On The Seventh Dolor: The Burial of the Body of Jesus
(Reflections on each of the Seven Dolors of Mary in Particular)
From The Glories of Mary by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
WHEN a mother is by the side of a suffering and dying child, she no doubt then feels and suffers all his pains; but when the afflicted child is really dead and about to be buried, and the sorrowful mother takes her last leave of him, oh God ! the thought that she is to see him no more is a sorrow that exceeds all other sorrows. Behold, the last sword of sorrow which we are to consider, when Mary, after being present at the death of her Son upon the cross, after having embraced his lifeless body, was finally to leave him in the sepulchre, never more to enjoy his beloved presence.
But that we may better understand this last dolor, let us return to Calvary, again to look upon the afflicted mother, who still holds, clasped in her arms, the lifeless body of her Son. Oh my Son, she seems then to continue to say in the words of Job, my Son, thou art changed to be cruel towards me: “Mutatus es mihi in crudelem.” Yes, for all thy beauty, grace, virtue, and loveliness, all the signs of special love thou hast shown me, the peculiar favors thou hast bestowed on me, are all changed into so many darts of sorrow, which the more they have inflamed my love for thee, so much the more cause me cruelly to feel the pain of having lost thee. Ah, my beloved Son, in losing thee I have lost all. Thus St. Bernard speaks in her name: Oh truly begotten of God, thou wast to me a father, a son, a spouse; thou wast my life! Now I am deprived of my father, my spouse, and my Son, for with my Son whom I have lost, I lose all things,
Thus Mary, clinging to her Son, was dissolved in grief; but those holy disciples, fearing lest this poor mother would expire there through agony, went to take the body of her Son from her arms, to bear it away for burial. Therefore, with reverential force they took him from her arms, and having embalmed him, wrapped him in a linen cloth already prepared, upon which our Lord wished to leave to the world his image impressed, as may be seen at the present day in Turin. And now they bear him to the sepulchre. The sorrowful funeral train sets forth; the disciples place him on their shoulders; hosts of angels from heaven accompany him; those holy women follow him; and the afflicted mother follows in their company her Son to the grave. When they had reached the appointed place, how gladly would Mary have buried her self there alive with her Son! “Oh how willingly,” said the Virgin to St. Bridget, “would I have remained there alive with my Son, if it had been his will!” But since this was not the divine will, the authors relate that she herself accompanied the sacred body of Jesus into the sepulchre, where, as Baronius narrates, they deposited the nails and the crown of thorns. In raising the stone to close the sepulchre, the disciples of the Saviour had to turn to the Virgin, and say to her: Now, oh Lady, we must close the sepulchre; have patience, look upon thy Son, and take leave of him for the last time. Then, oh my beloved Son, must the afflicted mother have said, then shall I see thee no more? Receive then, this last time that I look upon thee, receive the last farewell from me thy deaf mother, and receive my heart which I leave buried with thee. The Virgin, says St. Fulgentius, earnestly desired that her soul should be buried with the body of Christ. And Mary herself made this revelation to St, Bridget: “I can truly say, that at the burial of my Son, one sepulchre contained as it were two hearts.”
Finally, they take the stone and close up in the holy sepulchre the body of Jesus, that great treasure, greater than any in heaven and on earth. And here let us remark, that Mary left her heart buried with Jesus, because Jesus was all her treasure: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And where shall we keep our hearts buried ? With creatures ? In the mire ? And why not with Jesus, who, although he has ascended to heaven, has wished to remain, not dead but alive, in the most holy sacrament of the altar, precisely in order that he may have with him and possess our hearts ? But let us return to Mary. Before quitting the sepulchre, according to St. Bonaventure, she blessed that sacred stone, saying: Oh happy stone, that doth now inclose that body which was contained nine months in my womb, I bless thee, and envy thee; I leave thee to guard my Son for me, who is my only good, my only love. And then turning to the eternal Father, she said: Oh Father, to thee I recommend him, who is thy Son and mine; and thus bidding a last farewell to her Son, and to the sepulchre, she returned to her own house. This poor mother went away so afflicted and sad, according to St. Bernard, that she moved many to tears even against their will: “Multos etiam invitos ad lacrymas provocabat;” so that wherever she passed, all wept who met her: “Omnes plorabant qui obviabant ei,” and could not restrain their tears. And he adds, that those holy disciples, and the women who accompanied her, mourned for her even more than for their Lord.
St. Bonaventure says, that her two sisters covered her with a mourning cloak: The sisters of our Lady wrapped her in a veil as a widow, covering as it were her whole countenance. And he also says, that passing, on her return, before the cross, still wet with the blood of her Jesus, she was the first to adore it : Oh holy cross, she exclaimed, I kiss thee arid adore thee; for thou art no longer an infamous wood, but a throne of love, and an altar of mercy, consecrated by the blood of the divine Lamb, who has been sacrificed upon thee, for the salvation of the world. She then leaves the cross and returns to her house ; there the afflicted mother casts her eyes around, and no longer sees her Jesus ; but instead of the presence of her dear Son, all the memorials of his holy life and cruel death are hefore her. There she is reminded of the embraces she gave her Son in the stable of Bethlehem, of the conversations held with him for so many years in the shop of Nazareth: she is reminded of their mutual affection, of his loving looks, of the words of eternal life that came forth from that divine mouth. And then comes before her the fatal scene of that very day ; she sees those nails, those thorns, that lacerated flesh of her Son, those deep wounds, those uncovered bones, that open mouth, those closed eyes. Alas ! what a night of sor row was that night for Mary ! The sorrowful mother turned to St. John, and said mournfully: Ah, John, where is thy master? Then she asked of Magdalen: Daughter, tell me where is thy beloved ? Oh God ! who has taken him from us ? Mary weeps, and all those who are with her weep. And thou, oh my soul, dost thou not weep! Ah, turn to Mary, and say to her with St. Bonaventure : Let me, oh my Lady, let me weep ; thou art innocent, I am guilty. At least entreat her to permit thee to weep with her: “Fac ut tecum lugeam.” She weeps for love, and thou dost weep through sorrow for thy sins. And thus weeping, thou mayest have the happy lot of him of whom we read in the following example.
Father Engelgrave relates, that a certain religious was so tormented by scruples, that some times he was almost driven to despair, but having great devotion to Mary, the mother of sorsows, he had recourse to her in the agony of his spirit, and was much comforted by contemplating her dolors. Death came, and the devil tormented him more than ever with scruples, and tempted him to despair. When, behold our merciful mother, seeing her poor son so afflicted, appeared to him, and said to him: “And why, oh my son, art thou so overcome with sorrow, thou who hast so often consoled me by thy compassion for my sorrows ? Be comforted,” she said to him; ” Jesus sends me to thee to console thee; be comforted, rejoice, and come with me to paradise.” And at these words the devout religious tranquilly expired, full of consolation and confidence.
My afflicted Mother, I will not leave thee alone to weep; no, I wish to keep thee company with my tears. This grace I ask of thee to-day: obtain for me a continual remembrance of the passion of Jesus, and of thine also, and a tender devotion to them, that all the remaining days of my life may be spent in weeping for thy sorrows, O my Mother, and for those of my Redeemer, I hope that these dolors will give me the confidence and strength not to despair at the hour of my death, at the sight of the offences I have committed against my Lord. By these must I obtain pardon, perseverance, paradise, where I hope to rejoice with thee, and sing the infinite mercy of my God through all eternity: thus I hope, thus may it be. Amen, amen.
Whoever wishes to practise the devotion of reciting the chaplet of the dolors of Mary, will find it at the end of the book. I composed thja many years since, and insert it anew here for the convenience of the servants of Mary, whom I pray in their charity to recommend me to her when they meditate upon her dolors. Oh Lady, who dost ravish the heart of men with thy sweetness, hast thou not ravished mine? Oh, ravisher of hearts, when wilt thou restore to me my heart? Do with it as with thine own, and place it in the side of thy Son. Then I shall possess what I hope for, because thou art our hope.