The first time she beheld Him, He was naked, soaked in her amniotic fluid and smeared with her blood.
This last time, thirty-three years later, He was naked again. He was covered in sweat and the spittle of those who pushed Him to the place of execution. The blood that coated His body was not hers, but His.
She wished it were hers again.
She would have done anything to make it hers. To find that it was all a mistake– He was not bleeding, she was. He was not stripped, mocked, molested, humiliated, she was. He was not disgraced before all the people of Jerusalem, she was. She was unclean. She was destroyed. She was going to die the most painful death the profoundly sadistic Romans could manage and He was going to live. That would have been relief, but she had no relief. After all these years, the Romans had found her Son, and they were torturing Him to death in front of her.
Miriam could not look away. Miriam’s love was perfect. Love cries out the beloved, demanding to suffer with them, and Miriam suffered. She suffered with all the hearts of all the grieving mothers there ever were or will be.
She beheld Him, splayed out on the cross, as the Romans ripped His arms out of their sockets and drove spikes through His feet and wrists.
She beheld Him, as He was lifted up from the earth. She beheld Him convulsing in agony, every breath a dagger of pain. She watched the nails tear their way from His wrists up into the palms of His hands.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
But Miriam knew. She knew better than anyone on earth the Person they had just torn to shreds, and what’s more, she knew how it felt. She could feel it in her own soul. And because she was her Son’s perfect disciple, and her son had taught that we ought to forgive our persecutors, she forgave them.
“Truly I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise.”
But Miriam would not end this day in Paradise. By the time this day was over, Miriam would suffer further grief, grief as painful as the fires of the inferno. She knew this, and she forgave them.
“Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
She beheld John the Beloved, youngest of the apostles. In him, she beheld every disciple who would follow after her Son, and every human being laboring in the valley of tears. She saw that, by her assent to the Father’s will so many years ago, she had not only taken the Author of Life into her womb but all the living as well. She assented again, to be the mother of the Beloved Disciple and of every suffering soul, in the name of her beloved Son.
My Son, my God, why are you forsaking me? Why are you going where I cannot follow? What would it change in the Father’s plan, if my heart could stop when yours stops? I searched Jerusalem for three days so that I could see you again. Why are you leaving me here, in the dark, in the desert outside Jerusalem’s walls, at the foot of the cross?
Miriam’s breasts ache, but she can do nothing to relieve His thirst, not anymore.
“It is consummated.”
The marriage covenant is sealed for all time. The King of Light and Glory and the suffering slaves who walk in darkness have become one flesh, and never shall they be separated again. For all eternity, God is the God of the broken because He, Himself, is broken. The mother of the King, who is herself suffering in darkness, stands silent, waiting for the veil to be torn.
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
And then He was gone.
(image via Wikimedia Commons)
Steel Magnificat will be meditating on the Sorrows and Joys of Mary throughout Saint Philip’s Fast. Previous entries can be found here: