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 3.

The apostles performed their thanksgiving with souls that were still preoccupied and imperfect. John leaned upon the Master's breast. By the Eucharist, by love, and by his intimacy with Jesus, he was transformed into another Jesus, and was thus prepared to become Mary's son. She, far above the apostles and the holy women, comprehended, adored, and gave thanks. She listened eagerly to the words of her Son. After bestowing on them the gift of the Eucharist, and, at the moment when He was about to render up His life, He revealed Himself to His disciples more clearly and intimately than ever. He showed them that heaven was near them, and that divine love surrounded them ; that the Father cherished those who loved the Son and kept His commandments ; that the Holy Ghost would come down; and that the Trinity would take up its abode in the souls of the faithful.

" Peace I leave with you," said He finally, " my peace I give unto you. . . . Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence." 1 And taking, doubtless, a final farewell of His mother, He went forth with His apostles towards Gethsemane.

As to the doings and sufferings of Our Lady up to the time when she accompanied Jesus to Calvary, we have nothing but conjecture and probability to fall back upon. Conjecture concerning not only outward events but also the inner working of her mind; we know not, for example, whether she learned the course of events by natural means—as we conceive it by analogy with our own minds—or whether she was miraculously informed of all that happened to Jesus. We do not know where she retired for the night, but we picture her as remaining in the Upper Room, and perhaps even living in that hospitable house.

Since Jesus prayed and suffered agony, we think of her as also prostrated, praying like Him. Like Him, experiencing fear and terror at the thought of the hour which draws near; like Him, feeling grief for the loss of souls and the just anger of God ; like Him, joining her will to the divine will, and thereby prevailing over all the shrinking of nature.

Just before midnight a disturbance was heard in the town. The noise came nearer, passed quite close to the Upper Room. Jesus had been taken, and was being conducted by His enemies to the palace of the High Priest. Then once again there was silence.

Towards two o'clock in the morning, John, the only one who remained faithful, arrived and related all that he had witnessed: Our Lord seized in the garden, led before the High Priests, interrogated by them, and condemned by the Sanhedrim. He was now imprisoned in the house of Caiaphas. At daybreak the members of the Sanhedrim were to assemble a second time to judge Him, and after that He would be delivered into the hands of the governor.

With tears and prayers Our Lady waited for the break of day. When the dawn appeared, she went with John and the holy women—as nearly as we can conjecture—to the door of the palace of Caiaphas. There she saw those who were going to judge her Son. Having assembled together they entered. . . . Soon after, they came out again with a great tumult, dragging Jesus to Pilate's house.

It was then that for the first time Mary saw Jesus captive and bound, bearing in His hair, His beard, and upon His garments, traces of the insults and indignities of the night.

And from that time she sought out and followed her Son without ceasing; to the Antonia, to Herod's palace, and back again to the Antonia, sometimes meeting Him at a turn of the street, or seeing Him in an inner court of one of the palaces, when she would exchange glances with Him. When He appeared in public, how she gazed on Him! With what anguish her heart followed Him when He entered the Praetorium, or the palace of Herod! After the scourging and the crowning with thorns, when Pilate showed Jesus to the crowd, she too saw Him, her Son ! She gazed upon Him with an inexpressible grief, while around her the cries of the crowd reechoed and penetrated to the depths of her heart, " Crucify Him ! Crucify Him ! " She was there, in that crowd, keeping a little apart, but nevertheless as near as was possible to Jesus. But in the extreme agitation of her grief she said not the least word, nor made the least gesture that was not perfectly calm. Her composure and the modesty of her bearing and of her outward appearance remained unaltered, because the composure of her soul was undisturbed. Her sorrow was boundless ; it was an abyss, but an abyss which nothing could move, for in its profoundest depths dwelt an unchangeable peace.

For the last time the crowd reassembled before the Praetorium, gathering round Pilate who was seated on the judgment seat, and declared that they disowned Jesus, and that they would have no king but Caesar. They were quite willing that the blood of the Messiah should be upon them and upon their sons. Pilate, who fully recognised the innocence of Christ, delivered Him to the crowd; the cross was placed upon His shoulders, and soon, accompanied by two thieves who had been brought from prison to be executed, they conducted Jesus to Calvary.

According to a tradition of Jerusalem, Mary and her companions, after leaving the entrance to the Praetorium, went by a retired street which opened upon that along which Jesus was being taken. Walking quickly through the deserted little street, they reached the Way of Sorrows in the Tyropoeon Valley at the bottom of the street which descended from the Praetorium. There, in the midst of the terrible procession of soldiers and thieves, Mary saw her Son, passing very close to her, stained with blood and carrying His cross. They exchanged glances, perhaps even a few words, expressing sorrow, love, sacrifice for the salvation of mankind and unity with the divine will. Tradition has preserved for us the remembrance of this moment under the name of the meeting of Jesus and His mother.

Mary, John, and the holy women, doubtless followed the sad procession. From afar, above the sea of heads, pitying or curious, Mary had a glimpse, or by the movements, the stoppages, and cries of the crowd, she could guess at what was happening : Jesus falling, the compassion shown Him by some women, and then Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross.

At length they reached Calvary. Mary was from the depths of her heart more than ever united to Jesus; like Him, silent; like Him, forgiving those who crucified Him; and like Him, praying for us sinners, who have all shed the blood of Jesus.

Upon the hill of Calvary the friends of Jesus were reunited, and with them were the women who had followed Him from Galilee, and who had been accustomed to minister to the apostolic band; among these was the mother of James and John. They watched from afar. 2 A little group, however, approached nearer; and we know that John, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Cleophas the faithful sister of Our Lady, and Mary herself were in it. 3

It was the supreme moment of grief and of the Redemption. The sun was hidden. The cross, Calvary, and the whole world were shrouded in darkness. Jesus, abandoned by His Father, that is to say, considered by Him as the victim for our transgression and delivered up to affliction; Jesus, to whose human nature even the union with the Word no longer brought any consolation, suffered the last agonies and was overwhelmed with the final insults. Near the cross stood His mother. The sword pierced her soul; in sympathy she endured the bodily sufferings of Jesus; God united her to His deepest sufferings and to all the anguish of His heart; it was more than mortal agony, for much less would have caused the death of an ordinary human being. But Mary's soul, opening out under divine influence, expanded in proportion to her super-human love. She "restrained herself"; she was not overcome by her grief, but remained in all things entirely dignified and self-possessed. 4

She stood by, taking part in the sacrificial deed. The enemies of Jesus gathered round and overwhelmed Him with insults ; His most faithful friends were filled with fear, either not understanding what was happening, or at best comprehending very imperfectly. Alone then, and in her own name—for the sacrifice was offered for her, and the blood of her Son, if it had nothing to cleanse in her, was the price of the mercy which had preserved her from all stain—and, in the name of all those she represented, she gave thanks to God through Jesus Christ, and received the redeeming and sanctifying grace of His death. And even while she represented the multitude of the redeemed, she was raised above that multitude by her divine motherhood, and, joining with the Redeemer and participating in His priesthood, she also offered and presented Him to God.

She stood, the new Eve near the new Adam. It was the antithesis and the atonement for the sin of Eden. The cross was the Tree of Life in contrast to the Tree of Death. By His implicit obedience, Jesus washed away the sin of the father of mankind ; as the new head of the human race He united to Himself all the regenerated, and made them the children of God. And near Him, the new Eve, in her union with the divine will, atoned for the disobedience of the first Eve, and in her sorrow brought forth redeemed humanity.

It appears that Jesus desired to express this mystery by the words that then fell from His lips. "When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, he saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! " The more Christian meditation is concentrated upon these words, the more apparent it becomes that they comprehend something more than the mere commendation of Mary to the care of the apostle Saint John. The occasion is too important and the hour too solemn for these words not to possess a higher meaning. Jesus beholds near Him the mother of mankind, and by her side the pure and loving disciple. Of His chosen apostle, He makes the type of the soul living in grace, regenerated by His blood, born of God and of Mary. And, proclaiming, so to speak, this spiritual motherhood, the mystery of which is in course of accomplishment, he virtually says:—

" Woman "—and that appellation, perhaps habitually used by Jesus when He spoke to His mother, received from this circumstance a new and wider meaning, and became the appropriate word by which we designate her who is both the companion of Him who is above all others the Man, and the mother of regenerated humanity—" behold him, who, born to the life of grace by the power of My blood, becomes your son, at the same time that he becomes the son of My heavenly Father. And you, My disciple, who at this moment is become My brother, behold her who is your mother in spiritual things."

These words therefore may be applied to every soul in the proportion in which it participates or could participate in the Redemption ; and Jesus, in taking John as an example and type of the redeemed, intended to make it understood of each of us, and to address to us all, the same consoling farewell. But Mary, better than all others, understood. She was in a state of extreme emotion, which made her more than usually sensitive to the sentiments of love for mankind, which Jesus desired to renew and strengthen in her. It was in a heart made tender by suffering that she received all those sons whom the divine mercy confides to her love; and in such a moment, the divine words, always efficacious, imprinted in the depths of her heart a sweet compassion and maternal tenderness for each of her new children, and for all human kind.

As to the filial care, protection, and aid due to Mary in her temporal life, all that is also included in the words of our Lord; though probably this was not their chief meaning but only a natural consequence. In the Church, the spiritual fatherhood, superior to the earthly fatherhood, is a title in virtue of which it becomes the duty of the faithful to provide for the needs of their fathers in God, that is to say, of the apostles and pastors. Nevertheless, this fatherhood of the pastors and apostles, worthy and dignified as it is, is greatly inferior to the spiritual motherhood of Mary. And therefore, in view of this motherhood the disciples of Jesus were bound, in a much greater degree, to take care of her and provide for her wants during the time that she dwelt upon earth after the death of her Son. But it was Saint John who was chosen upon Calvary as the representative of the human race, and who received personally the injunction of the Master. His obligation thus rested upon a special title, and the duty became incumbent upon him in particular to provide for the needs of the Holy Virgin. He realised this duty, and " from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 5



1 St John xiv. 27-31.

2 St Matthew xxvii. 55, 56 ; St Mark xv. 40; St Luke xxiii. 49.

3 St John xix. 25-27 ; the passage commented on in the following pages. The words of our Lord are interpreted according to the commonly accepted sense, but the details represent the author's personal opinion.

4 Theological science protests against any "hysteria of the Virgin." See Terrien : La mere de Dieu et la mere des hommes, t. iii. p. 200-2, note.

This might also be translated : "He took her into his possession," literally "into that which he owned." See also this same expression "" in St John i. 11 and xvi. 32, and in Acts xxi. 6.