MARY HAS TO BID FAREWELL TO JESUS
In raising the stone to close up the entrance to the Tomb, the holy disciples of the Saviour had to approach the Blessed Mother and say: Now, O Lady, we must close the Sepulchre. Forgive us. Look once more on thy Son, and bid Him a last farewell. Then, my beloved Son–must the afflicted Mother have said–then shall I see Thee no more? Receive, therefore, on this last occasion that I behold Thee, my last farewell, the farewell of Thy dear Mother, and receive also my heart which I bury with Thee.
When a mother is by the side of her suffering and dying child, she undoubtedly feels and suffers all his pains; but after he is actually dead, when, before the body is carried to the grave, the afflicted mother must bid her child a last farewell; then, indeed, the thought that she is to see him no more is a grief that exceeds all other griefs. Behold the last sword of Mary’s sorrow. After witnessing the death of her Son on the Cross, and embracing for the last time His lifeless Body, this blessed Mother had to leave Him in the sepulchre, never more to enjoy His beloved presence on earth.
That we may better understand this last dolour, we will return to Calvary and consider the afflicted Mother, who still holds the lifeless Body of her Son clasped in her arms. O my Son, she seemed to say in the words of Job: My Son, thou art changed to be cruel towards me. (Job xxx. 21). Yes, for all Thy noble qualities, Thy beauty, grace, and virtues, Thy engaging manners, all the marks of special love Thou host bestowed upon me, the peculiar favours Thou hast granted me,–all are now changed into grief, and as so many arrows pierce my heart, and the more they have excited me to love Thee, so much the more cruelly do they now make me feel Thy loss. Ah, my own beloved Son, in losing Thee I have lost all. “O truly-begotten of God, Thou wast to me a father, a son, a spouse: Thou wast my very soul! Now I am deprived of my father, widowed of my spouse, a desolate, childless Mother; having lost my only Son, I have lost all.” (St. Bernard).
Thus was Mary, with her Son locked in her arms, absorbed in grief. The holy disciples, fearful that the poor Mother might die of grief, approached her to take the Body of her Son from her arms to bear it away for burial. This they did with gentle and respectful violence, and having embalmed it, they wrapped it in a linen cloth which was already prepared.
The disciples then bore Jesus to the tomb. As the mournful train sets forth, choirs of Angels from Heaven accompanied it, the holy women followed, and with them the afflicted Mother also followed her Son to the place of burial. When they had reached the appointed place, O how willingly would Mary have there buried herself alive with her Son had such been His will. “I can truly say,” Mary revealed to St. Bridget, “that at the burial of my Son one tomb contained, as it were, two hearts.”
My afflicted Mother, I will not leave thee to weep alone; no, I will accompany thee with my tears. This grace I now ask of thee. Obtain that I may always bear in mind and always have a tender devotion towards the Passion of Jesus and thy sorrows, that the remainder of my days may thus be spent in weeping over thy sufferings, my own sweet Mother, and those of my Redeemer. These sorrows, I trust, will give me the confidence and strength that I shall require at the hour of death, that I may not despair at the sight of the many sins by which I have offended my Lord. They must obtain me pardon, perseverance, and Heaven, where I hope to rejoice with thee, and to sing the infinite mercies of my God for all eternity. Amen.
Before leaving the Sepulchre, according to St. Bonaventure, Mary blessed the sacred stone which closed it, saying: “O happy stone, that doth now enclose that sacred Body which for nine months was contained in my womb. I bless thee and envy thee; I leave thee the guardian of my Son, of that Son Who is my whole Treasure and all my Love.” Then, raising her heart to the Eternal Father, she said: “O Father, to Thee do I recommend Him–Him Who is Thy Son at the same time that He is mine.” Thus bidding her last farewell to her beloved Jesus and to the Sepulchre, she left it, and returned to her own house. This Mother, says St. Bernard, went away so afflicted and sad, that she moved many to tears in spite of themselves; and wherever she passed, all who met her wept, and could not restrain their tears. And he adds that the holy disciples and women who accompanied her “mourned even more for her than for their Lord.”
St. Bonaventure says that, passing, on her return before the Cross still wet with the Blood of her Jesus, she was the first to adore it. “O holy Cross,” she then said, “I kiss thee, I adore thee; for thou art no longer an infamous gibbet, but a throne of love and an altar of mercy, consecrated by the Blood of the Divine Lamb, sacrificed on thee for the salvation of the world.”
She then left the Cross, and returned home. When there, the afflicted Mother cast her eyes around, and no longer saw her Jesus; but, instead of the sweet presence of her dear Son, the remembrance of His beautiful life and cruel death presented itself before her eyes. She remembered how she had pressed that Son to her bosom in the stable of Bethlehem; the conversations she had held with Him during the many years they had dwelt in the house of Nazareth; she remembered their mutual affection, their loving looks, the words of Eternal Life which fell from those Divine lips; and then, the sad scene she had that day witnessed again presented itself before her. The nails, the thorns, the lacerated flesh of her Son, those deep Wounds, those uncovered bones, that open mouth, those dimmed eyes, all presented themselves before her. Ah, what a night of sorrow was that night for Mary! The afflicted Mother, turning to St. John, mournfully said: “Ah, John, tell me where is thy Master?” She then asked the Magdalene: “Daughter, tell me, where is thy Beloved? O God, who has taken Him from us?” Mary wept, and all who were present, wept with her.
And thou, my soul, weepest not! Ah, turn to Mary, and address her with St. Bonaventure: “O my own sweet Lady, let me weep; thou art innocent, I am guilty.” Entreat her at least to let thee weep with her: “Grant that I may weep with thee.” She weeps for love; do thou weep through sorrow for thy sins. I pity thee, my afflicted Mother, for the bitter sword which pierced thee on seeing thy Son in thy arms already dead, no longer fair and beautiful as thou didst receive Him in the stable at Bethlehem, but covered with Blood, livid and all lacerated with Wounds, so that even His bones were seen. Thou didst then say: “My Son, my Son, to what has love reduced Thee!” And when He was borne to the Sepulchre, thou wouldst thyself accompany Him, and place Him with thy own hands in the Tomb; and bidding Him the last farewell, thou didst leave thy loving heart buried with Him. By this Martyrdom of thy beautiful soul, do thou obtain for me, O Mother of fair love, the forgiveness of the offences I have committed against my beloved God, and of which I repent with my whole heart. Do thou defend me in temptations; do thou assist me at the moment of my death, that, saving my soul through the merits of Jesus and thee, I may one day, after this miserable exile, go to Paradise to sing the praises of Jesus and of thee for all eternity. Amen.