The Passion Of Jesus; Mary's Compassion And Merit; Her Spiritual Motherhood — The Last Supper, Good Friday, The Cross—The Burial Of Jesus And The Solitude Of Our Lady (March Of The Year 29 ?) part 2.

It is one of the features of the Communion of Saints, that within the body of Christ's Church the members should reflect from one to the other something of the life which they all receive from their Head. And the merits of Mary possess a value above those of other saints, for they proceed from one who is entirely pleasing in God's sight; they are far-reaching, for they proceed from a member, who, next to the Head and under His influence, exercises a universal influence upon the mystic body and upon the graces which nourish it. These merits Our Lady accumulated for us during the whole of her life, like a good mother who lays up treasure for her children, but she especially increased the sum of it by her sufferings with the Saviour at the foot of the cross.

And by this she has earned for herself the beautiful title of mother of the human race, and so many other glorious names by which we honour our queen, our co-redeemer, and our mediatrix near the Mediator. These prerogatives are not merely the brilliant sequel to her divine motherhood; they are also the rewards due to her own personal deeds and sorrows, offered and accepted for us. " By the communion of suffering and of will between Christ and Mary, she merited and was rendered entirely worthy of becoming the restorer of the lost world, and in consequence, the dispenser of all the benefits which Jesus has bought for us by His blood and death." 1

She was worthy of all these titles, and became more entirely all that which these titles express. For, if on that day she was near Jesus, it was that she might be consummated and perfected for the work which Providence had given her to do. It has pleased God that the whole salvation of the world should depend on three wills; that of the Father, that is, the single divine will of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; that of the Word made flesh, or the human will of Jesus; and, finally, that of Mary, whose consent was in truth, required, and on whose consent the destiny of the world truly depended. This consent, given by her, is the fundamental reason of her dignity as co-redeemer ; it has bound her will by an indissoluble tie to that of her Son, and even to that of God, in all that which concerns the salvation and the spiritual life of the world. For, in accepting the Messianic work, of which the angel sketched the grand outline, and in commencing it then by freely accepting motherhood, it was most truly the Incarnation and the whole Redemption to which she consented, and in which she participated. And in truth, in the divine sight, the work of Christ is all one. Jesus became incarnate only that He might die for us, and by so doing, give eternal life to every creature; from the first moment He devoted Himself for this supreme sacrifice, towards which His whole existence was directed.

Therefore, since all that was to be accomplished at Calvary was the development and the end of that which had commenced in the little room at Nazareth, how could Mary, present and taking part in the beginning, have been absent at the last hour ? Is it not natural that at the moment when the Redemption is consummated, there should again be found the same three persons and the same three wills that took part in the commencement ? The Father is there, He who gave to us His Son, He to whom is offered the sacrifice, and who accepts it for us. Jesus is there, priest and victim, accomplishing to the end that reconciliation for which He had come into the world. Mary must also be there, repeating the fiat of the Incarnation, in accepting the last and most sorrowful consequences, and in sacrificing her maternal love to our salvation; she, who has borne Jesus, who has presented Him in the Temple, and who has brought Him up in view of this last hour, must, at this hour also, renew and fulfil the offering which she has made to God ; she must, in fact, at this moment when, more than ever, Jesus is given to us, fulfil her mission, which is, in conjunction with the Father, to give us Jesus.

To give-us Jesus, to co-operate in the Redemption, and to become our mother, is to Mary one and the same thing. Thus, at the time when she completes and perfects her co-operation, she also completes and perfects her motherhood in relation to us. At the hour of the Incarnation she conceived Jesus and us with Him, receiving already in the womb of her charity, those who will one day be incorporated with Jesus and live in His life. But there is a wide difference between the birth of Jesus and our spiritual birth. He but lately came into the world in joy and gladness, amid the splendours of the first Christmas night. But our birth was delayed until the Passion and Calvary; for it was only then that God accepted, with the death of His Son, all the redeeming acts of His life; it was only then that He pardoned the guilty for the sake of the Righteous One who was substituted for them; it was only then that, because of this substitution, because Jesus had borne and expiated our sins, that we became partakers in His rights and in His divine Sonship; and finally, it was then that we commenced to live our spiritual life. It was therefore fitting that Mary should be there to finish that which she had aforetime begun, and to bring to birth the members of her Son. She must be there to ratify that which she has already done, bringing us forth as she had conceived us, by her will and her love, and offering to God, at the same moment that the offering is accepted, the Victim who reconciles us and gives us life. A birth, the remembrance of which increases the children's love for the mother, and the mother's love for the children of her sorrow.

Just before entering on the path of His suffering, Jesus had a great desire to partake, with His disciples, a last paschal supper. With them He ate the symbolical lamb; then completing the fulfilment of the Law by replacing the symbol by the reality, He gave them the Lamb of the true Passover, His body sacrificed and His blood shed; thus instituting that memorial of His Passion, which to the end of time will remain the centre of Christian worship.

The primitive group for the sacrificing and eating of the lamb, was the family. It could, it is true, be enlarged by invitations or additions of neighbours and friends, or be modified by various circumstances; but it appears that, in any case, there was nothing to prevent the women from mingling with the men. It is probable that, at the Gospel period, the women did not, like the men, recline on couches, but they ate with them in the same room, and formed part of the same company. 2 It is therefore quite likely that in the guest-chamber on Mount Zion, which was borrowed by Jesus from one of His disciples and which remained the sanctuary of the first Christians, Mary took part in the Paschal Feast with the Saviour, the apostles, and other holy women, perhaps Mary of Cleophas, or Salome, the mother of James and John.

She was then, probably there, following each movement of Jesus, attentive to all His words; understanding far better than the apostles the symbolism of the lamb, or the teaching to be learned from the washing of the disciples' feet; her heart breaking at the thought of the treason which Judas had committed.

The moment came when Jesus, collecting Himself, and drawing the rapt attention of His disciples, " took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."3

Implicitly accepting the Master's word, and receiving with the deepest reverence and in silent joy His body and blood, the apostles shared in that celestial food, and then drank of the consecrated cup. Nevertheless, if the command, " Do this in remembrance of Me," was addressed to them alone thus making them priests of the new covenant, the command, " Eat and drink," was addressed to all the faithful, and to the women also who were present. And it was, above all, addressed to Mary; for if Jesus, by love, gives Himself to each Christian soul, He gives Himself with a unique love to her who is, beyond all others, the well-beloved. Did Jesus distinguish her, by giving first of all to her, the sacrament of His divine love ? Or did He then confide to the apostles the charge which they would soon have to exercise, the sacred trust of giving His body and His blood to those who were not ordained to the priesthood ? This is entirely unknown to us. But, since it is possible that Mary was present, we may be allowed to suppose, that she then united herself sacramentally, for the first time, with the body which had been virginally formed of her in the mystery of the Incarnation. " That which the only Son of God took from our nature, He has entirely given to us again for our salvation." 4 This was verified in Mary. The humanity which Jesus had taken from her, He gave to her again, impregnated with the vivifying power of His divinity, so that her holiness might be increased.

Mary, in fact, stands in a unique relation to the sacrament of the Eucharist. There, as in all things, she occupies a place apart, between her Son and us; like to us, for she is, as we are, sanctified by Him, but at the same time near Him, as the mediatrix of sanctification. The body of our Lord, born of the Virgin Mary, veils the sacramental elements, and is at the same time the sign and the instrument of grace. The Eucharist is a direct application of the mystery of the Incarnation, accomplished in Mary and through Mary. Jesus was made man in order that, " perceiving God visible in our flesh, we might by Him be caught up into the love of things invisible." 5

And in the Eucharist, it is in very truth, that flesh, hidden under the visible sign of the elements but really present, which unites itself to ours, so that we may be imbued with the grace and love of the Godhead. This, then, is the mode of sanctification most suitable to our nature, to receive the invisible and divine, by means of the visible and material; and for this we are indebted to her, who has conformed the Word of God to our nature; the Eucharist is the gift of her who has given to us the flesh of Christ.

The Word, which is life, light and truth, is the true sustenance of souls; but since our souls exist in a mortal body, the Word, such as it is in the bosom of the Father, is a food too strong for us, as bread is too strong for infants. But the mother eats the bread, she assimilates it and transforms it into milk, and this milk becomes the food of her child. " The Word of God, the Son of God, the Wisdom of God, this is bread, solid food. Therefore, only those who are strong, the angels, can eat of it. We, who are weak may not taste that food because it is too solid; we who are upon the earth cannot attain to that bread because it is bread of heaven. What is the consequence ? That bread descends into the breast of the blessed Virgin ; there it is transformed into milk, and such milk that we are able to drink." 6 Have we not here one of the sweetest aspects of her who gave Jesus to us ?


1 Pius X., Encyclical Ad diem ilium, 2 February 1904. The portion in italics is a quotation from Eadmer : dc excellentia B. Mariӕ, cap. ix. (PL. cliv. 228 ; inter opera B. Anselmi).

2 See, for example, the treatise Pesahim (Jerusalem Talmud, translated by M. Schwab, vol. v. pp. 118, 120, 130, 148).

3 St Matthew xxvi. 26-28.

4 St Thomas, opuscule Ivii., On the Eucharist, towards the end.

5 Preface at Mass on Christmas Day.

1 Ælred, abbot of Rievaulx : sermo xx. in nativitate B. Mariae (ii.), (PL. cxcv. 322-3). Cf, St Augustine: ennaratio in psalmum xxxiii., sermo I, 6. (PL. xxxvi. 303).