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THE FORTY-FOURTH CHAPTER.
Jesus addresseth His sorrow-stricken Mother.
There stood also by the Cross of Jesus His most holy and ever-Virgin Mother Mary, not, indeed, that His pains might be lightened and moderated thereby, but that they might be increased in no small measure. For if any creature could have brought comfort to our Lord as He hung upon the Cross, none would have been so fitted for this as His most blessed Mother. But because it had been decreed that Christ should die the bitterest of deaths, and close His Passion without any consolation or relief, but with true resignation, His Mother’s presence brought no comfort with it, but rather added to His pain, for her pains were thereby joined to His, and thus He drew therefrom still more abundant matter for cruel suffering.346
Who then, O good Jesus, can find out by meditation how great was Thy inward grief, when, for Thou knowest the hearts of all, Thou sawest all the bowels and members of Thy holy Mother racked by inward compassion in like manner with Thee upon the Cross, and fastened thereto by nails, and her tender Heart, and true Mother’s breast, pierced with the sword of sharp sorrow, her face deadly pale, while it told of all the anguish of her soul, and herself well nigh dead, without being able to die. When Thou sawest her burning tears, flowing down abundantly like sweet rivers upon her gracious cheeks, over her whole face, as so many witnesses to Thee that she shared in Thy sorrow and love; when Thou heardest, too, her pitiable groans, pressed out from her under her weight of woe; when, moreover, Thou beheldest that same tender Mother, wholly melted away by the heat of love, utterly dissolved in tears, her strength utterly failing her, exhausted and worn by the torment of Thy Passion, which wasted her away; Oh! of a truth, all this was a new affliction to Thee on Thy Cross, and itself a new cross. For Thou alone, by the lance of Thy compassion, hast searched into the weight and grievousness of her woes, which to all men are simply beyond all understanding. And this, indeed, greatly added to the pain of Thy Passion, 347because not only in Thy Body, but also in Thy Mother’s Heart Thou wert crucified, for her cross was Thy Cross, and Thine was hers.
Oh! how bitter, sweet Jesus, was Thy Passion! Thy outward pain was indeed great, but far more grievous was Thy inward pain, which Thy Heart conceived at Thy Mother’s anguish and distress. Now it was, it is clear, that the sword of sorrow pierced her through and through, for the Queen of martyrs was fearfully and mortally wounded in that part which is impassible, that is, in her soul; and she bore the death of the Cross in that which could not die, suffering all the more her grievous inward death, as outward death departed farther from her. Who, O most loving Mother, can tell, or worthily conceive in mind, the immense sorrows of thy soul, or thy inward woe? For Him Whom without pain thou broughtest forth, as the blessed Mother, free from the curse of our first mother Eve, and who, instead of the pains of troublesome labour, wert filled with jubilee of spirit, and who for thy refreshment didst catch with thine ears the sweet melody of the angels, as they praised thy Son, even Him hast thou now seen killed before thine eyes with such exceeding cruelty and tyranny. How manifold was that sorrow of thine, which at His birth thou didst happily escape, when thou 348sawest thy blessed and only Son hanging in such fearful pain upon the Cross, before that cruel and raging crowd, who heaped upon Him all the insults, and afflictions, and shame that they could think of in their minds; when thou sawest Him Whom thou didst carry in thy chaste womb without any burden, so inhumanly stretched upon the Cross, and pierced with nails; when thou sawest His sacred arms, with which He had so often lovingly clasped thee, stretched out so that they could not move, covered all over with red Blood, His adorable Head also pierced with sharp thorns, and His whole Body but one streaming wound; and all the while it was not given to thee to wipe those wounds of His, or anoint them. What must have been thy sorrow, when thou sawest Him, Whom, times without number, thou hadst laid on thy virgin bosom, that He might take His rest, now without even the smallest thing on which to lean His sacred Head; and Him Whom thou hadst fostered with the milk of thy holy breasts, now tormented with vinegar and gall. Oh! how that Mother’s heart of thine was pressed in the press of the Passion, when thou beheldest with thy chaste eyes His fair face so pitiably disfigured, so that there was no beauty therein, and nothing whereby He could be distinguished. How did the wave of affliction, O sweet Mother, 349beat against, and flow over thy soul, yea, and utterly overwhelm it! Of a truth, if even a devout man cannot, without unutterable sorrow and compassion, turn over in his mind the Passion of thy Son, what must have been thy cross, thy affliction, who wast His Mother, and sawest it with thine own eyes? If, to many of the friends of God, and to many who love God, thy Son’s Passion is as great a pain as if they themselves suffered it; and if these, by inward compassion, are crucified with thy Son, how fearfully, even unto death, must thou have been inwardly crucified, when not only thou didst weigh with thyself and search into thy Son’s outward and inward pains in thy most devout heart, but didst see them even with thy bodily eyes? For what is any man’s love for thy Son compared with thy love? Never did any mother so love her child as thou didst love thy Son. And if S. Paul, who loved so much, could say out of his burning love and deep compassion for thy Son: “I am fastened with Christ upon the Cross, and I bear about the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body,” how much more wert thou crucified together with Him, and didst inwardly receive all His wounds, being made, in some sort of way, an image and likeness of thy Crucified Son?
If, moreover, they who fervently love God, so earnestly seek and thirst after His 350glory, that as often as they perceive that God is offended, or any wrong is done Him, they are afflicted with as great inward grief, and are tormented with as great pain, as if they themselves had received some deadly wound; how exceedingly then must thou, the most faithful of all mothers, and who lovedst God most fervently, have been afflicted, when thou sawest thy dearest and only Son, nay, thy God and Lord, so shamefully blasphemed, despised, and mocked? If, lastly, those Jewish deceivers and hypocrites, when they heard any blasphemy, rent their garments, as if in proof of their sorrow, how must thy tender heart have been rent for sorrow, when thou both sawest and heardest all those accursed and horrible wrongs, and reproaches, and blasphemies darted forth against thy Son? For thus saith the Lord: “Rend your hearts, and not your garments.” And, indeed, on this very day, thy brave heart was pierced, not once only, but more than a hundred times. For no trouble came upon thy Son in thy sight, which did not pierce thy heart.
And how couldst thou stand? For the Evangelist saith: “There stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother.” Whence came thy strength? Of a certainty, thy body was not of steel or stone, that this day thou couldst be pierced so many times by the sword of sorrow, and crucified so 351many times, and wounded together with thy Son, nevertheless thou didst stand there firm both in body and soul. Peradventure those strong and rough nails held thee also fast upon the Cross of thy Son, so that thou couldst not fall. But far more strongly did thy mighty love, love stronger than death itself, bear thee up, so that thou couldst not fall. Thou stoodest, therefore, the immoveable column of the faith, the lioness that hath never been conquered, and that feareth no attack or threat when her little ones have been taken from her. Thou hadst no fear for the fury of the Jews, the neighing of the horses, the noise of arms, for thou wert ready to die with thy Son. Nor couldst thou deny Him, as Peter had done, or fly, like the other apostles, or doubt, like the disciples, or suffer any scandal, like not a few, for well thou knewest Whom thou hadst conceived, and brought forth, and how.
Therefore thou stoodest by His Cross, and didst adore His Godhead in spirit. Truly thou stoodest like some strong tower, in which the king, who had set forth on a long journey, had hidden the precious treasure of faith. Thou stoodest, I say, by the tree of the Cross, in order to cooperate by thy bitter pain in man’s redemption, by looking on the fruit of life; even as of old Eve had brought death on man, by standing with pleasure by the tree, and looking 352at its fruit of death. And, because all grief and compassion that spring from love are great according to the measure of love, therefore, because thy love was beyond all measure, thy grief was utterly measureless. And because thou knewest Jesus, thy beloved Son, to be the true Son of God, thy love for His Godhead, and thy love for His Manhood, like two mighty rocks, pressed together thy heart between them, and straitened it in mortal agony, when thou sawest Jesus, the Son of God, Whom thou hadst conceived in thy chaste womb, treated so horribly and shamefully in His Human nature, and so cruelly put to death. Of a truth, these were the two sharp swords that cruelly pierced thy soul with all affliction and grief. For, as a bride full of burning love, thou hadst bitter grief for the grievous contempt and wrong which thou sawest inflicted on thy Bridegroom, even thy God and Lord; and, as a faithful and true Mother, thou didst sorrow exceedingly, in like manner, for the horrible pains and most shameful death which thou beheldest thy sweet Son undergo. Moreover, because the Passion of this thy Son was so exceeding great, that according to the rigour of justice it might outweigh by its own weight all the sins of the world, which are numberless and boundless, therefore was thy suffering also measureless and boundless; and because thy sorrow corresponded 353with His torments, on that account was thy cross and affliction beyond all comprehension and measure, and thy merits limitless. Again, as it had been decreed by God that the most blessed Virgin Mary was to stand between God and sinful man as a reconciler, for this very reason He Himself permitted her to suffer a great sickness and sorrow of soul, that the merits of her affliction might be as great as those of one who stood between God and man ought to be, and that they might suffice for all men, who might thus draw help from the measureless treasury of her merits. It was fitting, too, that this same holy Virgin, our Lady, whom God Almighty wished to be the Mother of the children of grace, should perform as sad funeral rites of her Son, as all the children of grace taken together could possibly, or ought rightly and deservedly to perform.
So great, then, was her cross, so mighty her affliction, that although she might have found some little comfort in her Son’s Passion, in order to relieve her sorrow, yet was this straightway swallowed up by the force of the flood of bitterness, even as a drop of sweet wine would be lost in the salt sea. Here, then, were to be seen two altars, made ready for the Father of heaven; one in the Body of Christ, the other the Heart of the Virgin Mother. Christ, indeed, 354offered His Flesh and Blood, Mary her soul. And, of a surety, that sweet Mother desired to mingle her blood with that of her Son, so that, together with Him, the work of man’s redemption might be accomplished. But it was the privilege of the High Priest alone, to enter with blood into the Holy of holies. Wherefore, although the Blessed Virgin could not accomplish her sacrifice by shedding her blood outwardly for God, nevertheless inwardly she burnt and consumed all in the glowing fire of love and sorrow. And, of a truth, she did offer to God a pleasing sacrifice, even as the Prophet saith, “a broken heart, and afflicted spirit,” or, as the text hath it, “a troubled spirit;” and in place of blood she shed forth tears, and her sighs were borne, like clouds of sweet incense, up to heaven. In this way she performed and offered her sacrifice for all the children of grace, whose Mother she was, and she, too, was heard for her reverence.
Now then, O my soul, and as many as desire to be the children of grace, look up to Christ your Father in His bitter agony, and see how by His Death He hath recalled you to life, and, like the faithful pelican, hath quickened and nourished you, His little ones, with His own Blood. Look, too, on your sorrow-stricken Mother Mary, who suffereth new pains of labour by reason of you, in order that you may 355be made the children of grace. Through your Father you have life, through your Mother grace is given you. Have compassion, therefore, on your parents, whom you see labouring in such anxious pain for your salvation, if, indeed, you are the children of grace. Oh! how often did that most sad Mother lift up her eyes to gaze upon the disfigured Body of her Son, and yet was forced to cast them down, pouring forth bitter tears. She saw His wounded Body, and yet she could not anoint it; she saw the fearful Blood-shedding, yet it was not given to her to wipe it away; she saw His members cruelly extended, yet she could not loosen or relieve them. She beheld Him clad in His purple robe, with which she had not clothed Him; and the garment which He had received from her, all torn, and tattered, and worn. She saw Him bow down His Sacred Head to die, and all His members sighing for death, and this was the only relief and lightening of those her pains, whereby her tender heart was pressed out like a grape, so that she could truly say with her Son: “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.”
Now when her sweet Son saw these things, Who hitherto had contained Himself, in order that her mighty faith, and her great faithfulness, and her unconquered patience, and her glorious passion, and, above all, her boundless love that could 356not be restrained, and lest the glory of her cross might be lessened, could now no longer contain Himself, but with tender and comforting voice addressed her, saying: “Woman, behold thy Son!” as if He would say: “Sweetest, dearest, most faithful Mother, I know thy sorrow and woe; I know how much thou sufferest for the love of Me: I perceive the anguish of thy devoted heart, when thou beholdest Me, thy beloved Son, in such exceeding pain, and when thou art so pitiably deprived of thy dear Child, in Whom is all thy hope and consolation. But what comfort can I give thee, sweetest and most faithful Mother? My Passion must needs be finished, and I must die; now hath the hour come that I should go to Him Who sent Me. Wherefore I leave to thee My best loved disciple to be thy son in the place of Me, to console thee, and guard thee, and to care for thee, and that, as a dutiful son, he may be subject and obedient to thee, his Mother.” But how, think you, did these words of our Lord Jesus pierce His sad Mother’s tender heart, when she heard that she was thus left utterly destitute; that for the Son of God there was given her a child of man; for her Creator, a creature; for her Master, the disciple; for tier Lord, a servant? How did her great love for our Lord then melt her utterly away, when she thought with herself of all His 357anxious care for her, and that He was more afflicted by compassion at His Mother’s sorrow than at His own Passion! For now death stood at His door, yet still He thought about His Mother. Devouring death had already well nigh stiffened all His members, yet once more they grew warm again from love, and were moved to compassion. He put forth all the strength still left Him to console her, as if He had forgotten all His own woe, and was tormented by His Mother’s grief alone. Then, as well as He could, He turned all His members to comfort her. First, indeed, He bowed His Head, as if to bid the last farewell, and to ask her leave to depart from life. Then He lovingly turned to her His eyes red with Blood, and still wet with warm tears. Lastly, He opened His lips, that were already growing pale with death, and said: “Woman, not My Mother only, but woman, in the widest sense, by reason of thy great fruitfulness”—even as of old God had said to Abraham’s wife that she should be called no more Sarai, but Sara, “for I have made thee the mother of many nations.” “Woman, behold thy Son. Here is John, who will be thy son, whose name, being interpreted, is grace. And I have granted thee this privilege, that thou mayest be the mother of grace for evermore, by reason of the exceeding great merits of thy sorrow, nor shall thy 358breasts be ever without the milk of grace, whereby thou mayest foster and nourish all and each who press them by devout prayer. Wherefore, O most fruitful Woman, behold thy Son, and weep no more, for thou art no withered tree, no forsaken and barren mother without children. Rejoice, rather, for thou art the most fruitful of all mothers that have ever been, and blessed above all women. By these pains of labour which now thou sufferest, thou wilt bring forth children without number, and thou shalt be the mother of all, who by My grace shall believe in Me. All these, as thy own children, shalt thou foster and guard in the bosom of thy maternal grace, giving them to drink of the milk of thy chaste breasts, because thou thyself hast found grace before God. All who thirst shall run to thee, and say: ‘Show thyself to be our mother.’ Wherefore, Woman, behold! not one Son alone, but many sons; and now forget thy grief. Let this comfort thee, and lighten and lessen thy labour.”
O Mary, Mother of grace, Mother of mercy, strengthen us in all virtue, preserve us from all evil, and protect us from all the enemies of our souls.
Then our Lord said to His disciple: ‘Behold thy Mother!” Now this was said not to John alone, but to all converted sinners, for whom grace is all necessary, 359and who, without grace, die like infants without milk. For no man can persevere or make progress without the nourishment of grace. O Mary! true mother of grace and of mercy, to whom hast thou ever closed the bosom of thy grace? From whom hast thou ever withdrawn the breasts of thy tenderness? Let him keep silent in thy praise, who complaineth that he hath suffered repulse from thee, or hath been defrauded of grace. We praise virginity, we marvel at humility, we extol justice; but mercy is dearer to them who are in misery, and mercy we embrace with greater love, and remember more often, and more frequently invoke.
Wherefore, as many of us as are in need of grace, let us stand by the Cross, and with Mary let us be crucified inwardly by compassion. Of a truth, our tender Lord, Who hath spent His whole self and all that He hath, will not suffer us to go away from the Cross without comfort and reward. And although He is overwhelmed in pain, yet He will have care of us. Although He goeth now to the Father, He will not leave us orphans; but He will commend us to His own Father, and will send us another Comforter, His own Holy Spirit. Moreover, He will give us His own spotless, Virgin Mother, saying: “Behold your Mother!” How sweet, how full of comfort is this word to all who are 360weak, that they should have so faithful, so kind, so merciful a mother, who learnt compassion from what she herself suffered? Of a truth, she filled up in herself what was wanting, and belonging to Christ’s Passion, that by her merits she might bring help to all men. But oh! how small is our hope and trust in God! We have the Father of mercy for our Father, waiting for us with open bosom, that He may make us joint-heirs with His Son on high in the kingdom of heaven. The Son also is our Advocate, Who by His own labour and pain leadeth us back into the Father’s grace. We have the Holy Ghost for our Comforter in this valley of tears, that we may not be cast down in heart, or broken down from weariness. Moreover, we have received for our -food Christ’s adorable Body and precious Blood, lest we faint by the way, and as a pledge of bliss to come, lest we should doubt or be overcome by despair. Lastly, Mary standeth between us and God to reconcile us to Him, and to renew our peace. And what cannot such a Mother obtain from her Son? What more comforting word could Christ have spoken to us than this word: “Behold thy Mother!” Behold your Mother full of mercy, who will ever receive you as her children, full, also, of grace, who will feed and nourish you to the full.361
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