CARRYING HIS CROSS
Who is it that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra, the beautiful One in His robe, walking in the greatness of His strength? Why, then, is Thy apparel red?
OUR Lady’s Sorrows fall naturally into two groups: those connected with the Infancy and Child hood of Our Blessed Lord’s Life and those connected with His Passion and Death. If our hearts are wounded for Mary in her first three sorrows, what loving compassion and sympathy must we not feel for her as we contemplate her over whelming suffering in the closing scenes of her Son’s life?
By the time that Mary set out to meet her Son on the road to Calvary, the last stages of His Passion had begun. There had been the terrible agony in the Garden, when the Lamb of God took upon Himself all the sins of the world in their shame and misery, their humiliation and degradation the betrayal by one of His own apostles the pathetic denial of St. Peter the journeys to Annas, Caiphas and Herod with their attendant cruelties the mock trial be fore Pilate the unjust sentence of death passed upon Him by the Roman Governor the dolorous carrying of the Cross.
Our Blessed Lady would have heard all that had happened to her Son, and when she learned that the procession was about to set out for Calvary, she went to a spot where she might catch a glimpse of Him before He was put to death. What love Mary must have had to go forth and meet Our Lord in His pitiable condition. Her heart was overwhelmed with grief on hearing all that had been done to her dear Son. She had suffered in union with Him during all His Passion; now she desired to give to Him, and to the Jewish rabble, a public proof of her intense love and pity for Him, and of her belief in Him as the Eternal Son of God. She claimed affinity with Him in His sorrow and distress. She knew what it would cost her to gaze upon Him carrying His Cross; that all her life the remembrance could never leave her; to see the inhuman treatment meted out to Him whose only crime was that He had cured suffering humanity, time and again, of its ills and miseries. She knew that her heart would break on beholding Him laden with His Cross, bearing the marks of a criminal upon Him; but with a mother’s heart she was insensible to her own personal feelings and afflictions. She desired to suffer with her Son; and so, in an ecstasy of love and heroism, she went forth to share, to the last, His agonizing sorrow. Mary took up her place at a point on the road where the procession would pass. And soon cruelly soon it came near! And what a scene! First came the guards carrying the instruments of torture for the execution of her Son, coarse and revolting looking, talking in blasphemous language about Him; then the Pharisees on horseback, triumphant and exultant now that they had got Him in their power, and could work their furious hatred and contempt upon Him, followed by the mob; and then He came!
Our Blessed Lady gazed and gazed with indescribable suffering and dismay, a torrent of love and pity inundating her soul aghast at all she saw! Could this be her Child whom she nursed at her breast? Could this be He whom she saved from Herod’s ire? Could this be her Son whom she watched over day by day; whom she saw pass from radiant boyhood to glorious manhood? Could this be He who, in the hush and silence of an eastern sunset three years ago, blessed and embraced her in fond farewell before entering on His public life? "Who is it that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra? And why is Thy apparel red?" This Outcast, this "Worm and no man," this "Reproach of His people," can this be her Son? Ah! But it is! This is her Son; her Creator; her Redeemer. This is her God. This is her Son who has taken upon Himself the sins of the world; who is paying the penalty of His Love. "In His love and in His mercy He redeemed us." "I will draw them with the cords of Adam, with the bands of love" (Osee xi. 4).
This is He who is the fulfilment of all the prophecies: "Despised and the most abject of men, a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity. He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows; and we have thought Him, as it were, a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. He was wounded for our iniquities; He was bruised for our sins; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His bruises we are healed. The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquities of us all" (Isaias liii. 3-6). "This is a lover of His brethren, and of the people of Israel; this is He that prayeth much for His people" (2 Machabees xv. 14).
This is Sin’s Victim; Sin’s Atonement. And in this terrible guise Mary sees her Son, the "most beautiful among the children of men." "There is His strength hid; death shall go before His Face" (Habacuc iii. 5).
She sees Him in His own garments, dyed with His Blood, bleeding still from the cruel scourging that most excruciating agony borne for our most shameful sins; staggering under the weight of the Cross, exhausted, livid; tortured in every limb; weighed down and almost annihilated by the burden of our sins; the Creator of the world an oblation for the sins of His children. His eyes seek hers in the dense throng. He raises His weary, thorn-crowned Head and looks at His sinless Mother with intense meaning and expression; with unutterable pathos and love, as He looks at us when we sin and rebel against Him, the crucified "Man of Sorrows." Mary looks at her Son, broken-hearted; and sees the pain, the prayer in His Eyes; the glorious and wondrous light of self-sacrifice and love.
They do not speak to one another; there is no need to. They understand one another so perfectly that speech would have been purposeless. He spoke to, and admonished the Daughters of Jerusalem; in His consideration for His Mother, He is silent. But hearts speak louder than words. In that glance from her Son, Mary’s sorrow reached its height. She saw before her the "Man of Sorrows," and though her heart was broken at the sight, how she must have thanked God for His boundless love for men. In her love and gratitude she must have tried to reach Him, to thank Him for His great love for us who, in spite of our Saviour’s death, still sin and sin against Him.
"This is our God, and there shall be no other accounted of in comparison with Him" (Baruch iii. 36). Fain would she have knelt to Him in love and gratitude; fain would she have rendered to her God a public act of adoration and homage.
But she cannot get near to Him; cannot approach Him. She is forced back by the hostile crowd; and she, who had nursed Him at her breast, cannot comfort Him now! Veronica may approach and offer her sweet sympathy; but His Mother may not have any such consolation. She must drink the cup of bitterness to the dregs; she must be worthy of her Son.
And with what heroism Our Blessed Lady endured her sufferings. Knowing the agony which would come upon her on beholding her Son on His way to His Death, she yet went out to meet Him went out to meet her cross! The world would so easily have pardoned her had she spared herself her dreadful sufferings. It would so readily have understood her reticence in shrinking from witnessing the harrowing spectacle of the "Man of Sorrows," in refraining from beholding the crucifixion of her Son. But Mary, with her love and courage, spared herself nothing. She went to her God in her suffering and pain. It drew her nearer to Him. She took up her cross and followed Him, gaining strength from Him who carried His Cross for us so patiently and lovingly.
When God, as our loving Father, sends us suffering to alienate us from the empty and transitory pleasures of this world, to liberate us from the capricious tyranny of human affections, to draw us permanently to His own abiding love, how do we receive it? Has suffering wrought disaster in our lives because we have not understood it aright, failing to perceive its purpose; because in our pride we have refused to unburden ourselves to God about it? Have we merely taken up our Cross, but refused to follow Our Blessed Lord? Have we become rebellious because we cannot rid ourselves of suffering? Have we ruined our lives by our want of generosity to the Son of God who died a most cruel death that He might save us from eternal death; who crucifies us "that we may love the Crucified more"; who, in suffering and desolation, draws souls to His Sacred Heart in the intimate revelation of His Love; who offers us suffering in this short life of ours that in heaven, for all eternity, He may crown us with the inestimable gift of Himself?
The procession passed on after Mary had met her Son on His way to Calvary, and He is lost to her again. His pathetic figure is hidden by the rabble in front and behind Him. But in that moment of meeting with her Son, Mary has lived through years; and though He passes away from her, leaves her that He may go to His Death, He is nearer and dearer to her than He has ever been before, because of His bitter sufferings, His unrequited love for men. She must follow Him at any cost, scorning the jeers and insults of the crowd, for her Son has need of her. In His sufferings Christ desires His Mother. "The Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and mourning in spirit" (Isaias liv. 6). And so, a victim of love to her Son, a martyr in His cause, plunged in sorrow and grief, sublime in her resignation and submission, she follows Him up the path of her love, up the path of His Love, to Calvary’s awful doom. "I will follow Thee wheresoever Thou goest" (St. Luke ix. 57). "In what place soever Thou shalt be, my Lord and King, either in death, or in life, there will Thy servant be" (2 Kings xv. 21).