The Mary of Christmas & the Mary of Good Friday – What I Learned From the Mother of Christ

The Mary of Christmas & the Mary of Good Friday – What I Learned From the Mother of Christ December 24, 2015


Virgin Mary by El Greco

It happened on Good Friday. I was sitting with my family at our parish’s annual Living Stations of the Cross. As one punishing station succeeded another, Christ was soon collapsing under the burden of the cross and the stripes of his scourging. And then it happened. I finally understood Mary. Approaching her son – the Christ, for sure, the Prince of Peace, the King of the Universe, the Word Incarnate, but still her son – Mary saw the babe foretold by the angel, celebrated by her cousin Elizabeth, nestled in her arms on a chill Bethlehem night, nursed in Egypt and raised as a fine boy. The finest boy, in fact. I imagine that Mary saw all of this in an instant when she peered into her son’s weary, dying eyes. But she probably also glimpsed what troubled her most about her son over so many years. Perhaps, she saw that faraway look in his eyes that had always haunted her…and now she understood why. As a young boy, he always understood things so well – too well, she feared. And perhaps, where she never fully understood or anticipated this brutal Passion, perhaps he did.

It was that babe, that boy, that man – her son – that Mary encountered on the road to the cross.


Pieta by Michelangelo

That is what I saw at the Living Stations of the Cross. And when, for a moment, I thought of myself as a parent of my beautiful daughters, this scene just crushed me. And it transformed me. From that time forward, I saw Mary not only as the foremost disciple and witness. She also became for me the greatest martyr. She was, in fact, the only martyr who died the most terrible death without physically dying at all. This is perhaps best captured in the immortalized sculpture of Michelangelo’s Pieta. A Mother, bereft of words, cradling her lost boy one last time, one last time.

It is this Mother we should consider further during Christmas. Assuredly, as we know and Mary would attest, Christ is central. He is the Teacher and the Savior, the Alpha and the Omega of our fallen but redeemable human existence. But we may miss the lessons of deep discipleship if we overlook his Mother. As I read the first few chapters of Luke’s Gospel during Advent, I went in search of the Mary of Christmas who soon became the Mary of Good Friday. Akin to reading the biography of a hero and looking for “their program”, their secret strengths, their way, Luke gave me an answer.

And here is what I found.

When Mary experienced the miracles that accompanied the life of Christ – the Anunciation, the encounter with Elizabeth, the birth of Christ, the visits with the Shepherds and the Wise Men, and the Presentation at the Temple – there is something she did again and again.

She pondered these things in her heart.

What Mary experienced was eternal and momentous, glorious and mysterious. It was deeply personal and undoubtedly universal. And Mary seemed to know this. Upon becoming pregnant with Christ at her young age and enduring Christ’s death during her middle age, Mary never lost her extraordinary and deep humility. She sensed how deeply blessed and profoundly challenged she was to play her part in the Eternal Narrative. Mary answered God’s call not only to usher in Salvation Himself, but to witness the grueling price paid to complete the Saving Act. And so, in her awe as angels appeared and a baby leapt in his mother’s womb and shepherds told of angelic choirs and wise men spoke of guiding stars and old men and women spoke of dying now that they had seen God’s Chosen One, Mary did what only the most mature and faithful disciple could conceivably do.

She became quiet. She pondered. She prayed. She believed. And she followed.

That is what made the Mary the greatest disciple. That is what made Mary the Mother of Christ. That is what prepared the Mary of Christmas to become the Mary of Good Friday.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this Christmas we should lay aside our worries and fears, our uncertainties and struggles, our distractions and preoccupations. And we should ponder – really ponder -the miracle that has happened.

Merry Christmas.



Innocence by William Adolphe Bouguereau

Photo credit:

Virgin Mary by El Greco

Pieta by Michelangelo

Innocence by William Adolphe Bouguereau


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