As we enter Holy Week, and journey through the events of Christ's passion and death, we find ourselves once again beneath the cross with Mary. At first glance, she doesn't appear to be doing anything there. Scripture doesn't record any of her words or cries of protest.
However, Father Ron Rolheiser notes that her presence at the crucifixion is a Hebrew show of strength. She is standing firm and "pondering" in the biblical sense, beholding the work of God.
Pondering is an active response — it is passion rather than passivity. Like Mary's answer to the angel Gabriel, it is the "Amen" of faith — the "yes" to the invitation of God.
The Book of Daniel says, "The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action" (11.32). In her position at the foot of the cross, Mary encourages us with the words, "Fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord" (Exodus 14.13).
This is the fulfillment of Mary's "fiat" to the angel. She fears not, she stands firm and ponders God's great "Behold" — Jesus Christ.
Here is the mission of the Saviour — born to carry out his Father's work of salvation to the world. Jesus is the Father's Word of wonder, nailed to the cross with arms upraised — the perfect symbol that points to a wonderful sight.
The depths of the Father's love is finally revealed, he who says tenderly to his children, "Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands" (Isaiah 49.16). In the hands of the Son of God lies our entire salvation.
This is also the work of the mother of the Saviour — the pure and spotless window that reveals this mission of redemption. In perfect imitation of Jesus, she unites herself to him on the cross, presenting him to the Father just as she did in the Temple. Mary's soul magnifies the Lord so completely that the light of Christ fills her and she disappears in the glory of her son.
At the moment when the Son of God breathes his last, Scripture tells us that the curtain of the Temple is torn in two. Behold - as life-giving blood and water flows from the open side of Christ, the veil of Mary's life is torn as well. Through the wound that sorrow rends in Mary's soul, we "look on him whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12.10).
The tabernacle of Mary's heart opens wide to reveal the mystery of our salvation, contained in the Body and Blood of her Son. The thoughts of our own hearts are revealed as we ponder our redemption through the pure faith of the mother.
CNS PHOTO | DEBBIE HILL
Mary holds the body of her crucified son, Jesus, in this mural at Holy Family Church in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Only from this view can we truly appreciate the Father's love for his children. The more that we understand the mother, the firmer is our stand of faith in the Son of God.
From the cross, Jesus commands "Behold your mother," and we turn to look at her, only to find the beloved Son of the commandment. In fact, wherever we find Mary in Scripture, there is Jesus — at the Annunciation, at the manger, in the Temple, during Christ's ministry and now at the cross.
If we keep our gaze fixed on Mary, pondering our mother, we are sure to find Jesus. At the celebration of Mass on Holy Thursday, when the Church re-presents Jesus to the Father as the perfect sacrifice, Mary - the mother of the Lamb — is there with us, our perfect model of humble obedience and faith.
However, it is necessary that we hold Mary in our view throughout Holy Week, after the tabernacle is emptied and the tomb is sealed. Mary continues to speak her "fiat" to the will of God, even in the shadow of the cross and beyond the finality of the grave.
With her, we need to hold fast to the words of St. Elizabeth: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1.45). We need to trust in God's promise and remember that the pain of the cross is always followed by the joy of the resurrection.
So stand with Mary throughout the passion and crosses of our own lives, meditating upon her gifts of grace, pondering her actions and witnessing to her perfect faith. If we keep our eyes on Mary and stay close to her at the foot of the cross, we will surely be present on Easter morning to share with her the joy and the glory of the resurrection.
(Anne Marie Posella is a graduate theology student at Catholic Distance University. She educates her children at home and works as an instructor at St. Clair College in Chatham, Ont.)