VI. THE TAKING DOWN FROM THE CROSS
The sixth and seventh Dolours are also the two last Stations of the Cross.
Jesus was dead. The lance had pierced His Heart, and His Precious Blood was shed to the last drop. Mary waited at her post beneath the Cross. Slowly the Body of her Son was detached from the wood to which it had been fixed—the Nails removed, as it would seem by the hands of Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, who once had sought his Lord secretly and by night. His Mother waited, until at last, once again, she received Her Burden. Once more she took her Son into her arms. Not now was it as once at Bethlehem. Both then and now He was, by His own Will, helpless, as we all were help less as children, and shall all be helpless when we lie dead. But at Bethlehem He smiled upon her; now He could smile no longer. When He lay upon the straw as a Child in the Stable, or reposed within His Mother's arms, the light of love was in His eyes as He looked upon her—He who was her Babe; now His Eyes were closed and clotted with the Blood that had fallen from His Thorn-pierced Brow. Then He would gently move His Hands and Feet; now those divine Hands that had been placed in Blessing upon the heads of the little children were stark and stiff—those divine Feet which had journeyed wearily through the Holy Land were still and inanimate. The Soul of Christ had indeed quitted His Body and was now with the Fathers in the Limbo of the Just. But the Body of Christ was still hypostatically united with the Person of the Eternal Word, and Mary adored with all the fervour of her soul. She adored the Body of God made Man, crucified and dead. Having adored her Lord, her heart went out-—for this too was the Will of God—in human love—in the natural love of a Mother —to her Child, as she pressed her lips anew to His Face and watered It with her tears. Writing in this manner seems to me, as I pen the words, an intrusion into the guarded shrine of Mary's riven soul. I ask myself, how do I dare to write thus without reserve, to stand on this most holy ground, as it were to pry into grief so sacred—to gaze so close upon such a scene, to venture near to the Mother of God in her inexpressible sorrow when her Son was dead in her arms ? Will she say that He belongs to her alone, and that she has a right to the privacy of her sorrows ? We know the answer. Her Son is hers in a sense which none can share, but He is also ours. Even her sorrows are not hers alone. They belong to a sinful world. So I will leave my poor words unerased, for I dare to hope that our Lady herself would have it so. We press thus near—if you will, we seem to pry, we gaze so close—for this too is, we may believe, the Will of God. It is God's Will that we should not shrink, held back by undue sensitiveness, from contemplating closely the Passion of Jesus and the Dolours of Mary. For our souls' welfare—for our salvation—the screen of privacy has been removed, and all has been made public. Here there is no place for reserve. It is not only at her post standing beneath the Cross that the Church encourages us to watch our Lady. We may kneel before the Pieta—the representation of the Dead Christ in His Mother's arms—and there strive to enter somewhat into His Mother's sorrow, who is our mother, too. As we kneel, our own small burdens will fall away, or at least be lightened, when we have laid them by her side.
As she received Jesus her Child into her arms, so will she receive us too, who are also her children, when our hour comes to die. In her arms shall we be safe, as was Jesus. She will care for us, as she cared for Him. Meanwhile let us, with our fathers who have gone before us in the Faith, cherish the memory of her Sorrows, of her Compassion for, and with, the Passion of her Son.