Therefore do I weep, and my eyes run down with water: because the comforter, the relief of my soul, is far from me: my children are desolate because the enemy hath prevailed.
In silence, and with broken hearts, the little party of mourners prostrate themselves in adoration before the lifeless Body of Christ. Mary Magdalen’s passionate sobs must be hushed for the moment as she gazes upon Him, so beautiful in death. In spite of man’s appalling deed, there is the stamp of the Godhead upon Him. He is a King receiving homage and adoration in death. There is an air of victory about Him now that man has worked his evil will upon Him; and His triumph is felt by the band of mourners in the midst of their poignant grief. How great and wonderful He has been to suffer so much; how supreme His Love and Fortitude, His capacity for Pain. How glorious His simple funeral at the end of His kingly life buried on a hill at close of day; claiming allegiance from the whole world, overlordship from all humanity. He has no sepulcher of His own; for He owns the universe. His poverty is the wealth which He gave to the world; His Love, the treasure which has enriched the earth; His Death, the Life which has transformed mankind.
But He has to be buried; and though Mary is aware of the triumph of her Son, her heart is torn with anguish at the thought of losing Him. She embraces His lifeless Form for the last time, and prays by His side to Him, offering to God her sorrow and the agony of her desolation. "Oh, my God, that I could be buried in the grave with Thee: that Thou wouldst keep me hidden alone with Thee. I will bring my sorrow before Thee. Without Thee the whole world is a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness."
It was late in the evening when the Childless Mother left the sepulcher, and with her companions made her way from the spot. Calvary still held His Cross dyed with His Blood. Our Lady drew the suffering Magdalen towards her with pity, and slowly they retired together, each thinking of what He had been to them and they pondered over the spots hallowed by His sufferings. There He fell; here Veronica soothed Him a little; there the Daughters of Jerusalem wept for Him; and here ah, here! His Mother had waited for Him in the strength of her love and had seen Him agonized with suffering. Everything came back to her with a cruel force. Was it only that morning she had met Him?
She had lived through an eternity of sorrow since then. Could He be dead? Could man have crucified the Eternal Son of God? Would He not come back to her again? But the plaintive, lifeless tones: "My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?" and, "Father, into Thy Hands I commend My Spirit," rang in her ears and Mary’s sorrow knew no bounds. St. John, with delicate insight into her grief, led her away from the spot to her temporary home.
But home! How could there be a home for Mary without Jesus? She had lost Him once before, it was true; but then He had returned to her, not hurt in any way. And now He had been put to death! In His Love He had prepared her for this deep sorrow and separation from Him; but ah! how bitter it was, how agonizing the sense of loss.
"Whither is Thy Beloved gone, O thou most beautiful among women?" He has gone from you, dear Mother, that the memory of your pain may always remain with you on behalf of your erring children, separated from your Son by the pathetic sinfulness of their lives, that you may aid them and bring them back again into the sunshine of His Love; on behalf, too, of those who, in Death, have proved His friends; who have heard the magic beauty of His Voice and caught a glimpse of your Son in His white-robed beauty"; but who leave Him, for a time, to suffer for Justice and for Love. And He has made you their Advocate because you have known the agony of separation from Him; that, remembering your own grief, you may plead at His Throne for those detained in the prison-house of their love.
O help all suffering souls, thou loving one; And solace give to them, thou loving one; Remembering thine own pain, thou loving one.
Our Blessed Lady had shared in the sorrows and griefs of her Divine Son during His Passion and Death. Whilst He was still alive she felt that she could, to some extent, bear her anguish; but when He was dead and buried, when she could no longer be strengthened and supported by His Visible Presence, she felt as if her heart must break. "My tears have been my bread day and night; whilst it is said to me daily, Where is thy God?" (Psalm xli. 4). She had shared in His desolation on the Cross; but now she had her own to bear as well; and without Him it seemed as if her soul was being torn asunder in her bereavement. "He hath made me desolate, and wasted with sorrow all the day long" (Lamentations i. 13). Her Son on the Cross had felt the supreme loneliness of soul when He cried: "My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
May not the Mother have felt some of that loneliness now, when she could say, "My Son! my Son! why hast Thou abandoned me?" Though her love of Him remained supreme and unshaken, and though she knew that ultimately her sorrow would be turned into joy, yet the most terrible desolation descended upon the soul of Mary. "My soul fadeth within me; and the days of affliction possess me" (Job xxx. 16).
During those days of separation from her Son, Mary reviewed His Life and hers. She thought of the wonderful privilege hers had been in possessing as her Son the Incarnate Word made Flesh; of the great dignity conferred upon her through her Virgin-Motherhood; yet in spite of these unparalleled graces, in spite of the perfect manner in which she had discharged her obligations to God in every respect, her efforts, in the face of her Son’s Crucifixion and Death, seemed to be a failure. For the moment it seemed as if man had triumphed over his God, his Creator. Christ’s enemies had accomplished His Death; He was cold in the tomb; and everything looked black and sombre.
All through His life Christ had been the embodiment of Love; but mankind, in general, preferred his own sinfulness to the love of the Son of God. Her Son had done His utmost to win the love of men. He yearned so intensely for Love that He died in order to gain it. Love cost Him His life; man crucified Him because He had loved the world so tenderly and pityingly. And when He did get a little love from one of His creatures, even from a profligate sinner, with what graciousness He received it. Look at His treatment of Mary Magdalen. He knew that she was His Penitent, kneeling by His Cross, bewailing her sins once more, washing His Feet again with her tears, offering Him her soul in His agony; knew that her whole being was wrung with passionate grief for Him, understanding now at what a cost her sins had been forgiven her. His dying gaze rested on Magdalen’s prostrate form with the deepest sympathy. Her love for God was the passport to His Heart; her sorrow, the revelation of God’s love.
He made the highest sacrificed for Love; and man had flung it back into His Face when He was in His death-agony, taunting Him with it. Why had no one come forward to protest against His Death, to save Him from the consequences of His Love? Where were the people who had followed Him about from place to place during the three years of His Public Life? They had crowded into the cities to see Him; had pressed into the wilderness to hear His teaching; had stormed the mountains to witness His Power. They had come to Him in all their ills and miseries to be cured by Him: "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean"; "Lord, that I may see"; "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" but had one of them been near Him to protect Him, or defend Him when He was sentenced to death?
Oh, yes! perhaps some had been near Him perhaps quite close; but with the fickleness of human nature, with its appalling ingratitude, they had lifted up their voices and cried: "Not this man, but Barabbas. Away with Him! Crucify Him!" "Crucify Him!" And the whole scene rose again in Mary’s mind until her agony and desolation overwhelmed her as with a boundless ocean of woe, and the Mother of God was confronted with an intensity of sorrow such as the world has never known, and which we can never truly fathom. But in the commemoration of Mary’s Sorrows, in this devotion to the "Queen of Martyrs," let us find our refuge and our help.
As the Mother of Sorrow, as the Mother of "the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief," Mary makes her tenderest, deepest appeal to us. We have all known suffering, especially in these last few years. Let our sorrows bring us to Mary and unite us to her in the bond of love, for her whole life was one of suffering because of her intense love for her Son, "the despised and most abject of men." "The life of love is a life of sorrow." In her greatness in heaven, Mary cannot forget her poor children redeemed by the Precious Blood of her Son who weep and mourn "in this vale of tears," mourning the loss of loved ones, sorrowing over life’s anguish and tragedies to-day.
"Oh, Mary, Mother of Sorrows, we cast ourselves upon thy breast. Our hearts are often wounded and broken with the pains of this life. Console us, strengthen us. Queen of Martyrs, we implore thee by thy sorrows, by the sword which pierced thy soul on Calvary, by the tears with which thou didst bathe the lacerated Body of thy Son, be thou here below our strength and our consolation. Help us to support the ills of this life; and let us enter with thee into the mystery of sorrow, the sorrow which is the crucible wherein the soul is purified and becomes worthy of God, the sorrow which is the fertile seed of the glory and the joys of eternity."