- The Little Office
- 1 Mirror of Justice
- 2 The Saviour
- 3 The First Years
- 4 In The Temple
- 5 Nazareth
- 6 The Annunciation
- 7 The Visitation
- 8 The Magnificat
- 9 The Benedictus
- 10 Christmas
- 11 The Magi
- 12 At The Manger
- 13 Nunc Dimittis
- 14 The Presentation
- 15 Flight into Egypt
- 16 The Holy Innocents
- 17 Life at Nazareth
- 18 Jesus in the Temple
- 19 Jesus at labour
- 20 Death of St. Joseph
- 21 Baptism Of Jesus
- 22 Jesus In The Desert
- 23 Calling The Apostles
- 24 Marriage at Cana
- 25 Silence Of The Gospel
- 26 Start Of The Passion
- 27 Foot Of The Cross
- 28 Jesus Laid In The Tomb
- 29 Resurrection
- 30 Ascension, Pentecost
- 31 The Assumption
THE MOTHER OF THE KING - MARY DURING THE LIFE OF OUR LORD BY HENRY JAMES COLERIDGE S.J. pt.25 MARY DURING THE PASSION. CHAPTER I.THE FIRST DAYS OF HOLY WEEK.
WE have already supposed that our Blessed Lady was at Bethany at the time of the supper at which Magdalene anointed our Lord for the second time, and was so lovingly defended by Him against the criticisms set on foot by the malice and disappointment of Judas. We may consider that the house of Martha and Mary was a home to our Lady at such times as these. As she reappears in the history of the Evangelists at the Passion, it must be considered that we have their authority for concluding that she was at Jerusalem at least a few days before that time. She had an office to discharge to our Lord by her presence at His great Sacrifice at the cost of unparalleled suffering to her and to Him also. The sight of His sufferings was a crucifixion to her, and the sight of her sufferings was a fresh crucifixion to Him. This does not exhaust the Divine reasons for her presence. Unless her sufferings with our Lord had been determined for some great purpose of God, we might suppose that, like St. Joseph, she might in mercy have been taken away before the time came for this extreme infliction, both on Him and on her. Thus we are justified by this also in expecting to find that the Passion was to set a crown on the merits and the dignity of Mary in the Kingdom, which she had not before attained.
The Evangelists relate, at considerable length, the incidents of the first days of the Holy Week which had now begun. There is a characteristic colour about the whole of our Lord's demeanour in this time, which we have not seen so prominent in earlier parts of His course. He acts throughout as the King. The week begins with the solemn pro cession of the Palms, in which two several crowds combined to pay Him royal honours, the great company of the disciples who had come from Galilee, and the crowd of inhabitants or sojourners in Jerusalem. These were full of holy enthusiasm, first for the wonders which He had worked in their own region of Judaea during His late preaching there, but chiefly on account of the great spur which their devotion had lately received in the resuscitation of Lazarus. This stupendous miracle had never been surpassed by any that our Lord had wrought, and the circumstances of time and place under which it had occurred made it an event which influenced, in an unexampled way, both the enemies and the friends of our Lord. It was that miracle which made Caiphas and his associates in the priesthood determine to bring about our Lord's murder in their own way, and it was this miracle also which roused the enthusiasm of the people as shown on the day .of Palms. 1
It would not have been difficult for our Lord to avoid the public display which was being prepared for Him, as He had more than once avoided other displays whether of honour or hostility to Himself. But it is clear that on this occasion He did not wish to do this. Rather, He brought it about and took a part in preparing it, when He sent His disciples to the village opposite Bethany to fetch the humble animals, on one of which He was to ride in this triumphant entry into the Holy City. The prophecies were to be fulfilled, and this was a motive for the action of our Lord. But in this, as in other cases, if the thing was done, when it was done, for the sake of the fulfilment of the prophecies, it was prophesied when it was prophesied because it was determined in the counsels of God that it should be done, and the reasons for that determination were hidden in the wisdom and choice of God. It is clear that our Lord now acted as the King, the Son of David, and that the prophecies which spoke of this mystery of the triumph of Palm Sunday, spoke of Him in that character. This entry on the Sun day gives the keynote to the whole of the week which ensued, and when we shall have followed Him all through its wonderful history, we shall find our selves still looking up to Him as He hangs on the Cross, with the title over His head which Pilate refused to alter at the entreaty of the High Priests, the title which declared Him to be the King of the Jews.
Pilate, indeed would have stultified himself if he had altered the title. It is most certain that our Lord was accused of having made Himself King. This was not the charge on which He had been condemned by the Sanhedrin, but it was the charge on which He was accused to the judge on whose decision His release or execution depended. It was the charge which the Chief Priests used with fatal effect when the Governor wavered, and proposed to let our Lord go. "Whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar." The confession that He was a King is what St. Paul calls the good confession which our Lord made before Pilate. Thus He bore Himself in the Passion itself as He had borne Himself on the Sunday of Palms, and all through the intervening days we shall see that He preserved this character, and showed Himself indeed a King.
Thus when the Pharisees bade Him rebuke His disciples on the day of the procession, He replied that if they were to hold their peace, the stones would cry out. It was late, as it seems, when He reached the Temple, and that evening He did nothing but look round as a master in the house, heal a few sick persons, and then take His leave. But He would not rebuke the children who called on Him as the Son of David, and He quoted the Psalms to explain the Providential order of what was going on. At this time, moreover, it was that He cursed the barren fig-tree, as a type of the un-fruitfulness of the nation whom He had come to save. And there is no other single miracle recorded of Him during the whole week, from Palm Sunday to the time when He healed the ear of Malchus. There is the same royal manner about the casting out of the buyers and sellers from the Temple. And it is to be noted that He acted with a greater show of authority on this occasion than on that of the former cleansing of the Temple, and that He spoke
of the house as His own, whereas on the other occasion He had spoken of the house of His Father. There is the same kingly authority about His answer to the chief priests when they asked Him His right to do what He was doing, referring them to the divinely ordained evidence of St. John Baptist, and refusing any other answer till they had satisfied Him as to the authority of His Precursor. The parables which He delivered to them at this time have all the same stamp, the two sons, the wicked husbandmen, followed by His teaching about the stone which the builders had rejected, and the wedding of the King's son. The character in which He was speaking throws light on His answer about giving tribute to Caesar, as also on that given to the Sadducees, and on His own question to them about Christ being the Son of David. And there is the same supreme authority about the denunciation which he uttered to the people concerning the Scribes and Pharisees them selves. Out of reverence for their priestly functions He does not openly speak of them, either now or at any other time, as priests, but all who heard Him must have been aware that the persons of whom He was speaking were the very highest in ecclesiastical authority in the holy nation. 2
The- same strain of majesty and power is continued all through the remainder of our Lord's utterances and acts up to the' very eve of the Passion. The Evangelists record for us, with considerable minuteness of detail, the last great teaching of our Lord on the Mount of Olives after He had taken His final leave of the Temple. It is then that He unrolled before them the great series of signs which were to go before, first the destruction of Jerusalem and then the end of the world, so far more distant than they could have thought. It is no bright picture that he sets before them, but one of persecution, and trial, and danger, and possible seduction even of the elect. Great as is the inherent power and majesty of the kingdom which they were to found, there is no prediction of universal dominion or peaceful possession of empire. The external conditions under which the Church was to fight her way through the world were wars and strife's, the conflict of nationalities, betrayals, apostasies, the appearance of false Christ's and false prophets,while, as the awful day drew near, the constitution of nature itself w r as to be disturbed, the powers of the heavens were to be shaken, there were to be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars, earth quakes, pestilences,and famines, physical commotions and disturbances which of themselves would reduce men to the extreme of consternation and alarm. The Gospel was to be preached everywhere as a witness, and then the consummation was to come. And not withstanding all the signs and terrors which were to precede the great day, the day itself was to steal on the inhabitants of the earth unawares, as a thief in the night, and to find them eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, as it had been in the days of Noe, up to the very day when he entered into the ark. And these great instructions finally close with the parables of the wise and foolish virgins, and of the talents, and with the description of the Judgment Day, when the King Himself shall give His final and irrevocable sentence of eternal joys or eternal woes. 3
These utterances of our Lord, including His answers to the questions put to Him by the Chief Priests and Scribes, by the Sadducees and the representative of the Pharisees, with which they begin, seem to have occupied the whole time of at least two days. The prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world, were delivered on Mount Olivet, either on the Tuesday or the Wednesday of the Holy Week. Our Lord spent the nights of these days at Bethany, unless indeed they were spent, like the night before the Passion itself, in prayer on the mountain side. There seems to have been a pause in His teaching on the Wednesday, if we follow some authorities, and He left Bethany finally in the course of the Thursday, in time to reach the Supper chamber before the hour when the Paschal Supper was to be begun. The place itself had been kept a secret by our Lord till the last moment, as, if it had been known to Judas, he might have betrayed it to the priests, to whom he had already promised His betrayal, and who might perhaps have thought it easier to seize our Lord in a house than in the Garden at midnight. By sending Peter and John to make their preparations in a place they did not know beforehand, and which they were to learn only at the moment, our Lord secured the quiet hours which He intended to spend in so many wonderful mysteries of love and mercy. He thus indeed fulfilled the saying of the ruler of the feast at the marriage of Cana, who said to the bridegroom that he had kept his best to the last.
The kingly characteristic displays itself in various exercises of power, whether of beneficence and reward, or of condemnation and chastisement. In the days of which we are now speaking, our Lord shows the judicial side of His royalty most conspicuously. He passed sentence on Jerusalem at the same time that He wept over it. He cleansed the Temple as the Judge. His parables to the Chief Priests are so many solemn sentences on them. The single miracle of these days, after Palm Sunday, is the figure of the judicial blasting of the Synagogue on account of its unfruitfulness. His denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees has the same character, and it ends with the prediction that on them was to come the vengeance for all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the Just to the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias. Their house is to be left to them desolate. It is needless to point out the judicial tone of the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem and of the end of the world, and of the parables by which that last teaching on the Mount of Olives is concluded.
If the friends of our Lord had been disposed to judge only by human standards, they may perhaps have thought that this tone of majesty and authority now assumed by Him was a prelude to some great display of authoritative power in the open establishment of His Kingdom. It was evident that He did not fear His enemies, that He no longer avoided exposing Himself to their malice, that He did not spare them in His words, or think it worth while to propitiate them. The time had evidently come when the issue must be decided by a victory on His part, or by a victory on theirs. They had determined that any one who professed his faith in Him was to be excommunicated ; He had denounced them in the strongest language. But He had done still more, for His entrance into the city on Palm Sunday was an overt act, in which He had proclaimed Himself King by accepting the homage which was offered to Him as such. He had done this without giving an account of His authority to them. This was a first blow, and it had been outwardly successful. When He left the Temple on the Tuesday or the Wednesday, He had silenced all His questioners and adversaries, and He stood higher than ever in His influence with the people. We have but to go back to His appearance in the Temple at the feast of Tabernacles, not many months before this time, and com pare the treatment He received then, and that which He received now, to see that His followers might almost have thought that His enemies were quelled, or at least reduced to silence and inactivity. It needed a heart deeply familiar with the ways of God, and with the character of our Lord's mission and work, to see that the world and Satan must be but gathering themselves for a last and deadly effort to crush Him at all hazards, that the magnificent victory which He was immediately to gain was to be the victory of suffering and sacrifice, humiliation and expiation, and that the enemies of mankind were to be utterly defeated by being allowed an external triumph surpassing all their hopes and satisfying all their malignity.
Our Blessed Lady must have been too familiar with the designs and intentions of our Lord to share in any delusions which others might entertain as to the issue of His presence at Jerusalem on this feast. The repeated predictions of the Passion may have been lost even on the Apostles, but they could not have been lost on her. She could not be deceived by the popularity of our Lord with the fickle multitude, nor could she have been lulled into security by any false hopes about the forbearance of the rulers after the Day of Palms. She could understand that our Lord's demeanour to them was that of one ready to be sacrificed to their fury, not of one who thought that that fury was disarmed. His acts and language of authority, the manner in which He passed sentence on them, one after another, warned the people against them, and predicted the national punishment of the crime which they were meditating, were understood by her as presaging indeed His great victory, but as showing also what that victory was, and how it was to be accomplished. Beneath the strain of royal judgment and sentence, she could hear that other strain, which now and then dominated, but was always present, of intense compassion and love of souls, the love of the Shepherd Who was about to lay down His Life for the sheep.
All the men who were the objects of His denunciations were the objects of her prayers. A little time was left to them, and then their opportunity would come, and could anything be done to hinder them from availing themselves of it ? Uppermost in the Heart of Mary during this week may have been the poor soul whose name does not occur, after the account of the Supper at Bethany, until we come to the very threshold of the Passion, the traitor Judas. The history of the soul of Judas during those days, if we could have it laid bare before us, would be the saddest record of the kind in the world. We are told by the Christian writers, and, indeed, it is hinted sufficiently in the Gospels themselves, that Judas had long been restless and uneasy in that holy company, and, indeed, no one could be otherwise, whose heart was in any way dis loyal to our Lord. There are suggestions as to the manner in which he had been enrolled in that holy number of the Apostles, and as to the beginnings and increase of his evil tendencies, on which we need not dwell. We can hardly think that when he was called to be an Apostle he was less fit for that post, as he then was before God, than the rest of the band, and we may content ourselves with the simple account given of him by those writers who see in his case the history of an evil passion whose first slight manifestations are not checked, and which gradually poisons the whole soul. But we may be sure that he was the object of the keenest anxiety and tenderest devices of love on the part of our Lord, while our Blessed Lady's wonderful in sight into characters and hearts could hardly fail to notice his declension, even before the time came when he revealed himself, as he did in the criticism on Magdalene. We are told by some that she lavished on him the most affectionate manifestations as well as her most burning prayers, while such was the hardness and obstinacy of his heart, that all these only made him more determined and malignant. Our Lord knew all that passed between him and the Chief Priests, though it may have been hidden, in mercy, from our Lady, who must have seen all the danger to himself as well as to his Master which was involved even in his possible disloyalty.
We ought not to pass without mention the occasions which were furnished to our Blessed Lady of the most devout and adoring contemplations of the ways and decrees of God in the government of the world, by the last predictions and parables delivered by our Lord in the Temple and on the Mount of Olives. The first parables put before us at once the extreme patience with which God deals, whether with nations or with individual souls, and at the same time, the measures of His justice in withdrawing graces which are not appreciated and vocations to which no correspondence is made. The Jews them selves seem to have seen through the veil of the parabolic language, and when the chastisement of the wicked husbandmen was mentioned by our Lord, they broke out into the exclamation, "God forbid!" 4 The sketch which is given in the prophecy about Jerusalem of the signs which were to precede that great act of vindictive justice, the national insurrection, the profanation of the holy place by the Roman abominations, and the like, open out a large field of considerations which help to the interpretation of other passages of history as well as of that.
The doctrine of the shortening of the days of trial and tribulation for the sake of the elect, the injunction of prayer against special and particular dangers involved in the general catastrophe, are also full of warning and of consolation. So also are the many features into which we cannot now enter, which occur in the predictions concerning the approach of the great day of account.
Our Blessed Lady might have recognized in the series of these predictions something more than was contained in them singly. For it was now that our Blessed Lord took upon Him, at least most formally and directly, the office of Prophet which belonged to Him as the Messias. He was Himself the great subject of prophecy under the older dispensation, and all the predictions and types centred in Him. But the gift of prophecy, in its most technical sense, was to abide for ever in the Church, although she was herself the accomplishment and fulfilment of the great promises of God, and might be said not to look forward to anything greater than herself, except the consummation of the Kingdom of our Lord in Heaven. . Nevertheless, she was not to be without this great gift of the manifestation by His chosen servants of the counsels of God as to the future. Thus our Lord laid down, in His great discourse on Mount Olivet, the whole future as regarded the Church, at least in outline. The strain was to be caught up by St. John, but the last book of the canonical Scriptures was to be a heavenly prophecy. If the Church has no great collections of prophecy, as the Jews had, it is for the reason already mentioned, that in her the roll of prophecy is fulfilled. But this does not exclude the presence of the gift within her, and its exercise by those of her children in whom it especially resides.
It has always been a favourite thought with Christian contemplatives, that our Lord arranged for His Blessed Mother to follow Him to the Cenacle, in which the Paschal Supper was celebrated, the Blessed Eucharist instituted, the first Mass offered, the first ordinations and consecrations per formed, and the first Communions given, and that before leaving the house with His disciples for the Garden of Gethsemane, He took a tender and solemn leave of her, that she might be a consenting party to the Passion which was so soon to follow. Christians have felt about this as they have felt about the morning of the Resurrection, that our Lady must have had a part in all these holy communications, even before all others. The silence of the Gospels is the same in both cases, and indeed, with regard to the Resurrection, the case is stronger than with regard to her presence at the Last Supper, because the Sacred Text seems to say that our Lord did not appear first to Mary.
The truth in all cases of this kind seems to be, that our Lord's dealings with His Blessed Mother in all these mysteries were not a part of the history as it fell to the lot of the Evangelists to record it. They would probably have been surprised indeed to think that any other theory had been formed as to their silence. Our Lady is indeed mentioned by them as standing at the foot of the Cross, and thus it might appear that if the Gospels mention one thing concerning her an argument may be drawn from their not mentioning another. But the presence of Mary at the Cross was a part of the great mystery of Calvary itself, and the words spoken on that occasion were not for herself alone, but for the whole Church and for all time. They belonged to the foreordained decree of the redemption, and of her position therein and in the Kingdom founded thereupon. There was therefore a reason for their insertion in the history of the Sacred Passion, which would not apply to the Last Supper, the institution or celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and other great incidents of that solemn time of leave-taking or of welcome from the grave. We may conclude the very great importance of the word spoken to our Lady on the Cross from the silence regarding her at other times. But the fact of her being mentioned then does not show that she was not present at other times when she is not mentioned, and when there was not the same peremptory reason for the mention of her presence.
The appearance of our Lord to the holy women,, and first of them to St. Mary Magdalene, is recorded in the Gospels, because it was by means of the holy women first that the appointed witnesses of the Resurrection, that is the Apostles, were informed of the fact of the marvel to which they w r ere to witness to the whole world. The women were not the witnesses, but they were the persons from whom the witnesses learnt the fact, though they were so difficult to convince that they did not believe the words of the women. Our Blessed Lady was not one of those sent as messengers or informants to the Apostles, and so she does not come anywhere, whether first or last, in the list of those informants. In the same way with regard to all that passed at the Last Supper and on that eventful night between our Lord and the Apostles. That was one part of the history, the part which it fell within the province of the Gospels to preserve for the Church in all ages, like the other things which they record concerning the experiences of the Apostles. Our Lady belongs to a different part of the sacred dispensation, and our Lord's dealings with her, as has been said, do not belong to the evangelical narratives as such. But they belong to the Christian contemplation on the history of our Lord, which must of necessity extend itself to many things, either certainly true, or reasonably probable, for which we have not the authority of the Evangelists, though we cannot suppose that the Evangelists did not know them.
1 Story of the Gospels, § 132.
2 Story of the Gospels, §§ 134—141.
3 Story of the Gospels, §§144—148.
4 St. Luke xx. 16.