CHAPTER XXXIX, MARY'S HOLY PASSING
|Death of the Virgin (Caravaggio)|
On the third day, when Salome and Magdalen, Mary of Cleophas and Jezel were making ready to go to the sepulcher, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, lying all these long hours as if in ecstasy upon her couch, sighed softly. It was the first hint of returning life, and gave them intense joy.
A smile irradiated her countenance. Her hands, clasped upon her bosom, were stretched out as if trying to touch some object. The deepest happiness seemed to transfigure her, and they who looked upon her knew that in some way her blessed Son was consoling her.
She who had suffered so much deserved to be comforted the first. She had followed Him in life, along every step of His journey, from the crib to the cross and the tomb.
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And now she beheld Him glorious and triumphant. From His resurrection to His ascension the Mother and her Son were never parted in spirit. Her soul was united to God.
After that day of glory, forty days after His resurrection from the dead, that day on which, ascending into heaven, He left His disciples orphans, John, remembering the words of Jesus on the cross, took up his abode with the Mother of Jesus.
And Mary lived many years after these wondrous events. If her Son did not call her to Him sooner it is, doubtless, because He wished that His Mother should be our model, our model in the duties of life and its affections; our model when duties and affections have passed us by.
You who have survived the pomps of life and the pangs of the heart; you who have seen slowly disappear all that charmed and delighted your days; you who can scarcely finish the task begun in joy and prolonged in tears: look at Mary. Mary, who lived on earth after the ascension of Him who crowned her with glory.
She was content to do His will, though her heart sighed for Him. She spent her days in prayer, or watching at the bedside of the sick. She succored the poor, and visited the afflicted, and carried words of sweetness and mercy to repentant sinners.
"Our divine Master has suffered desolation of every kind. He chose to be poor that poverty might be made noble. He would console all those who labor and suffer, and would lift the heavy burden from the shoulders of mankind."
And if the troubles carried to her were of a heart-rending nature, as so many of earth's troubles are, she would whisper in her pure tones:
"I have seen a God, who called me His Mother, suffer and die."
And no one could refrain from tears at the terrible picture of desolation called forth by these words.
"I raised my heart to God. He succored me. Direct your thoughts to Him and pray to Him."
And to the sinner:
"Have confidence in your God. He gave His Son to redeem sinners."
Mary, the Mother, the Woman in whom such stupendous wonders were accomplished, the Woman most excellent, Eve regenerated, humbly ftdfilled the apostleship which every woman is called to discharge in her own family—the apostleship of sympathetic bounty, mildness, patience, self-denial and mercy, together with the sublime apostleship of motherhood: ay, she was the Mother of God!
She traversed the whole circle of the life of a woman, with its joys and sorrows, from youth to old age, from a life filled with high destinies, to that apex of existence when the world seems to disappear from view. Virgin, Spouse, and Mother most perfect, the hour of her release arrived at last, and with sweet tranquillity she gladly closed her eyes upon the things of earth, dying the death of love, consumed by the purest love for God who deigned to be her own Son.
After her blessed death, John, and those others who loved her, placed her body in the tomb which they had hollowed out of the rock.
But even while they kept the death-vigil, that holy body disappeared, and when they visited there the following morning, they found but fresh and glowing flowers on the couch of death.
God willed that her body, made sacred by her Son, should not follow the common law. His angels raised it, glorified, to heaven. And there a woman appears, clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
And a voice exclaimed:
"Now is established the salvation and the reign of our God, and the power of His Christ. Wherefore, ye heavens, rejoice, and ye who inhabit the earth rejoice, for redemption has been bestowed upon you."
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Most glorious Virgin, in the midst of thy joys do not forget the sufferings of the earth. Cast an eye of tenderness and mercy on those who are yet in pain and suffering, struggling against difficulties and tasting daily the bitter in the cup of life.
Have pity on the poor child exposed to the dangers of the world; on the mother who fears to survive her children, or who dreads leaving them orphans; on youth, so inexperienced, which weeps over every lost hope; on manhood, which understands and fears the future, while pondering on the past; on foolish old age, which, heaping days upon days without realizing their value, forgets the end to which time has hurried it.
Have pity on those that pray, have pity on those that fear. Pray for us all that all may obtain hope and peace forevermore.
Mistress and Lady, Queen of heaven and Mother of God, Lily of Israel, pray for us!