On The Fourth Dolor: On the Meeting of Mary with Jesus, when He went to Death
(Reflections on each of the Seven Dolors of Mary in Particular)
From The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
ST. BERNARDINE says, that to form an idea of the grief of Mary in losing her Jesus by death, it is necessary to consider the love that this mother bore to this her Son. All mothers feel the sufferings of their children as their own. Hence the woman of Chanaan, when she prayed the Saviour to deliver her daughter from the devil that tormented her, said to him, that he should have pity on the mother rather than on the daughter: “Have mercy on me, oh Lord, thou son of David, my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil.” But that mother ever loved a child so much as Mary loved Jesus? He was her only child, reared amidst so many troubles and pains; a most amiable child, and most loving to his mother; a Son, who was at the same time her Son and her God; who came on earth to kindle in the hearts of all the holy fire of divine love, as he himself declared: “I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” Let us consider how he must have inflamed that pure heart of his holy mother, so free from every earthly affection. In a word, the blessed Virgin herself said to St. Bridget, that through love her heart and tie heart of her Son was one: “Urmm erat cor meum, et cor filii mei.” That blending of hand maid and mother, of Son and God, kindled in the heart of Mary afire composed of a thousand flames. But afterwards, at the time of the passion, this flame of love was changed into a sea of sorrow. Hence St. Bernardino says: All the sorrows of the world united would not be equal to the sorrow of the glorious Mary. Yes, because this mother, as St. Lawrence Justinian writes: The more tenderly she loved, was the more deeply wounded. The greater the tenderness with which she loved him, the greater was her grief at the sight of his sufferings, especially when she met her Son, after he had already been condemned, going to death at the place of punishment, bearing the cross. And this is the fourth sword of sorrow which to-day we have to consider.
The blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget that at the time when the passion of our Lord was drawing nigh, her eyes were always filled with tears, as she thought of her beloved Son whom she was about to lose on this earth. Therefore, as she also said, a cold sweat covered her body from the fear that seized her at that prospect of approaching suffering. Behold, the appointed day at length arrived, and Jesus came in tears to take leave of his mother before he went to death. St. Bonaventure, contemplating Mary on that night, says: Thou didst spend it without sleep, and while others slept, thou didst remain watching. Morning having arrived the disciples of Jesus Christ came to this afflicted mother, one, to bring her this tidings, another, that; but all tidings of sorrow, for in her were then verified the words of Jeremias: “Weeping, she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; there is none to comfort her of all them that were dear to her.” One came to relate to her the cruel treatment of her Son in the house of Caiphas; another, the insults received by him from Herod. Finally, for I omit the rest to come to my point, St. John came and announced to Mary that the most unjust Pilate had already condemned him to death upon the cross. I say the most unjust, for, as St. Leo remarks, this unjust judge condemned him to death with the same lips with which he had pronounced him innocent. Ah, sorrowful mother; said St. John to her, thy Son has already been condemned to death, lie is already on his way, bearing himself his cross on his way to Calvary, as he afterwards related in his Gospel: “And bearing his own cross he went forth to that place which is called Calvary.” Come, if thou dost desire to see him and bid him a last farewell in some of the streets through which he is to pass.
Mary goes with St. John, and she perceives by the blood with which the way was sprinkled, that her Son had already passed there. This she revealed to St. Bridget: “By the footsteps of my Son I traced his course, for along the way by which he had passed, the ground was sprinkled with blood.” St. Bonaventure imagines the afflicted mother taking a shorter way, and placing herself at the corner of the street to meet her afflicted Son as he passed by. This most afflicted mother met her most afflicted Son: Mcestissima mater mcestissimo filio occurrit, said St. Bernard. While Mary stopped in that place how much she must have heard said against her Son by the Jews who knew her, and perhaps also words in mockery of herself! Alas ! what a commencement of sorrows was then before her eyes, when she saw the nails, the hammers, the cords, the fatal instruments of the death of her Son borne before him! And what a sword pierced her heart when she heard the trumpet proclaiming along the way the sentence pronounced against her Son ! But behold, now, after the instruments, the trumpet, and the ministers of justice had passed, she raises her eyes and sees; she sees, oh God, a young man covered with blood and wounds from head to foot, with a crown of thorns on his head, and two heavy beams on his shoulders; she looks at him and hardly knows him, saying, then, with Isaias: ” And we have seen him, and there was no sightliness. “Yes, for the wounds, the bruises, and clotted blood, made him look like a leper; “We have thought him, as it were, a leper ;” so that he could no longer be recognized. “And his look was, as it were, hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.” But at length love recognizes him, and as soon as she knows him, ah, what was then, as St. Peter of Alcantara says in his meditations, the love and fear of the heart of Mary! On the one hand, she desired to see him ; on the other, she could not endure to look upon so pitiable a sight. But at length they look at each other. The Son wipes from his eyes the clotted blood, which prevented him from seeing ( as was revealed to St. Bridget), and looks upon the mother; the mother looks upon the Son. Ah, looks of sorrow, which pierced, as with so many arrows, those two holy and loving souls. When Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas More, met her father on his way to the scaffold, she could utter only two words, oh,father! oh, father! arid fell fainting at his feet. At the sight of her Son going to Calvary, Mary fainted not; no, be cause it was not fitting that his mother should lose the use of her reason, as Father Suarez remarks, neither did she die, for God reserved her for a greater grief; but if she did not die, she suffered sorrow enough to cause her a thousand deaths.
The mother wished to embrace him, as St. Anselm says, but the officers of justice thrust her aside, loading her with insults, and urge onward our afflicted Lord. Mary follows. Ah, holy Virgin, where art thou going? To Calvary ! And canst thou trust thyself to see him who is thy life hanging from a cross? And thy life shall be as it were hanging before thee: “Et erit vita tua quasi pendens ante te.” Ah! my mother, stop, says St. Lawrence Justinian, as if the Son himself had then spoken to her; where dost thou hasten? Where art thou going? If thou comest where I go, thou wilt be tortured with my sufferings, and I with thine. But although the sight of her dying Jesus must cost her such cruel anguish, the loving Mary will not leave him. The Son goes before, and the mother follows, that she may be crucified with her Son, as William the Abbot says: The mother took up her cross, and followed him, that she might be crucified with him. We even pity the wild beasts: “Ferarum etiam miseremur;” as St. John Chrysostom has said. If we should see a lioness following her whelp as he was led to death, even this wild beast would call forth our compassion. And shall we not feel compassion to see Mary following her im maculate Lamb, as they are leading him to death ? Let us then pity her, and endeavor also ourselves to accompany her Son and herself, bearing with patience the cross which the Lord imposes upon us. Why did Jesus Christ, asks St. John Chrysostom, desire to be alone in his other sufferings, but in bearing the cross wished to be helped by the Cyrenean ? And he answers: That thou mayest understand that the cross of Christ is not sufficient without thine. The cross alone of Jesus is not enough to save us, if we do not bear with resignation also our own, even unto death.
The Saviour appeared one day to sister Diomira, a nun, in Florence, and said to her: ” Think of me, and love me, and I will think of thee, and love thee:” and at the same time he presented her with a bunch of flowers and cross, signifying to her by this, that the consolations of the saints on this earth are always to be accompanied by the cross. The cross unites souls to God. Blessed Jerome Emilian, when he was a soldier, and leading a very sinful life, was shut up by his enemies in a tower. There, feeling deeply his misfortune, and en lightened by God to amend his life, he had recourse to the most holy Mary, and then with the help of this divine mother, he began to live the life of a saint. By this he merited to see once in heaven the high place which God had prepared for him. He became founder of the order of Sommaschi, died a saint, and has been lately beatified by the holy Church.
My sorrowful Mother, by the merit of that grief which thou didst feel at seeing thy beloved Jesus led to death, obtain for me the grace also to bear with patience those crosses which God sends me. Happy me, if I also shall know how to accompany thee with my cross until death. Thou and Jesus, both innocent, have borne a heavy cross; and shall I a sinner, who have merited hell, refuse mine? All, immaculate Virgin, I hope that thou wilt help me to bear my crosses with patience. Amen.