On The Sixth Dolor: The Piercing of the Side of Jesus
and His Descent from the Cross
(Reflections on each of the Seven Dolors of Mary in Particular)
From The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
“Oh, all ye that pass by the way attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.” Devout souls, listen to what the sorrowful Mary says to you to-day: My beloved children, I do not wish you to console me; no, for my heart can never again be consoled on this earth after the death of my dear Jesus. If you wish to please me, this I ask of you, turn to me and see if there has ever been in the world a grief like mine, when I saw him who was all my love torn from me so cruelly. But, oh Lady, since thou dost not wish to be consoled, and hast such a thirst for suffering, I must say to thee that thy sorrows have not ended with the death of thy Son. To-day thou wilt be pierced by another sword of sorrow, when thou shalt see a cruel lance piercing the side of this thy Son, al ready dead, and shalt receive him in thy arms after he is taken from the cross. And now we are to consider to-day the sixth dolor which afflicted this sorrowful mother. Attend and weep. Hitherto the dolors of Mary tortured her one by one, but to-day they are all united to assail her.
To make known to a mother that her child is dead, is sufficient to kindle her whole soul with love for the lost one. Some persons, in order to lighten their grief, will remind mothers whose children have died, of the displeasure they had once caused them. But if I, oh my queen, should wish to lighten thy sorrow for the death of Jesus in this way, what displeasure has he ever caused thee, that I could recall to thy mind? Ah, no; he always loved thee, obeyed thee and respected thee. Now thou hast lost him, and who can describe thy sorrow ? Do thou who hast felt it explain it. A devout author says, that when our Redeemer was dead, the heart of the great mother was first engaged in accompanying the most holy soul of the Son, and presenting it to the eternal father. I present thee, oh my God, Mary must then have said, the immaculate soul of thy and my Son, which has been obedient to thee even unto death : receive it, then, in thy arms. Thy justice is now satisfied, thy will accomplished; behold, the great sacrifice to thy eternal glory is congummated. And then turning to the lifeless members of her Jesus: Oh wounds, she said, oh loving wounds, I adore you, I rejoice with you, since through you salvation has been given to the world. You shall remain open in the body of my Son, to be the refuge of those who will have recourse to you. Oh how many, through you, shall receive the pardon of their sins, and then through you shall be inflamed to love the Sovereign Good!
That the joy of the following Paschal Sabbath should not be disturbed, the Jews wished the body of Jesus to be taken down from the cross; but because they could not take down a criminal until he was dead, they came with iron mallets to break his legs, as they had already done to the two thieves crucified with him. And Mary, while she remains weeping at the death of her Son, sees those armed men coming towards her Jesus. At this sight she first trembled with fear, then she said : Ah, my Son is already dead, cease to maltreat him, and cease to torture me a poor mother longer. She implored them not to break his legs : “Oravit eos, ne frangerent crura,” as St. Bonaventure writes. But while she is thus speaking, oh, God ! she sees a soldier with violence brandishing a spear, and piercing the side of Jesus : “One of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water.” The cross shook at the stroke of the spear, and, as was revealed to St. Bridget, the heart of Jesus was divided : “Ita ut ambae paries essent divisse.” There came out blood and water, for only a few drops of blood remained, and those also the Saviour wished to shed, in order to show that he had no more blood to give us. The injury of that stroke was ofered to Jesus, but the pain was inflicted on Mary: Christ, says the devout Lanspergius, shared with his mother the infliction of that wound, for hereceived the insult and his mother the pain. The holy Fathers explain this to be the very sword predicted to the Virgin by St. Simeon ; a sword, not of iron, but of grief,which pierced through her blessed soul in the heart of Jesus, where it always dwelt. Thus, among others, Si. Bernard says: The spear which opened his side passed through the soul of the Virgin, which could not be torn from the heart of Jesus. And the divine mother herself revealed the same to St. Bridget, saying: When the spear was drawn out, the point appeared red with blood; then I felt as if my heart were pierced when I saw the heart of my most dear Son pierced.” The angel told St. Bridget, that such were the sufferings of Mary, that she was saved from death only by the miraculous power of God. In her other dolors she at least had her Son to compassionate her; and now she had not even him to take pity on her.
The afflicted mother, still fearing that other injuries might be inflicted on her Son, entreats Joseph of Arimathea to obtain from Pilate the body of her Jesus, that at least after his death she may be able to guard it and protect it from injuries. Joseph went to Pilate, and made known to him the sorrow and the wish of this afflicted mother; and St. Anselrn thinks that com passion for the mother softened the heart of Pilate, and moved him to grant her the body. of the Saviour. And now Jesus is taken from the cross. Oh most holy Virgin, after thou with so great love hadst given thy Son to the world for our salvation, behold the world returns him to thee again! But oh, my God, how dost thou return him to me? said Mary to the world. My Son was white and ruddy: “Dilectus meus candidus et rubicundus:” but thou hast returned him to me blackened with bruises, and red, not with a ruddy color, but with the wounds thou hast inflicted upon him; he was beautiful, now there is no more beauty in him; he is all deformity. All were enamored with his aspect, now he excites horror in all who look upon him. Oh, how many swords, says St. Bonaventure, pierced the soul of this mother, when she received the body of her Son after it was taken from the cross: ” O quot gladii animam matris pertransierunt!” Let us consider what anguish it would cause any mother to receive the lifeless body of a son! it was revealed to St. Bridget, that to take down the body of Jesus, three ladders were placed against the cross. Those holy disciples first drew out the nails from the hands and feet, and according to Metaphrastes, gave them in charge to Mary. Then one supported the upper part of the body of Jesus, the other the lower, and thus took it down from the cross. Bernardino de Bustis describes the afflicted mother as raising herself, and extending her arms to meet her dear Son; she embraces him, and then sits down at the foot of the cross. She sees his mouth open, his eye shut, she examines the lacerated flesh, and those exposed bones; she takes off the crown, and sees the cruel injury made by those thorns, in that sacred head; she looks upon those pierced hands and feet, and says: Ah, my Son, to what has the love thou didst bear to men reduced thee ! But what evil hath thou done to them, that they have treated thee so cruelly Thou wast my Father, Bernardino de Bustis imagines her to say, my brother, my spouse, my delight, my glory, my all. Oh, my Son, behold how I am afflicted, look upon me and console me; but thou dost look upon me no more. Speak, speak to me but one word, and console me; but thou dost speak no more, for thou art dead. Then turning to those barbarous instruments, she said: Oh cruel thorns, oh nails, oh merciless spear, how could you thus torture your Creator? But what thorns, what nails? Alas! sinners, she exclaimed, it is you who have thus cruelly treated my Son.
Thus Mary spoke and complained of us. But if now she were capable of suffering, what would she say? What grief would she feel to see that men after the death of her Son, continue to torment and crucify him by their sins? Let us no longer give pain to this sorrowful mother; and if we also have hither to grieved her by our sins, let us now do what she directs. She says to us: Return, ye transgressors, to the heart: “Redite, prsevaricatores, ad cor.” Sinners, return to the wounded heart of my Jesus; return as penitents, for he will receive you. Flee from him to him, she continues to say with Guerric the Abbot; from the Judge to the Redeemer, from the tribunal to the cross. The Virgin herself revealed to St. Bridget that she closed the eyes of her Son, when he was taken down from the cross, but she could not close his arms: “Ejus brachia flectere non potui.” Jesus Christ giving us to understand by this, that he desired to remain with open arms to receive all penitent sinners who return to him. Oh world, continues Mary, behold, then, thy time is the time of lovers: “Et ecce, tempus tuum, tempus aman din.”! Now that ray Son, oh world, has died to save thee, this is no longer for thee a time of fear, but of love: a time to love him who has desired to suffer so much in order to show thee the love he bore thee. Therefore, says St. Bernard, is the heart of Jesus wounded that, through the visible wound, the invisible wound of love may be seen. If then, concludes Mary, in the words of the Abbot of Celles, my Son had wished his side to be opened that he might give thee his heart, it is right, oh man, that thou shouldst give him thy heart. And if you wish, oh children of Mary, to find a place in the heart of Jesus without fear of being cast out, go, says Ubertino of Casale, go with Mary, for she will obtain grace for you; and in the following example we have a beautiful proof of this.
The Disciple relates that there was once a poor sinner who, among other crimes, had killed his father and a brother, and therefore be came a fugitive. Happening to hear one day during Lent, a sermon upon the divine mercy, he went to the preacher himself to make his confession. The confessor having heard his crimes, sent him to an altar of the sorrowful mother to pray that she might obtain for him compunction and pardon of his sins. The sinner obeyed, and began to pray, when behold, suddenly over powered by contrition, he falls down dead. On the following day when the priest recommended to the people to pray for the deceased, a white dove appeared in the church and let fall a card at the feet of the priest. He took it up, and found these words written on it: “The soul of the dead, when it left the body, immediately went to paradise; and do you continue to preach the infinite mercy of God.”
O afflicted Virgin! O soul, great in virtues and great also in sorrows! for both arise from that great fire of love thou hast for God; thou “whose heart can love nothing but God; O Mother, have pity on me, for I have not loved God, and I have so much offended Him. Thy sorrows give me great confidence to hope for pardon. But this is not enough; I wish to love my Lord, and who can better obtain this for me than thou, thou who art the Mother of Fair Love? O Mary, thou dost console all, comfort me also. Amen.