), the "Mother of divine grace"
(Litany of Loreto), the
"Mother of fair love" (Ecclus.
24: 24). In fine, Mary's acquired love for Jesus was
greater than that of all other mothers for their children.
the third place, Mary's love for her divine Son was supernatural,
for He was not only the fruit of her most chaste womb, but
He was also God. "For," as the Apostle says,
"in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporeally"
(Col. 2:9). If other mothers wish
to love their children rightly, they must love them in God
and for God, that is, their love for them must not derogate
from the love which they owe to God. But when Mary loved her
child, as other mothers love their children, the child that
Mary loved was God. For this reason Mary knew that her Child
was worthy of her love. She knew, too, that He loved her more
than all other creatures whether in heaven or on earth, as
He had bestowed more grace on her than on all the angels and
saints combined. If a mother still continues to love her child
even when he proves unworthy, and when he fails to love her
in return, how great must have been Mary's love for Jesus
who was so worthy, and who loved her so much! Yes, Mary's
love for her child was boundless, and she loved Him as God.
if Mary's threefold love of Jesus was so great, how intense
must have been her sorrow and suffering as she stood beneath
the cross of Calvary during His dying moments! There she saw
Him fastened with nails to the gibbet, crowned with thorns,
torn by the scourges, covered with blood, disfigured, forsaken
by God and man so that He cried out with a loud voice: "My
God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Man.
24: 46). From time to time a little colour came to
His face; but His flesh gradually became livid; and finally
His eyes closed. Oh if Mary could only extend a little comfort
to her beloved Jesus in His terrible sufferings. But think
of her sorrow when she saw her dear Son's naked body and could
not protect it from the elements and from the curious gaze
of the jeering rabble; when she saw it covered with a cold
sweat, and could not dry it with her maternal hand; when she
heard Him ask for something to quench His thirst, and could
not give Him as much as a drop of water to moisten His parched
lips! In her distress she would like to see an end to His
suffering, but she did not wish to see Him die; she would
like to see Him live, but she did not wish to see Him continue
to suffer. No mind can conceive nor tongue express the greatness
of Mary's sorrow as she stood at the foot of the cross of
her dying Son. To her as well as to Him may be applied the
words of Jeremias: "O all ye that pass by the way,
attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my Sorrow"
sufferings were great because she foresaw that the blood of
Jesus would be shed in vain for countless souls. Owing to
her immense love for Jesus, it was excessively painful for
her to consent to His death. However, the thought that He
was giving His life to save poor innocent souls, unjustly
persecuted and condemned to death, would have afforded her
some relief. Then His death would have brought the triumph
of justice. But there was no such thought to console her:
He was dying for wicked men who raised their sacrilegious
hand against God for sinful and ungrateful men who despised
His friendship. Yet, full of compassion as she was for fallen
man, the Virgin would have been willing to bear all this and
more could she have foreseen that all men would repent of
their sins and save those souls for which Jesus Christ shed
His blood and gave His life. But, alas, even then she saw
her beloved Jesus stretch out His arms from the cross to a
people that did not believe in Him and contradicted Him; she
heard the blasphemies and derisions that the furious Jews
hurled against Him, as they passed before the cross and shook
their heads; she heard them call down His blood upon themselves
and upon their children. She foresaw even then that the chosen
people, who were also her people, upon whom God had lavished
His benefits, would be rejected by Him because of their ingratitude
and obstinacy. She foresaw that their enemies would one day
besiege their city and destroy it, leaving nothing but desolation
and ruin. She foresaw the Jews dispersed from their country,
without a kingdom, without a priesthood, without an altar,
condemned to wander all over the globe. She foresaw that they
would remain obstinate in their sins and be lost forever.
She foresaw that the crucified Christ would be to the Jews
a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness (I
Cor. 1: 23). She foresaw that despite Christ's redemption,
idolatry would still continue on earth; that man would go
on worshipping the sun, moon, stars, plants, and vile animals;
that wicked men would be adored as gods; that altars would
be erected to the most vile vices; that the most shameful
crimes would be committed; and that in this manner countless
souls would be eternally lost.
is this all. She foresaw that in the very bosom of the Church
wicked men, full of pride, would rise up to deny and fight
against her most sacred truths, and try to replace them with
the most grave errors - false prophets who come in the clothing
of sheep but inwardly are wolves, working havoc among Christ's
flock, seducing the faithful, detaching them from the body
of the one true Church, and dragging them into heresy and
schism. She foresaw that many who had been enriched by the
divine graces, who have partaken of the sacraments, and have
been blessed with so many of the other divine mercies, would
willingly and maliciously trample on the blood of Christ and
be lost for ever. Yes, her foresight of all these things to
come increased her sorrow and suffering a thousandfold. These
things were the sword that was to pierce her heart and soul,
and make her the most desolate of all women, the most afflicted
of all mothers - the real Mother of Sorrows.
that any among us should ever belong to the number of those
who she foresaw would add to her affliction! How sad would
it be for her and how fatal for us were we to refuse or neglect
to share in Christ's redemption. Let us implore the Mother
of Sorrows, that through her maternal love she may never allow
us to be numbered among the children of perdition. Let us
entreat her rather that we may all profit by the sufferings
and death of her divine Son and by her own sorrows and sufferings,
that we may one day have the happiness to bless and thank
God in heaven, "because He is good, because His mercy
endureth forever" (I Mac. 4: 24).
from Discourses on Our Lady, by Fr. O'Rafferty.
True devotion in its highest meaning includes love
for, and imitation of, the person to whom we are
devoted, and Holy Mother Church presents for our
prayerful devotion during Lent the Sacred Passion
of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the fervent hope
that we shall be aroused to imitate Him....
should fill our hearts at the thought of God's goodness
to us in giving us His own adorable Son as a Model
to imitate, so that we have only to look at Him
to know what we have to do. Hear Christ Himself
say: "I have given you an example, that
as I have done to you, so you also should do"
(Jn. 13:15). Christ is
the only way we must follow, especially in the practice
of virtue, and it was during the Passion that His
practice of the virtues was strikingly sublime and
heroic. In the most trying circumstances our Lord
gave us during the Passion examples of those virtues
we somehow lack - meekness, mercy, charity, silence,
patience, abandonment, and obedience to His Father's
will - even unto death.
did St. Bonaventure say: "He who desires
to go on advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace
to grace, should constantly meditate on the Passion
of Jesus Christ."
from Reflections on the Passion, bv Fr.
wish you all the blessings of this Holy Season, that by
fasting and prayer, you may prepare well for the triumphant
Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before the triumph
comes the trial and tragedy; so many men are offered an
opportunity to recognize Jesus as King, and they reject
Him. We also will be tried, and so we must take heed of
the graces our Lord offers us this Lent, which will strengthen
us, lest we deny that Jesus Christ rules over our lives,
and by sin enter the service of the devil.
then that you may be faithful. Pray more rosaries than usual,
to ask graces for yourselves and so many others - the members
of our families, our priests, our country.... Use especially
the sorrowful decades to consider the sufferings of our
Saviour, and resolve to imitate His virtuous example.
to you in devotion to the Blessed Virgin, I am,