Mater et Misericordia

A reflection for the feast of our Lady of Sorrows, through Mary’s eyes…

I. Infancy

All joy and anticipation, the first time we bring him home,

to the center of our hearts, our identity, and his destiny—

the house of the Most High, the temple of the tabernacle of His glory.

And I feel like Hannah, bringing my own,

My firstborn

To be consecrated to the Father.

And my heart is as full, I’m sure, as was this first one

“graced” to be mother to God’s chosen one.

We bring him in humble obedience to the law,

He Who is the Law’s beginning, and it’s end.

But who is this, that comes

With eyes full of the light of knowing

Reaching out arms weary with waiting

To hold the Savior of the world?

And he blesses You for the miracle of Israel’s light,

That he has somehow been enlightened to recognize

Held in his arms.

And my heart cries in wonder with him

At the renewed proclamation of peace for all peoples

And hope for those far off.

And yet before this peace, a shadow will come, he says

Contradiction, rejection, pain…

And I catch a glimpse of a wider plan  than I had first imagined

And my role is bigger than the initial giving flesh to God.

Somehow, for me, heart –piercing must precede life-giving,

and pain and anguish are means of opening

to wider motherhood… for the salvation of Israel.

And I catch Your hand, O Lord,

A little tighter

As I add this layer of Your mystery that is being woven through my life

to the songs of angels and gifts of kings.

II. Ministry

Along long dusty roads, the feet of a man walk

Where once a baby’s shaky steps

Struck out along the way.

I watch him touch sightless eyes with fingers that I gave him,

and they can see.

And hear him restore life and strength and hope

with words that I first taught him.

and my heart is humbled, and feels so small,

and yet bottomless, to contain the whole world.

Who is this, bringing life to the dead,

And freedom to captives?

And I am watching him—

My Son

Unstopping the ears of the deaf, as Isaiah promised,

And watching the lame man leap like a hart

And the tongue of the dumb sing for joy…

As I wrap my heart around this wonder at fulfillment.

And I take to myself every hurt and bruise

every wounded, bedraggled bundle of life

that comes seeking healing from his arms,

and find them a corner in my own heart.

It feels sometimes, unable to hold all of the misery that I see

in the lives surrounding him,

that follow him and cling inseparably to each word.

There is so much to do, to heal, to set right…

And there is little I can do, so little…

that it hurts to be so small and helpless, in the face of such a need.

So many are healed, and restored by his touch,

But so many more walk away, unhealed…

for he does not, maybe cannot touch them all.

And when I come to see him, to ask him, with a mother’s heart,

to eat and rest,

to be,

I feel the sword pierce deeply with truth;

that we are blest more for obedience to the Father

than for the milk of mother’s nourishment.

And I follow after him once again

On this journey into the darkness of Jerusalem.

III. Passion:

Where are we, Lord, in this foreign city of pain?

Of jeering, angry faces, of crushed hearts,

revealed in hateful eyes that make my own heart bleed?

Where are the glorious cries and branches of palm,

to welcome David’s Son, and Moses’ promised Messiah,

to David’s city?

And when did the city of Peace become a place so fearfully violent? A place

so filled with fear.

And where is he, whom my heart loves?

Where is my flesh and bone? I have lost it in this crowd of faces

whose thoughts, to reveal, my heart was pierced.

And Oh, what thoughts, Lord! Are these what Simeon foretold

must be revealed?

The hellish cries of Zion’s children, killing their Messiah,

The despair of a friend who betrayed Love…

The piercing tears of a Rock who denied, of ten chosen who ran in fear…

you did not tell me that the thoughts themselves would be the sword, piercing open—

for what? Remind me again,

for further motherhood…

And where is he, on whom angels fear to look?

Is this him, the King of Israel and Son of David,

mocked and jeered, and spit upon?

Is this my Son?

I do not even know him, when I look upon his face,

the one that I brought forth to life from my womb…

Could Isaiah, once more, have spoken so truly?

My heart turns sickeningly as it echoes in my ears…

…the prophecy whose fulfillment I look upon:

“The one with no form or comeliness, the one despised and rejected by men,

the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; the one people hide their faces from…”

and he is my Son! The One to whom I gave a countenance,

That now has no comeliness.

And the mystery that has been agonized over for ages

is suddenly in flesh before me…

in the body of my Son, lying there upon the road.

My heart is running faster than my feet,

and as I fall to lift him, to embrace him,

covered in the blood I gave him,

my heart cries an agonized, “WHY?”

And I hear the answer in the angel’s words:

And you shall call him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And is this really the saving? Is this really how it must be?

Somehow, I didn’t know, was not prepared,

That saving would need the terror of a cross…

and does it have to be so heavy, Lord? Why can’t I carry part of this?

He knows that I am there, and looking out at me

from beneath the weight of Adam’s thorns, and Noah’s fall,

and David’s and Solomon’s scourges,

and Israel’s spittle of disdain, choosing a golden calf

in place of God…

He looks out from all of this, and tries to lift his wounded head,

And I see again a little boy, holding up before me in triumph

The broken thing that he has put right,

Eager eyes searching my face for pride and approval…

Now, with the same pride and satisfaction, triumph and joy,

cloaked only in unbearable blood and tears,

he looks out at me with eyes I know still, and says,

See, I make all things new…”

See me, Mama? Aren’t you proud?

Can’t you rejoice with me?

I am saving David, and Solomon, and Moses, and Abraham,

and Rachel and Jacob, and Zechariah and Elizabeth,

Martha and Mary, James, and John…

and abba, Joseph… and you.

And all those who have not yet been born…

Do you see me?”

my own heart crumbles beneath the weight of what he’s trying not to distress me with:

the pain that is too great for him to speak of,

and that He knows I see anyway, unspoken in his eyes.

And our tears flow in silent unison…

The wordless understanding of Mother and Son.

And as they rip me from his side, my heart is torn in two:

the part that stays, weighed down with him,

and the part driven on, left alone and desolate,

helpless in the face of all misery…

Darkness and shadows.

I can’t see anything through this black cloud

Except the face of the Son of God.

The face we have waited so long to look upon…

And never expected to see cloaked in blood and dirt and tears…

Tears that I gave him.

And as the priests of His people mock and jeer

I hear his father David’s prayer on my son’s lips…

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?…”

and my already broken heart is left stunned, watching his words spoken so long ago

becoming real before my eyes…

the garments, won by casting lots, the sneers and jeers from all around…

the bitter vinegar to drink.

And they have numbered all his bones… like the Passover lamb, at the slaughter:

My own flesh and bone.

My heart finishes the prayer that we have repeated for years from memory

and never expected to witness.

What LOVE is this, which pardons repentant thieves, and asks for torturer’s forgiveness

While hanging dying on a criminal’s cross?

What LOVE is this, which still cries for the thirsty, and thinks even now of me

the last care in his bleeding heart?

My own heart is numb and trembles, to take in such love and terror

In the same moment.

He is looking at me: out of eyes I still know,

Though hidden in a disfigurement of blood and pain,

“Woman,” he says,

And I think of Cana, and the wine, and my yes to this darkness…

the further stage of the Fiat that I have not

until now


“Woman, behold your son,”

He is looking at John, and My heart is breaking,

to expand and receive this reality: this new sword-piercing.

“Son, behold your mother.”

And I know it is truly over… there is nothing left for Him to give.

And as he releases his last breath, my heart is once more torn in two…

part of me dying with him, and part, left alone and solitary,

on this ground stained with my blood

the blood I gave the Son of God.

And I find myself left standing,

Holding in my arms this infant bride, left wailing

with lungs filled with new life,

born with the blood and water from this Adam’s side.

And I must take her to my heart now, the only home left to her,

for my motherhood is all that’s left in me alive.

How is it that in this moment of death, when all is over, and there is nothing left,

when my heart feels cold and dead, and empty

do I find it big enough at last to hold the misery of the whole world?

And enough corners to shelter every last little weary one.

And how is it, that suddenly, in these poor ones… in John before me

I see and hold…. Him.

My heart stretches and breaks wider then my arms to receive him…

My Son, and my God.

Three days…

three days of Abrahamic prayer,

walking up invisible mountains in my mind,

carrying an already dead son, and repeating over and over,

“I believe, Lord, Amen…”

drawing from the same well of seemingly impossible faith,

that somehow clings to the belief that the Lord is still good,

when my Son lies cold in the grave,

and that He is still faithful,

though the Messiah has breathed no more in a stone cold tomb…

that his hesed has not failed,

though the Son of David was pierced open at the heart…

and that He has another plan, that his Word can still be fulfilled

even as we climb down the hill after sacrificing the Child of the Promise…

Three days, three long days…

of searching for him… all round the corners of my mind,

and it feels like three other days, without him, in agony.

Sickeningly familiar…

It is the third day, and my poor tired heart returns, instinctively,

to a flicker of anticipation… it remembers

hope and relief and joy, coming on the third day, so many years ago,

the first time I thought I lost God’s Son, the hope of the world:

yet found Him again.

And my feet, instinctively when all else is asleep,

would take me, looking, though I know he can’t be there,

into the Temple…

Yet, even the temple is cold and lifeless without him.

For this time, he is not here.

He is once again about Your business, Father,

Only this time, it led him to death.

And I stand in awe, wondering

Pondering what this could mean

How this connects with angels’ greetings, and magi’s gifts

And the words of Isaiah…

And wondering, this time,

Where I will find Him…on the third day.

For Abraham walked down from that altar with his son restored to him.

And as mother to a Son greater than Abraham’s, I will wait in anticipation–

for what?

For the One Who Promises to fulfill

in a way that I cannot yet see.


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