|Our Lady of Pontmain.|
Suffering, we must remember, did not enter into the designs of God for man antecedently to man's sin. Adam was not created to suffer. Suffering was consequent on sin, but when sin and suffering had entered into the world, our compassionate Lord, according to His wont, brought good out of evil and made the punishment the occasion of our sanctification. So Christians, joining their relatively small sufferings to the mighty sufferings of their Saviour, pay the punishment due to their sins, merit in His sight, have the Christian character slowly formed within them, become, unconsciously to themselves, like to Christ, and even are enabled thus to satisfy God's Justice, not only for their own offences, but also for those of their friends. St. Paul, therefore, does not fear to write to the Colossians :
"I rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things which are wanting in the Sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body's sake, which is the Church." (Col 1:24)
In one sense it would be blasphemy to assert that anything can be wanting in the Sufferings of Christ. One drop of His Precious Blood is enough to redeem ten thousand worlds; yet, obviously, since God intends us to do our part, He has left us that part to do, and it remains "wanting,"" until we do it. The Cyrenean was intended to have his own appointed share of suffering on the road to Calvary. Christ left that share to him, for his merit and sanctification. Similarly, He leaves something to all the members of His Body, that they may fill up in their flesh that which is wanting in His sufferings—not only for their own souls' sake, but also " for His Body's sake, which is the Church." We are all called to be fellow-workers with Christ. This is the high vocation of every Christian. " By good works we may thus make our calling and election sure," (2 Peter i. 10,) solely in virtue of the union of those good works with the sufferings and the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Experience teaches Christians that the nearer to Christ, the nearer to the Cross. The lives of all the saints—differing indefinitely as they do in outward circumstances—all agree in this that, in a marked way, they share in the sufferings of Christ. This is their hallmark. From this source they draw all their supernatural power and value. From this contact with the Cross springs all sanctity. So it follows inexorably—if none so near to our Lord as His Blessed Mother, then none so near to His Cross. If Mary shared the secrets of His Heart as could none other, then in a measure far beyond all others must she share His sufferings. It was not deemed fitting that bodily illness, which is the direct result of sin, should be hers, or that she should die a violent death, but in mystical suffering, in sufferings of the soul far more poignant than those of the body—sufferings which react upon the body and rack its sensitive nerves with anguish—she was to endure beyond all other creatures. Beyond all others, she was destined to be a fellow-worker together with Christ. A larger share was to be hers than fell to any other of that which was wanting in His sufferings, to be made up by her " for His Body's sake which is the Church." Her sorrows differed not only in degree, but also in kind, from those of her children, for she alone is the Mother of the Saviour; as such, when she stood beneath the Cross she was associated, in a manner which no other can share, with the Passion of her Son.
Close to the side of her Child at Bethlehem, in Egypt, and at Nazareth, our Lady, Mother of the Man and Lord of Sorrows, shrank not on Calvary's Hill from His bed of pain.
As we gaze upon Mary at the foot of the Cross we learn that it is not only the Redeemer who is called upon by God to suffer sorrow and agony of soul.
Thus we take courage as we behold our Sorrowful Mother, knowing that she too has learned what it means to shed the tears of exceeding bitterness. " Great as the sea is Thy desolation, O Virgin Daughter of Sion. Shall there be none to comfort thee ?"
Most intimately associated with the Passion of Jesus Christ is the Compassion or fellow-suffering of Mary. Who dare separate the suffering Mother from her suffering Son ?