CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
He saith to his Mother: Woman, behold thy Son! After that he saith to the disciple: Behold thy Mother!
We read in St. Mark that on Calvary there were present many women, who watched Jesus on the Cross, but from afar off, among whom was Mary Magdalen. We believe also, that among these holy women was the Divine Mother also; while St. John says that the Blessed Virgin stood, not afar off, but close to the Cross, together with Mary of Cleophas and Mary Magdalen (John xix. 25). Euthymius attempts to reconcile this discrepancy, and says that the Holy Virgin, seeing her Son drawing near to death, came from among the rest of the women close up to the Cross, overcoming her fear of the soldiers who surrounded it, and enduring with patience all the insults and repulses she had to suffer from these soldiers who watched the condemned, in order that she might draw near her beloved Son. Thus also a learned author, who wrote the Life of Jesus Christ, says: “There were His friends, who watched Him from afar; but the Holy Virgin, the Magdalen, and another Mary stood close to the Cross with John; wherefore Jesus, seeing His Mother and John, spoke to them the words above mentioned. Truly she was a Mother who, even in the terror of death, deserted not her Son. Some mothers fly when they see their children dying; their love does not suffer them to be present at their death when they have not the power of relieving them; but the holy Mother, the nearer her Son approached death, the nearer she drew to His Cross.”
The afflicted Mother thus was standing close to the Cross; and as the Son sacrificed His life, so she offered her pangs for the salvation of men, sharing with perfect resignation all the pains and insults which her Son suffered in His death. A writer says that they who would describe her fainting at the foot of the Cross dishonour the constancy of Mary. She was the valiant woman, who neither fainted nor wept. “I read of her standing, but not of her weeping,” says St. Ambrose.
The anguish the Holy Virgin endured in the Passion of her Son exceeded all the pain a human heart can endure: but the grief of Mary was not a barren grief, like that of other mothers who behold the sufferings of their children; it was a fruitful grief, since through the merits of her great grief, and through her love, according to the opinion of St. Augustine, as she was the natural Mother of our Head, Jesus Christ, so she then became the spiritual Mother of us who are His faithful members, in co-operating with Him by her love in causing us to be born, and to be the children of the Church.
St. Bernard writes that upon Mount Calvary both of these two great Martyrs, Jesus and Mary, were silent, because the great pain that they endured took from them the power of speaking. The Mother looked upon her Son in agony upon the Cross, and the Son looked upon the Mother in agony at the foot of the Cross, all wounded with compassion for the pains He suffered.
Mary and John, then, stood nearer to the Cross than the others, so that they could more easily hear the words and mark the looks of Jesus Christ in the midst of so great a tumult. St. John writes: When Jesus then saw his mother and the disciple standing, whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son (John xix. 26). But if Mary and John were accompanied by other women, why is it said that Jesus saw His Mother and the disciple, as if the others had not been perceived by Him? St. John Chrysostom writes that love always makes us look more closely at the object of our love. And St. Ambrose in a similar way writes: It is natural that we should see those we love before any others. The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget that in order that Jesus might look upon His Mother, who stood by the side of the Cross, He was obliged first to compress His eyebrows in order to remove the blood from His eyes, which prevented Him from seeing.
Jesus said to her: Woman, behold thy son! with His eyes turned towards St. John, who stood by His side. But why did He call her woman and not mother? He called her woman, we may say, because, drawing now near to death, He spoke as if departing from her and saying: Woman, in a little while I shall be dead, and thou wilt have no Son upon earth; I leave thee, therefore, John, who will serve and love thee as a son. And from this we may understand that St. Joseph was already dead, since if he had been still alive he would have been still the guardian of the Mother.