"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." (John 19:25)

[Jesus]

The Mary Page presents the third of five Lenten meditations. These meditations take their orientation from the Sunday liturgies for Lent, from the five votive Masses in honor of Mary for the Lenten season, from Sacred Scripture, and from the devotional traditions that have evolved over the centuries which link Mary to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


 

Follow Christ to the Cross
Liturgical Readings of the Season

[Pieta]

Pieta,
seventeenth century

Of the the many heart-rending reflections presented by the Lenten liturgy this week, one aspect is prominent: Each human being is accountable! What we do, how we live, the choices we make are never left without consequence. Important for us is to own this accountability.

The first reading for the Roman Catholic liturgy of this week is taken from Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23. The chronicler tells us of infidelity added to infidelity, even by those who are called to specially represent service to Yahweh. Nevertheless, Yahweh loves his loves his people and wishes to spare them. He sends them messenger after messenger.

But they ridiculed the messengers of God, they despised his words, they laughed at his prophets.... (2 Chronicles 36:16)

In the end, the people suffered the loss of their home, their beloved holy place, and their identity as a nation. (2 Chronicles 36:19-23) It is no wonder that the Psalmist laments:

Beside the streams of Babylon we sat and wept at the memory of Zion....
For we had been asked to sing to our captors,
to entertain those who had carried us off;
"Sing" they said "some hymns of Zion."

How could we sing one of Yahweh's hymns...?
Jerusalem, if I forget you, may my right hand wither!

In this darkness, a redeemer would come to take the people home, to release the captives and aid in the rebuilding of the sacred place. The second reading presented by the liturgy is Ephesians 2:4-16. The writer of Ephesians speaks of this redeemer, Jesus Christ:

Do not forget, I say, that you had no Christ and were excluded from membership of Israel, aliens with no part in the covenants with their Promise; you were immersed in this world, without hope and without God. But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ.
[Pieta]

Pieta
Sister Mary Grace
Saint Dominic's Monastery
Washington, DC

This is Yahweh's purpose: to bring us very close, close to God Yahweh and close to each other, accountable to each other and hence to the nation. The Scriptures tells us that we need grace in order for this "coming close" to take place:

But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ--it is through grace that you have been saved--and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heave, in Christ Jesus.

This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

What does the liturgy present to us as Jesus' testimony? The Gospel discourse presents part of a dialogue between Nicodemus, a leader of the people, and Jesus. Jesus has chided Nicodemus for his lack of knowledge of God's purpose for the people. Jesus tells Nicodemus:

 

"Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned.
(John 3:16-18)
We are accountable ultimately to accept the invitation of grace, to believe in Christ Jesus, and to live and act out of this life of faith. It is a faith that is to be lived in the world and for the world, while at the same time remembering that there is death, a call to accountability and, finally, the hope of eternal life. 


Follow Christ with Mary to the Cross
Liturgical Readings of the Season from the Votive Mass of the Lenten Season:
The Blessed Virgin Mary at the Foot of the Cross II

In the previous two Lenten meditations, we discussed Mary as a woman of faith who followed Jesus from the first moment of his existence, to the cross, and beyond. Mary spoke her yes in faith, even though she did not know where it would lead. Today, we will see that her faithful yes led her to the foot of the cross. Mary was held accountable for her yes. She was given the grace of God to have the strength to do so. The most severe moment of reckoning was her loyal adherence to Jesus, even to the cross. By her presence at the cross she was allowed "to be a partner in his passion." Preface of the Mass, Mary at the Foot of the Cross II

The Opening Prayer of the Marian Liturgy states:

Lord our God,
you place at the side of your suffering Son
his mother to suffer with him,
so that the human race,
deceived by the wiles of the devil,
might become a new and resplendent creation.

Grant that your people may put aside their inheritance of sin
and put on the newness of life
won by Christ the Redeemer...

[Crucifixion]

Crucifixion
Litugical Service Book from 
Cologne, 1250
Currently in the Royal Museum
Brussels, Belgium

Mary was to stand at Jesus' side as Eve had stood at Adam's side. By Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection, new life was to be given to the world. As we pray in the Preface, Jesus established the family of the Church, a gift for the healing of the world.

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

In your divine wisdom
you planned the redemption of the human race
and decreed that the new Eve
should stand by the cross of the new Adam
as she became his mother
by the power of the Holy Spirit,
so, by a new gift of your love,
she was to be a partner in his passion,
and she who had given him birth
without the pains of childbirth
was to endure the greatest of pains
in bringing forth to new life
the family of your Church

[Sorrowful Mother in

Prayer]

Sorrowful Mother in Prayer
Master of a triptych for 
Louis XII
Limoges, sixteenth century enamel
National Museum Paris.

The Gospel of the Marian Liturgy is John 19:25-27. We quote the first verse:

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary of Magdala.

The beloved disciple was there, too. Jesus alone died and redeemed! Yet, Jesus was not alone in his dying. Those who loved him were standing by, sharing as deeply as any can, the suffering of the Savior. They gave their yes, they remained with him. They were accountable and found faithful.

[Crucifixion]

Crucifixion
Veronese
Italian, Venetian, 1528-1588

We pray with the Church:

Lord God,
protect your servants...
as we call to mind Mary's suffering with Christ,
grant that by carrying our cross each day
we may come to share in his resurrection,
for he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

In carrying our cross, we show our accountability. We reveal God's grace as grace as gifted our lives.


 
Devotions Draw Us into Participation in Christ's Suffering

To carry the cross is a frequently-cited way to master life. We are to take up our cross and follow him. Spirituality speaks of three forms of the cross: the family cross, the professional cross, the personal cross. Another form of expression: the cross is the other who burdens me, but also me who burdens others. Inescapable. Always a two- or more way street.

Over the centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has developed a devotion which confronts the cross and challenges the individual to share in the Christ's way of the cross. Today, this devotion is called the Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross.

The earliest roots of this devotion are thought to be traced to the practices of the early Christians at Jerusalem who visited and honored the holy places of Christ's passion. Some traditions assert that Mary visited the scenes of the passion daily. There is no evidence for this belief, but it is possible for us to speculate on Mary's devotedness to the places where her son suffered.

The first evidence of devotion to stations of Christ's passion are connected with the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Not only did the crusaders stop and venerate the places, but objects were transported to Europe that were thought to have been touched in some way by Christ. More notably, these objects were "reproduced."

By the sixteenth century and later, the devotion developed, for instance, of erecting a flight of stairs to commemorate those that Jesus walked at his judgment.

The Blessed Alvarez (d. 1420), on his return from the Holy Land, built a series of little chapels at the Dominican friary of Cordovea, in which, after the pattern of separate Stations, were painted the principal scenes of the Passion. About the same time the Blessed Eustochia, a Poor Clare, constructed a similar set of Stations in her convent at Messina. ... With regard to the number of Stations it is not at all easy to determine how this came to be fixed at fourteen. The Catholic E, Vol XV, 569-70

There is an account written in the fifteenth century that lists fourteen stations. It is thought that the devotion was largely promoted by the Franciscans and grew in popularity because of the specially-indulgenced blessings granted to those who prayed it. By the nineteenth and twentieth century, it was common for most parish churches to include a Way of the Cross in the main body of the church. The popularity of the devotion extended to places of pilgrimage where large outdoor stations were erected. In contemporary church buildings, the stations are often included in an alcove or chapel set aside for private prayer.

[

"Solitary Mission"
Sister Mary Grace
Saint Dominic's Monastery
Washington, DC

The traditional, best-known Stations of the Cross include three scenes which situate Mary at the Crucifixion:

  • The Fourth Station: Jesus meets Mary on the way to Calvary
  • The Twelfth Station: Mary stands near the cross
  • The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken from the cross and laid in the arms of His mother.
There are devotions which include Mary and the women at every station. Since this is a private devotion, the people are permitted to reflect on the passion of Christ in the manner that speaks to their own hearts.
 

Prayer

The faithful are encouraged to write their own Stations, to connect the various sufferings of their own lives with a reflection in some way on the continued sufferings of Christ. Just as each artist reflects on the passion and conveys a message of faith, so are each of us encouraged to reflect on the stations, to walk The Way, to convert and to remain accountable to the Lord who will one day return.

[Mary Meeting

Jesus]

The Fourth Station:
Jesus Meets Mary on the way to Calvary:

Mary Meeting Jesus
Jozaf Janssens

[Christ on the

Cross]

The Twelfth Station:
Mary stands near the cross:

Christ on the Cross
1512-1516
Mathis (Gothardt) Neithardt
known as "Grünewald"

[Christ Carrying the

Cross] The Thirteenth Station:
Jesus is taken from the cross and laid in the arms of His mother:

Villeneuve-les-Avignon Pietà
Unknown artist, ca. 1460


Written by M. Jean Frisk, The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute

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This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by M. Jean Frisk , was last modified Thursday, 03/31/2011 14:48:07 EDT by Victor Pennekamp . Please send any comments to jroten1@udayton.edu.