At the Cross with Mary
We take our place before the crucifix… We, the Passionist Nuns, desire with all our hearts to be with Mary at the Cross of Jesus. I imagine some questions that may come to the minds of those who know of the Passionist Nuns and their devotion to the Passion of Jesus and the Sorrows of Mary. Why do we do we give so much attention to the Cross? Why do we go to Mary? Why do we go to her as "Sorrowful Mother"? Why not a more cheerful title? Why do we seek her in her sorrowful suffering with Jesus?
Why the Cross?
Why the Cross? What do we think about the cross? We hear about it so much in the context of our Christian faith. We see the cross itself as the symbol of our Christian faith. But what does it mean? Do we realize how intimately our own lives are linked with the cross of Christ? Even if we do not seek the cross, we will find the suffering of a cross somewhere on our journey of faith. When we find it, do we recognize it for what it is?
We come to Jesus and Mary in the mystery of their suffering and sorrow in order to learn the true meaning and value of our own sufferings and sorrows. Through standing with them where they are and through uniting our hearts with theirs in this eternal mystery of our redemption, we can experience the beauty and power of the Cross of Christ—which is MERCY, GRACE, and LOVE. What is beautiful in such a thing as the crucifixion of Jesus and the sorrow of Mary, except for the revelation of this divine love and wisdom… so far beyond the wisdom of this world?
We speak the wisdom of God, mysterious, hidden, which God foreordained before the world unto our glory… This wisdom of God, which is "revealed through His Spirit", is Christ Crucified. (Stuhlmueller, C.P., Biddle, C.P, "Mary, Queen of Our Congregation"; Cf. 1 Cor 2:1).
In a reading from the liturgy of the hours, St. Peter
Chrysologus has Christ speak these words to us: "My body was stretched on the
cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of my all embracing love." As
we look at Jesus on the Cross with faith in who He is, we see the love of God.
Does this look like a God who would withhold anything at all that is truly good
for us? From the Cross, we can experience and learn a love that is strong enough
to embrace everything that God sends into our lives. This love is stronger than
pain, sorrow, disappointment and death. In short, it is a love that is Divine.
Why Mary, the Sorrowful Mother?
Why do we go to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in order to learn the wisdom of God which is Christ Crucified? Simply for this reason: Wisdom is best taught by someone like us who has already experienced and entered fully into what we seek to understand. Mary, who is like us in all ways but sin, has gone before us in faith even to the utter darkness of faith as she stood at the Cross of Jesus. She experienced as her own the suffering of Jesus’ Heart. She can teach us how to relate to her Divine Son through the example of her faith, her hope, her silent surrender of love, her union with the will of Jesus, and her humble trust in the Father’s love. Our Sorrowful Mother is "the best teacher of this wisdom hidden in the wounds of Christ. " Who knows God’s wisdom better than His Mother, Mary? Mary, Seat of Wisdom, the Mother of Sorrows is "the source of this wisdom which is Christ Crucified." (Stuhlmueller, C.P., Biddle, C.P.)
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," but oftentimes we do not understand Him well enough to know and love Him as He desires. Jesus is a beautiful Divine Mystery. In our struggle, Mary is there to show us the way to Jesus, who is THE way. Passionists also honor Mary as Mother of Holy Hope. The liturgy on her feast has Mary speak: "In me is all the grace of the way and of the truth; in me is all the hope of life and of virtue." In other words, if we seek Jesus, we can find Him in Mary more easily than we can without her.
The Passion of Jesus is the only door through which we enter into the Divine Life of the Holy Trinity. Mary is there with Jesus in His Passion, and the Passion of Jesus was also suffered in the Heart of Mary through her compassion. Her silent presence hides the mystery of her experience of the merciful, redeeming love of God. All she wants for us is to know this Love—Jesus in His Sorrowful Passion—in order that through uniting our own sufferings and sorrows to His, we may pass-over from sin, sorrow and death to the freedom, peace, joy, life and love that belong to the sons and daughters of the One True God.
Jesus is the Truth, and His Way (the way through which He chose to give us the fullness of His Divine Life) was the Way of the Cross. The way of Jesus is not just TO the Cross (to death). Rather it is THROUGH the Cross TO life, love, freedom, joy and peace. One must have humility, faith and trust in order to experience this reality. No one has ever believed or trusted in Him as Mary has, and Jesus gave her to each of us as He hung upon the cross. Why? It is through her flesh that the Way, the Truth, and the Life became first accessible to men in human flesh, in the Person of her Son, Jesus. It is also through her very heart that this same Divine Life in Jesus is born into our own souls from the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. Jesus says to each of us, "…Behold, your mother." Jesus has given her to us out of the deepest most sacred places of His Inner Heart, just as He has given us every ounce of blood and water that flowed from His Heart to heal us and give us a share in God’s life. This is His mercy and His grace, but she, who is "full of grace" is one with that mercy and grace.
Yes, this is Jesus’ Sacrifice, but she is with Him there,
and their hearts are one in the work of our salvation. Mary, too, offered the
sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to the Father. We may also offer "the Body,
Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ" to the Eternal Father as we
pray that He have mercy on us for the sake of His Beloved Son’s Sorrowful
Passion. Even so, these words do not cost us as they cost Mary, the Mother of
Imagine her there as Jesus’ Heart is pierced. This was her pain. Jesus was already dead, but her heart (her self), which had been hidden in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was still there. And that pain was hers to the very core of her being. He gives His Heart, emptying its contents for love of us. And in giving His Heart to us, He gives Mary to us… because the Heart of Jesus, which willed to sacrifice itself in such an astonishing way, was her dwelling place.
Imagine the scene of the "Pieta". The word "pieta", itself, means "Have pity." Have mercy. For whom did Mary ask the Father’s pity, or mercy, as she held the Body of her dead Son who was now clothed in His own Blood? She held Jesus, and as she held Him, she was a living altar. I can clearly imagine her beneath the Cross, raising her eyes to heaven… to the Father. "Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son… and mine. Have mercy on them. Grant them salvation."
We contemplate the beauty of God’s grace in her, and a
question rises out of awe: "Who are you? Who are you beautiful woman—so struck
with sorrow, yet so full of peace?" The answer: Faith. Hope. Loving assent in
all things to the Divine Wisdom of God’s Love. Compassion— she is one who
suffers with those who suffer. Why? Because of her love. By the gift of her
loving prayers and the gift of herself through the Heart of Jesus, we too have
come to know God’s mercy and grace.