THERE exist a great number of beautiful meditations and contemplations on the sorrows of our Blessed Lady during the Passion of our Lord, many of which are founded on various revelations of saints and others, who may have had preternatural communications on these great subjects. It would be impossible, within the limits of the space at our disposal, to give anything like an epitome of these, which are in many cases exceedingly striking. It must be enough for us to remind ourselves of certain great outlines which must in any case be followed in our considerations on this part of the history of the Blessed Mother. When we have set down certain things which must always be remembered as the foundations of contemplation on this Divine subject, the manner in which details are filled in may be left very much to the character of the contemplative whom we may follow.
The intelligence of our Blessed Lady was raised, by the graces which she had received in such abundance from the very first, and which had been so continually added to during her long life, both by the free bounty of God and by what she could win by her own most faithful cooperation thereto, to the most perfect comprehension that could exist in a created being of all the great truths which lie at the foundation of all serious contemplation on the Passion of our Lord. That is to say, she had a most perfect intelligence of the greatness and majesty of God, as well as of the other attributes which were called into exercise in the mystery of the Sacred Passion, of His ineffable holiness, and the injuries which had been heaped upon it by the sins of all the world, of His inexorable justice, which required a condign satisfaction for those sins, of the absolute completeness of the atonement which had to be wrought by the sufferings of her Son, and of the infinite love of God in providing so marvellous a remedy, so copious a redemption, for the outrages against Himself.
Further also than this, it was the will of God, as St. Paul says, to ''restore all things" in our Lord, and thus the issues of His sufferings were not to be confined to the satisfaction due to sin alone. They were to repair the vacant spaces in Heaven, as well as to renovate earth. They were to heal this life as well as secure for us the next. They were to manifest God as He had never been known before, they were to raise men to a higher level than that which they had lost, they were to be the foundation of a new Kingdom more beautiful than any that could have existed in Paradise. They were to reach throughout all eternity, and to be felt throughout all the creation of God. The mind of our Blessed Lady was enlarged and expanded by the grace of God to that full comprehension of these great truths which was possible in any one short of God Himself. It is natural to think that that beyond and above everything else her thoughts dwelt on and were absorbed by these truths of the majesty of God, His holiness outraged by sin, the enormity of guilt thus contracted, the immensity of the satisfaction, and the cost at which it was to be exacted, as also of the incomprehensible goodness and love which provided such a remedy, and of the marvellous system, the invention of the Sacred Heart, in which that remedy was to be stored up for the benefit of untold generations. She could follow the wisdom and mercy of God step by step, in every detail of the Passion, as well as His ineffable justice and intense hatred of sin, which did not prevent Him from showing so marvellous a love to sinners.
Next to her thoughts concerning God would come her most wonderful knowledge of our Blessed Lord in His Sacred Humanity, the royal dignity of His Person, with all the treasures of knowledge, power, and grace stored up therein, the beauty and preciousness of His Soul and Body, the intensity of the sufferings of which they were capable, the keen ness of His sensibility to pain, whether mental, moral, or physical, the searching completeness of the torments of every kind to which He subjected Himself at the bidding of the Father, the absolute dereliction to which He submitted, the entire desolation and disfigurement which then fell upon His Sacred Humanity at His death. She could under stand the minute particularity of His sufferings as well as their intense painfulness, how each one was proportioned to the sins for which He was to atone, which in their malignity and ineffable foulness, and in their outrage to God and to the purity and dignity of His own Person, were present in each pang of expiation, and formed the bitterest part of the pain by which their guilt was punished. And she could understand also how by means of the Passion the graces and beauties and dignity of that Sacred Humanity were to be communicated to men with a bountifulness so abundant and an efficacy so mighty, as to make it seem as if men would have been worse off without the sin which had been so atoned for and so repaired.
We reasonably think that in the Passion Mary had that great privilege of which we have so often spoken at other times in her life, of entering into the feelings and affections of the Sacred Heart, and thus sharing His sorrows. Indeed, all this knowledge and intelligence only served to sharpen the sword by which her own heart was being pierced at each moment, on account of her incomparable tenderness and the unimaginable vehemence of her love for Him, which had swollen from the mighty force which it was when she conceived Him in her womb, to a height and depth and length and breadth of which no heart but her own was capable, by the continual exercises of immeasurable love, given and returned, during every moment of His life as her Son and of her life as His Mother. Even in our own poor experience we learn that the hearts that can suffer the most are those that can love the most, and we must be content to leave undescribed and unfathomed that love of Mary for her Son, and of her Son for her, which was now made by God the great instrument of the crucifixion of both. There is something in the passionateness and excitement of ordinary human grief which blunts the edge of the sword, and mercifully dulls the pain which its sharpness causes. Again, in great human grief's there is often an insensibility which supervenes, and so, for a time at least, saves the victim from all that might else be suffered. But in the sorrows of Mary for the Passion of our Lord there was neither excitement nor dullness. The sword pierced keenly, and there was no waste of pain, no dulling influence to lull the sensibility of suffering.
The foregoing thoughts may help us to see that our Lady met the great trial of the Passion with the eye of her soul singly fixed on God, Whose will was being worked out through all. The Passion was to her a great judicial act for the chastisement of sin, out of which was to flow a magnificence in the elevation and enrichment of those whose sins were chastised, a glory to God, an honour and triumph and joy to the Redeemer Who suffered, such as God only could imagine and carry out. Her thought was that which was afterwards expressed by the Apostles, when they spoke of the combination against our Lord of all the powers of the world, "Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do what Thy hand and Thy counsel decreed to be done." 1 And we may think that the same consideration extended to her own most bitter sufferings, which were also decreed by the "hand and counsel" of the Father, as is implied in the words in which holy Simeon had spoken to her about the sword that was to pierce her own heart. In such a view of the circumstances of the Passion, there could be but little room for any indignant complaint or resentment against the human agents who were working out the will of God. Our Lord looked on them all with the most intense pity and love, and our Lady's thoughts and feelings concerning them must have reflected the compassion of the Sacred Heart. The bitterest pang of the whole Passion is said to have been the despair and suicide of Judas, because they would remove him irrevocably from the number of those who might still profit by the reconciliation which their wickedness had helped to bring about through the Blood shed on Calvary. Such would be the feelings with which our Lady would regard the chief priests, Pilate and Herod, the howling mob, the false witnesses, the savages who tortured our Lord beyond the requirements of the sentence passed on Him, such as the soldiers who scourged Him, and then crowned Him with thorns and mocked Him as a pretended King. The terrible pain of her heart left no room for anger, and the clear grasp with which she possessed the truth of the atoning character of the Sacrifice, made it easy for her to wrap round the most wanton of our Lord's enemies the folds of her motherly compassion.
Thus the various incidents in the Passion, which seem to us so strange in their confusion, as if the whole band of those concerned in the Death of our Lord had gone mad, or had been handed over to be possessed by devils, were in the eyes of Mary clothed in the same character of order and swift harmonious succession as the incidents of the last evening in the Cenacle, of which we spoke in the last chapter. Hell was indeed let loose, and worked out its malignant purpose to the full, by the hands of men who did not know what they were doing, as our Lord said. But all was exactly arranged by God. Not one single outburst of malice or outrage of savagery but was duly weighed and permitted by the justice of the Father. All fell on the Sacred Heart from His hand, and all fell on the heart of that most dolorous Mother as the choice of His most adorable and most beloved will, working out thereby His own immense and unparalleled glory, the honour of His Son, and the salvation of the human race. And thus we understand how it is no exaggeration, that which is said by some of the Fathers, that our Lady's heart was so perfectly united to the Divine will that, if it had been necessary for its full accomplishment, she would have helped herself in the raising her Son upon the Cross. For no one but our Lord clung with greater devotion than Mary to that adorable will, no one but He saw in it more perfect beauty, more wonderful wisdom, more infinite compassion and mercy. No one but He saw in the sins which were thus to be wiped away more deadly foulness and more loathsome degradation of the creature made in the image of God and destined for the possession of Him hereafter. No one but He could see the value of the graces which were purchased for mankind by the sufferings of those hours in a more full and piercing light.
To say this is not to say that the Compassion of our Lady was in any way less keen and poignant on this account. As our Lord suffered to a degree which no one else ever attained in the way of pain, of shame, of weariness, of desolation, and weakness, notwithstanding that His will was so perfectly united to the Divine will, and that He had the most perfect certainty of His ultimate triumph in His Resurrection from the dead, so also our Lady could suffer the intensest pain for Him and with Him, although she had this most perfect conformity to the sentence of the Divine justice and mercy which had decreed it all, her sufferings as well as those of her Son. Rather, the solemn judicial character of the pains of the Passion sharpened every pang and added weight to every blow. For everything came in the most intense and unbroken severity as the expression of the anger of the Father at the sins with which His Son was clothed in His sight, the sins which He had made His own for the purpose of their expiation, the sins of which in more than one place of Sacred Scripture He speaks of as His. The anger of God was something sharper than the scourge, bitterer than the vinegar and gall, more hard to bear than the nails and the crown of thorns. If all the pangs of the Passion had been put in one balance, and all the anger of God in the other, the first would have seemed a chalice of delight in comparison to the last. But the two crosses were not, and could not be, separated either in the mind and heart of our Lord or in the mind and heart of His Blessed Mother. It was not only that He had to suffer so much. It was that He had to suffer so much from the anger of His Father, and on account of sin. St. Paul says " the sting of death is sin," and it may be said most truly of all our Lord's Passion that sin was its sting, and the hand which drove it home was the hand of the justice of God.
Apart from this consideration, it is reasonable to think that our Lady, instead of being in any w r ay or degree rendered less sensitive to the sufferings of her Son or to her own in the Passion, was more probably fortified in a marvellous manner, not against the pain which she had to undergo, but against the natural power of all that pain to take away her life before she had suffered to the utmost, according to the decree of God. We have seen elsewhere that it might have pleased God to take her away before the Passion, lest she should have that most terrible of sufferings to bear, but that He had in His Providence arranged that her extreme suffering on Calvary should fulfil a part of His purpose in her regard, and in regard to her Son, and be the foundation of another disposition of the same Providence with regard to her position in the Kingdom founded on the Passion. St. Joseph was taken away, but our Lady was not taken away. It was in the counsels of God that she should be with our Lord in that last scene of agony and torment, that He might have that suffering, also, of her companionship in His sorrows, and that she also might have all the additional grief to bear which came from her witnessing His last agony. The Divinity of our Lord is thought to have sustained Him miraculously, in order, not that He might have comfort under His sufferings, but that He might suffer more than His Humanity could have borne without special assistance. There may have been something of the same kind about the sorrows of Mary on Calvary,and this is far more likely than that there should have been any preternatural assistance given to pre vent her from feeling to the utmost what a mother such as she was would feel on such an occasion.
It is natural that we should add to this, as has been said, another thought to which it naturally leads, namely, that it was in the Providence of God that Mary should suffer in this way for the accomplishment of a great purpose of God. She was under a sentence, as her Son was under a sentence. She was to bear now the travail pangs which she had been spared when our Lord came forth at Bethlehem from her most pure and immaculate womb. The Passion was to be communicated to her, as the saints tell us, in a way and with a result which has no parallel in the similar communications which have from time to time been made to some of the chosen servants of God. Her sufferings could not share in the redeeming efficacy which belonged alone to those of our Lord. But, as she w r as to have so large a power in His Kingdom in the application of the merits of the Passion, as also so unrivalled and unique a share in the spiritual graces won thereby, it was a part of God's counsel that she, as the Mother of the Crucified, should share, as far as was possible for her, in the sorrow and in the merit of the Sacrifice of her Son. Her presence on Calvary was no accident, but a counsel of God. She appears there as she appears in the mystery of the sanctification of St. John Baptist at the Visitation, and in the mystery of the beginning of signs at the marriage-feast of Cana. In all these mysteries Mary is an intelligent and willing co-operator in the Divine work which is being accomplished, as she was the cause, by her fiat, of the accomplishment of the Incarnation itself. In the Visitation, her words brought about the interior sanctification of the soul of one of the highest of the saints, the soul of whom our Lord said that among those born of women there had not arisen a greater than he. At Cana, her words brought about the opening of the gates of God's mercy on mankind in the physical miracles of our Lord. On Calvary, she consents, at the cost of infinite pangs of her own, to the Sacrifice on which hangs the redemption of the world, and as she has so large a communication of the pains of that sacrifice, she has also to win thereby her large communication of its powers. It is then that she is crowned as the second Eve, the Mother of all that live. When we think, therefore, of Mary at the foot of the Cross, we must consider her as being there by the Providence of God to share in the sufferings of her Son, brought upon her by the infliction on Him of the chastisements due to the sins of the world. We must gather up all our highest conceptions and conclusions as to her intelligence of Him and her love for Him, all that she has learnt of His dignity and His ineffable loveliness, her estimate of Him as God and Man, all that her long study of the beauties of the Sacred Humanity, so freely opened to her, has accumulated in her heart. Her long and tender familiarity with Him has taught her to anticipate His thoughts, to read His glances, to interpret His gestures. She knows what pains Him and pleases Him, what He shrinks from, what He loves. She knows the delicacy of His purity, the sensitiveness of His charity, the shrinking shyness of His modesty, as well as His fathomless love for souls and His boundless devotion to His Father. And she has, as we think, preternatural sympathies with Him also, which enables her to read the designs, the desires, the hidden pangs and revulsions of the Sacred Heart. Herself the tenderest heart next to His, with capacities alike of joy and of pain to which our most refined feelings are dull and gross indeed, she is launched on these sixteen or eighteen hours, between the exit from the Cenacle and the expiration on the Cross, to bear in her heart what He bears in His, and in His Body as well. No pang is lost upon her, nor any display of character, nor any example of virtue. She notes when He speaks as God, as when He cast down the armed band by the simple word, "I am He," when He speaks as Judge, as when He foretold to the Sanhedrin His coming in the clouds of Heaven, when He speaks as King, as to Pilate and to the thief, when He witnesses to the truth, as before the tribunals whenever He spoke, His use of His power of conversion, as when He looked on Peter, His compassion for the women of Jerusalem, His patient charitable toil for the Roman Governor, His stern silence to Herod, His poignant grief over Judas, His pity for His executioners. Nothing is without its due response in her heart, all is treasured up and pondered there.
It may be convenient to divide our consideration of the Compassion of Mary into three parts, according to the stages of the history in which she took part in a different way. For several hours, how long we know not, it seems likely that she did not witness the actions of our Lord except spiritually. It is not easy to think of her as present in the Garden, or at the apprehension of our Lord, or to suppose that she followed Him into the palace of the High Priest, or through the streets to the Praetorium.  The first part of the Passion, therefore, nearly up to the Scourging, was spent by our Lady in some retired spot near at hand, whence she could be called by St. John when the time came for what it was ordained that she should witness. After this follow several hours, during which she was either close to or not very far from our Lord, and when she witnessed almost all that passed, except perhaps when He was alone with Pilate. This space of time includes also the final Sentence, the Way of the Cross, and the Crucifixion. We may make the third part of the Compassion begin when the executions have done their work. The cries and mocking's gradually die away, the darkness draws on in which the Three Hours are shrouded. This is the time of the most solemn mysteries, the Seven Words, the vinegar and gall, the breathing forth of the Soul of our Lord into the hands of His Father. But with our Lord the Passion ends with His Death, with Mary the Compassion lasts on beyond His Death. She has to witness the piercing of His Heart, the Water and Blood, the Birth of the Church. The daylight returns to light up the solemn stillness in which He is taken from the Cross, and laid first in her arms, then in the sepulchre. Then as the shadows of evening thicken around her, she leaves Him there with the stone rolled up and the Roman guard approaching to watch around the Tomb.

1 Acts iv. 27, 28.