In pondering the Passion Narrative and listening to some reflections on it, what came to mind for special consideration is Mary’s attitude at the Cross. Her whole life, her whole raison d’etre, from an eternal perspective, was leading to this event. Jesus’ mother spent an entire lifetime pondering her God (it certainly did not begin with her encounter with an angel). Scripture tells us explicitly of this in two places: at the Annunciation (“she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” — Lk 1:29) and during the Finding in the Temple (“his mother kept all these things in her heart” — Lk 2:51b). She also knew, from blessed Simeon, that she would be well-acquainted with suffering (“and you yourself a sword will pierce” — Lk 2:35a). Whatever she thought of precisely the way the last thirty-four years of her life unfolded, her disposition at the foot of her Son’s altar of sacrifice (sadness, silence, resignation) indicate that her Fiat to the Archangel Gabriel remained in effect, as it had been all her days: “Let it be done to me according to your word,” Lord.
In fact, the Theotokos, the Christ-bearer, would no doubt have had it, if the Father would allow it, to let it be done to her instead of to the Word. Like any good mother, not content to just be present for her child, she would have desired to, empathetically. take it all upon herself — to bear His pain just as she bore Him. The great mystics tell us that, in fact, she did experience in her person all the suffering of her Son. We know that certain personages throughout history have experienced interiorly (and some exteriorly) the Passion of Christ — so why not the one who gave flesh to the God-Man?
In all this, she becomes a model for all ages. She anticipates Paul’s words,
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking* in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the churchCol 1:24
Except she was there, at least according to some, at the institution of the Church, as she saw and felt the lance pierce Christ’s side issuing the Blood of the Eucharist and the waters of Baptism.
A frequent prayer of mine is that all will come to know Jesus Christ more intimately in illness and suffering and that — since it must be endured in any case — none of it will go to waste. Let us all lift up that petition so that in any current and/or future distress, this disposition will be ours. This will help to assure us that, having passed through this valley of tears well, we can look forward to the day when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain” (Rev 21:4)
GOOD GOOD FRIDAY MEDITATIONS
The always superb Bishop Barron recorded a Stations of the Cross three years back. It runs nearly an hour, but it is worth your prayerful and attentive listening: https://youtu.be/pJNjtA-Awb4
This article on Jesus’ suffering, considered from a medical perspective, with the author of a recent book (definitive and highly recommended by me as it was last year’s Lenten reading) on the subject is fruit for contemplation on the horror of Jesus’ Passion, and thus the horror of sin and its effects.
A CURE FOR OUR ILLS
It was a blessing that my parish offered quite a number of opportunities for Confession the last few days. I was finally able to complete my First Saturday devotion just two days ago (it’s complicated). Lines were very long for our two priests (beautiful!). Wonderfully, as well, there was Eucharistic Adoration going on simultaneously with Confession. I do not recall experiencing that before — during Mass, yes, but not with Jesus exposed in a monstrance.
Upon doing my penance prayers on my knees, it struck me that what the world needs now as much as ever is encompassed in the scene before me. Jesus, contrition, penance, reparation, reconciliation — and mercy. The Real Presence needs to be proclaimed and upheld with a renewed fervor. My annoyance (to put it mildly) with those “Reformers” who separated Christians from this fount of life a half a millennium and more ago, with those Catholics who don’t believe that “This is my Body…This is my Blood,” and the scandal of Catholics not living up to their calling (this is where I come in) was impressed on me deeply in this moment.
Let us pray more fervently than ever that Jesus will become much more widely known in the gift of the Eucharist and that we will take seriously this admonition of our Lord:
Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.Jn 6:53
Richard, thank you for sharing your love and devotion to Christ on this Good Friday. I can sense your annoyance with the Reformers concerning the sacrament, but… I do have a philosophical question. Can the ideas and doctrines of men truly change what is contained in the elements, one way or the other? I find myself content with the idea that the bread and wine “is what it is” and am not sure my small mind can fully embrace exactly how Jesus makes Himself present within it.
Great to hear from you, old friend! The “matter” of the Eucharist is vitally (and I use this term purposefully) important to Catholics as the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324, referring to Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium 11, calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of the Christian life.” As for your “small mind,” it is safe to say that all great figures of history who have deeply contemplated the mystery of the Eucharist would, in this matter, concede the same for their intellects, darkened by our wounded human nature. That Christ is “truly, really, and substantially present” (CCC 1374) is doctrinal; the mechanics of it, ultimately, are a mystery. On this last point of mystery, I would refer you to a debate (or “dialogue”) that I show in my Eucharist class (in four parts, but start here https://youtu.be/J84oHUc1n5A). A blessed Easter to you and your family.