Lord Jesus Christ,
when you were raised upon the cross,
your mother Mary stood beside you in your passion:
may your Church, as it shares in your suffering and death,
come to share more deeply in your risen life;
for, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
you are alive and reign, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.
(Collect for 15 September, The Daily Office SSF)
Mary was the first to place a kiss on his brow. She had quenched his thirst and caressed him with tenderness. Now his hands are nailed to a tree. His brow bleeding. His throat parched. A mother never abandons her child. His pain is her suffering. His death, her broken heart. Never had the world seen a mother’s heart filled with such joy at the birth of a child. Never will it see such sorrow at his death. Who could ever fathom the depth of a mother's love!
Matthew, Mark and Luke all place the other women on Golgotha "at a distance" (apo makrothen) from the cross. But John places Mary right next to the cross (para to stauro). The woman closest to Jesus in life is closest to him in death. Love gives Mary the courage to be there. There is no love in nature stronger than the bond of mother and child.
The crowd is drunk with mockery. The criminal to the left is hurling insults. The one to the right, begging for mercy. Mary is silent. With loud cries and lamentation, Rachel weeps at the death of her children (cf Jer 31:15). There are sorrows that cannot be contained. But not one word from Mary’s lips. The deepest sorrow sheds silent tears.
At the angel's greeting, Mary spoke her fiat. Then, in silence, the Word became flesh in her womb. God has become man. On Calvary, Mary stands in silence. The taunts of the bystanders at Jesus’ death cannot drown out the sweet song of the angels at his birth. Her silence is her consent to the mystery of salvation through the death of her son.
As Jesus was always faithful to the Father, Mary was always faithful to the Son. Her presence at the foot of the Cross is the gift of her total union with her son in the work of redemption. Mary stands. It is the position of nobility. She causes her son no added pain by loud laments. At the death of her sons cruelly executed, Rizpah throws herself on the ground in uncontrollable grief (2 Sam 23:10-11). Mary stands. It is the proper gesture for one who is sacrificing. The Shepherd is willingly laying down his life as the Lamb led to slaughter. Jesus is the Victim. Mary is one with him in self-immolation...
Jesus spoke and water turned to wine. His word multiplied bread and called Lazarus from the grave. Christ’s word has power. It effects what it commands. He speaks now from the cross. And his word creates a new reality, a new relationship in the economy of salvation.
"Son, behold your mother." Jesus first entrusts the beloved disciple to Mary. Mary is to care for the disciple. Clearly, Jesus is not making provision for the earthly care of his mother after his death. To the beloved, Jesus gifts his own mother. He is not renouncing the bond that binds him to Mary. He is elevating and expanding it. The beloved disciple is every true believer. Mary's motherhood is universal. We are all placed in her care.
"Woman, behold your son." It is the second Annunciation. At the word of the angel, Mary became the mother of the Son of God. At the word of the Son of God, she now becomes the mother of all God's children.
The Cross is the "hour" of redemption. It is the moment when God's plan for our salvation is accomplished. According to that plan, every disciple is now bound to Mary in the order of grace. She is our mother, not just for a time, but for all eternity. In the birth pangs of Golgotha, the Church is born. And, at the center, there beats the heart of a mother.
Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli, Mary at the Cross
Iuxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.
To stand beside the cross with you,
to join you in mourning,
is all I long for.
Virgo virginum praeclara,
mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere.
Chosen Virgin of virgins,
do not turn away;
let me grieve with you.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.
Let me bear the death of Christ,
let me but share His passion,
let me recall his wounds.
from Stabat Mater by Jacopone da Todi, 13th Century Franciscan friar (my own translation)