“And a sword will pierce Your own soul, too” (Luke 2:25)
Many years beforehand, Simeon had foretold the Blessed Virgin Mary that Her Heart would be pierced by the sword of sorrows. I suspect that throughout Her earthly life, the words of that prophecy rang in Her mind over and over.
For most of those years, She probably knew little of the precise nature of what form this would take, only that at some point, it would come to be; but now, in Holy Week, those words were becoming reality before Her eyes.
Much later, in the Paris of 1830, the Mother of God would appear to a young Sister called Catherine Labouré in order to reveal the Miraculous Medal. The reverse of the Medal depicted a large letter ‘M’ surmounted by a Cross, beneath which there were two Hearts – the Sacred Heart of Jesus, crowned with thorns, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pierced by a sword.
The Blessed Virgin explained the meaning of each part of the Medal. When the young nun was shown the reverse, the Blessed Virgin said simply that the ‘M’ and the two Hearts “said enough” – in other words, no explanation was necessary.
This simple image of two Hearts does indeed ‘say enough’ – it explains eloquently the reality of the part played by the Mother of the Lord as Holy Week took place. At every step of His Passion, every slow footstep along the Way of the Cross and onto Golgotha, the Blessed Virgin was there, united to Her Son and intimately sharing in His sufferings.
Having watched Him tied to the pillar and scourged, She sees the mocking men place a crown of thorns upon the head She cradled as a Baby. Now, She walks slowly with Him toward the Cross.
And on that journey, their eyes meet. There are no words between them – what words could possibly suffice at this moment? The look is enough; it says everything. Imagine the anguish of this Mother- wanting desperately to help Her Son, but knowing that She must allow Him to make this offering of His life for the salvation of souls. She must stand quietly by and simply suffer along with Him. What He suffers physically, She shares spiritually.
Jacopone da Todi’s poem ‘Stabat Mater’, written some time around 1230 and much later translated into English by Edward Carswall, describes this moment very eloquently and poignantly –
“Through Her Heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
.. Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in Her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?
.. Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified.”
For the Blessed Virgin, then, this moment was accepted in total faith and trust in God and in surrender to His divine will. As a mother, of course, Her Heart was torn apart. One text used for the Stations Of The Cross puts it this way –
“On the way to Calvary, Jesus sees His Mother. Their eyes meet. They understand one another. Mary knows who Her Son is. She knows whence He has come. She knows what His mission is. Mary knows that She is His mother; but She also knows that She is His Daughter. She sees Him suffer for all men and women, those of the past, present and future. And She, too, suffers.”
As we, too, walk this sad Way of the Cross in this Holy Week, let us walk alongside the Mother of God, accompanying Her and consoling Her – but also learning from Her. No-one knows as well as She, the real cost of Her Son’s Passion and Death; and if we wish to learn something of this, then it is to Her that we should turn.