Monday, March 31, 2014

Mary's Third Sorrow: Losing Her Son

[41] And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch, [42] And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, [43] And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. [44] And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day' s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. [45] And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.
[46] And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. [47] And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. [48] And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. [49] And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father' s business?[50] And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.
[51] And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. [52] And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.

 This one is a parent's nightmare. You are out with your children, and when you turn around, you don't see your child. Panic sets in, your heart begins to race, you being to search frantically, in fear that you may have lost your child forever. This grief endured by our Blessed Mother is one that any parent can sympathize with. Our children are so dear to us, and given to us by God to care for, protect and guide, and to lose one's child seems like a betrayal of that trust. We can only imagine the fear and grief that our Blessed Mother endured, knowing who her child was to become.

In one way, this loss presages a later, and more dire loss that the Blessed Mother will face, when her Son goes on the Way of Sorrows to the Place of the Skull. When she loses her Son the first time, what thoughts went through her mind? This child was given to her by God, in a direct way, and now he is gone? In the end, she and St. Joseph are guided to the Temple to find Jesus there, speaking to the Temple elders, impressing them with his wisdom. This reunion brings joy to the Holy Family once again, but there is still the knowledge that this happy time will not last.

I grieve for Thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties 
which tried Thy troubled heart at the loss of Thy dear Jesus. Dear 
Mother, by Thy heart so full of anguish, obtain for me the virtue 
of chastity and the Gift of Knowledge.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mary's Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt

"But when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, 'Arise and take the child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and remain there until I tell thee. For Herod will seek the child to destroy him.' So he arose and took the child and mother by night, and withdrew into Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod..." 
 - Gospel of St. Matthew 2.13 - 15

Within weeks of the birth of her Son, the Blessed Mother receives two messages that foretell agony: she learns of the sword that will pierce her heart, and now she receives the message from the Magi that Herod, the king of Judea, an Idumean, wants her son dead, and now she must flee through the wilderness to a new place that isn't home, in fear for the life of her child. 

The burden on Mary must have been excessive. She is given the grace of being the Mother of God-Made-Flesh, and, as any mother, she must keep him safe. But now, for the first few years of her son's life, she is robbed of the security of hearth and home. Her husband, St. Joseph, must bundle them all up and spirit them away in the dead of night.

What doubts must have plagued the Blessed Mother, who was most likely still a very young woman at this point, probably still a teenager. God, who made her a promise, now seems to take it away. This precious life given to her is being threatened. Everything that she knew and trusted were slipping out from under her. 

But it is in these dark moments that we can see why she was the one chosen for this task. She submits humbly to God's will, the echoes of her first act of obedience still reverberating, even to our century: "Let it be done to me according to His will." We see no record of her complaining, or fighting, or resisting God's will in this matter. She and St. Joseph, given the order, take up their entire lives, pack it onto the back of a donkey, and flee to that country most hateful to the memory of Jews: Egypt. 

How many times, Lord, when given to know Your will, I have chosen to follow my own, because the path You have laid out seems too hard, or dangerous, or not to my liking? Give me the grace to humbly submit to Your will, Lord, knowing that it is part of the grander plan in the movement of the universe.

I grieve for Thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of Thy most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and Thy sojourn there. Dear Mother obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially towards the poor, and the Gift of Piety.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mary's First Sorrow: The Prophecy of St. Simeon

"And behold, there was in Jerusalem a man named Simeon, and this man was just and and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him, and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by inspiration of the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he also received him into his arms and blessed god, saying 
"Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light of revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for thy people Israel."
And his father and mother were marveling at the things spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts be revealed." (St. Luke 2.25-37).

 The curious thing about this sorrow endured by the Blessed Mother is that it is a part of the 4th Joyful Mystery. Within that same moment in the life of Mary and her son, Jesus, is joy and pain, mixed together in an alchemical dance. The moment when Jesus is presented in the Temple as a fulfillment of the Mosaic law, as Jesus was a fulfillment of that earliest covenant made with Abraham, the prophecy comes that points to the ultimate destiny of this child in his mother's arms: He will die.

Even the canticle sung by Simeon before this rejoices in the glory that will descend upon the nation of Israel, with little hint of what is to come. Only when he turns to Mary does he hint at a darker future, one that will be painful, at least for a time.

The sword that pierces her heart will be that lance that the Roman soldier uses to pierce the side of Jesus as he hangs on the cross, it will be all the pain that Jesus will endure as he is scourged, mocked, endures the road of sorrows to Golgotha. Through it all, there is Mary, his mother, enduring the pain in her own way.

And that is the point, she had to endure it in her own way, not in the way her Son did. Any parent would willingly take on the sorrows that plague her child. The Blessed Mother would have taken up the Cross herself instead of her Son, to keep Him free and alive. That would be the easier course for any parent. But Mary had to endure a greater pain, the pain of watching her Son go through such sorrow. Imagine the heart-rending agony she must have felt, keeping in the screams that struggled within her. Instead, she had to accept the path laid out for her Son, to carry His Cross to Golgotha and to die on it.

And we return to that moment, when she holds that tiny child, bundled up. Did she know what St. Simeon's words meant? Did she feel a chill pass through her, knowing that, for her, her earthly life would be marked by such unremitting anguish? See her standing there, holding her child, filled with the normal doubts and fears of any parent, and now carrying the burden of prophecy.

I grieve for Thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of 
Thy tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. 
Dear Mother, by Thy heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue 
of humility and the Gift of the holy Fear of God.