Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mater Salvatoris - Ora pro nobis!

Let my eyes shed down tears day and night, and let them not cease, because the virgin daughter of My people is afflicted, with an exceeding grievous evil (Jer 14:17).

Now the mother was to be admired above measure...who [joining a man's heart to a woman's thought] bore it with a good courage, for the hope that she had in God (2Mach 7:20,21).
by My own self have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for My sake: I will bless thee, and I will multiply thee and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is by the sea shore: thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the world be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice (Gen 22: 16, 17, 18)

"When I consider Him, I am made pensive with fear." When thinking of Our Lady under the title of "Mother of Christ", we saw some of the joys and consolations of her maternity, but we must not forget there was another side to the picture. Mary was too well read in sacred Scripture, too filled with the Holy Ghost not to know that her divine Son was the Man of Sorrows, who had come to redeem the world and pay the debt owing to God's injured Majesty.

Simeon's prophecy, too, had put the matter beyond a doubt. Her heart was to be pierced by a sword; and as we know the anticipation of a trial is often worse than the reality, what must have been the inward sorrows of Mary throughout her whole life! She had read that the kings of this earth would rise up against the Lord, and against His Christ; and has she not experienced of this when forced to fly into Egypt? Also that the Messiah's was to be driven like a sheep to the slaughter, regarded as the outcast of the people; so maltreated as to resemble a worm and no man. But when was all this to take place? Ah, that was probably concealed from her for her greater merit: "Times are not hid from the Almighty, but they who know Him know not His days." (Job 24) She knew the risks He had run shortly after His birth. Well might she often exclaim: "Many other things are also at hand with Him: therefore am I troubled." "When I consider Him, I am made pensive with fear." Christians artists have brought out this thought in various touching pictures, such as William Holman Hunt's "The Shadow of Death";

Under Jesus' left arm is the scroll of Isaiah, the tools form the cross in the shadow, the window makes a halo.

or Herbert's "Holy Family", where Mary, having let her work slip from her hands, sits gazing at the chips which fallen on the ground from the basket carried by her divine Child, and lie there in the form of a cross;

yet another beautiful painting of Christ and his sorrowful Mother by British artist John Everett Mills

or again by Tissot, where the Boy Jesus, in His richly-coloured eastern garments, is going down the road with a beam of wood across His shoulder, while His Mother watches Him from the window with an indescribably wistful, sad look in her eyes, evidently thinking of the still heavier burden His mangled shoulders will one day have to bear like hers!

Similar Tissot work, Mary watches her Child with sad look on her face.

And, then, the reality! Those months, nay, years, in which she saw the clouds more definitely gathering round the objects of her love, till the day when they burst in all their fury, and she stood those long hours in testimony of her undying devotedness to Him on whom men had wrecked their hatred: her Beautiful One, scarcely recognizable through the outrages of which He had been the victim. Nor was it over then, this life-long martyrdom. Not even the joy of the Resurrection could efface from Mary's mind the scenes of horror connected with the death and passion of her Son. Who has not experienced, after passing through a time of exceptional strain and suffering, how every little detail remains stamped on the heart and memory, to recur to the mind again and again without seeming to lose any of its freshness and poignancy? Could Mary ever forget that God's great unspeakable gift to man, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, had, after being expected, prayed for, desired through long ages, come into the world in her lifetime, by her agency, and in a few short years had been swept off the face of the earth through sheer hatred? Was ever grief like to hers? He who should have been loved, worshiped, adored by the whole human race, had been, in His early life, ignored by most, perhaps often contemptuously treated by those in whose midst he lived; at any rate, never once had He received the veneration and homage due to Him, save on the solitary occasion of the visit of the Magi: and what a storm did not that passing honour bring in its train? Then, when He came before the public, how was He received? Every scoff and jeer and insult hurled at Him by the Jews must have been as a dart through Mary's heart. How she would quiver and writhe inwardly over the blasphemies of which He was the victim, and how every one of the physical outrages he endured would be agony to her! Yet she bore all with queenly dignity and courage, as became the Mother of the Redeemer. She would not have one wit of His sufferings hidden from her in order to lessen her own. hers was no coward's heart. And we, as Christians, should we not be prepared to take our share of the Cross, or do we want to be delicate member under a thorn-crowded Head? We must suffer with Christ if we would reign with Christ, so let us look to it, and see of what spirit we are. The Venerable John Eudes has said we should fear nothing so much as to have no share in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us ask our Lady to obtain for us some of this brave spirit of compassion with Jesus, and to teach is that a world which treated our God so ill can never, nor ought ever, be a home to us. "Our home is in heaven, our home is not here." Let us say to her:

Holy Mother, fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above;
Make mine heart with thine accord,
Make me feel as thou hast felt,
Make my heart to glow and melt
With the love of Christ my Lord.

Mother of our Redeemer, pray for us.