Queen of Priests, Mother of Sorrow: Our Lady’s Role in Holy Week
Can you believe it? Easter is almost here! There’ll be candy, Easter egg hunts, visits with and from the Easter Bunny, a great feast with family and friends, new Sunday clothes, and of course, more candy! The best thing is that Easter is actually eight days long, so we can say Happy Easter starting on Easter Sunday and going to the following Sunday! Even more candy and fun! Those new Sunday clothes sure come in real handy when going to Mass on Easter Sunday, but most think of the upcoming festivities of the day, not the little round Host which is actually the reason for the season.
Two weeks of one Man’s life can be summed up in that one hour, and one meal in particular was used as an example of what was to be done in that one hour. On Maundy Thursday, Jesus Christ ate one final meal with his disciples and gave them the foundation for what came to be known as the Holy Eucharist, and Mass. But though Christ gave his disciples the power to turn bread into His Body and wine into His Blood, a power that has been passed from Bishop to priest, there was one who truly had the right to hold Him close and who truly offered Him up to His Father, the one who had been there from the very beginning, His holy Mother Mary.
The very first offering of Jesus to His Father by Mary was in what is known as the Presentation, the Jewish tradition of circumcision. It was there that the first drops of the Precious Blood was spilled, it was there that Mary first let go of Him to give Him to His Father, it was there where she heard the prophecy of Simeon concerning her own heart. It was the first step of many towards the cross for both Jesus and Mary, the next being His three-day disappearance. Oh what an agony that must have been! Mary and Joseph did not know where He went, and no doubt the first thing running through their minds was that His Passion had begun. When they found Him unharmed and talking wisely with the teachers in the temple, they were sorely relieved. Later on they would come to realize that Jesus’ three-day disappearance was no doubt a foreshadowing of His actual Passion, but only Mary would live through that horrible day.
His agony, His scourging, the crown of thorns sitting atop His kingly head, the sight of the pain He was undergoing was enough for many to run away. But one returned, His beloved disciple, John, returned to Jesus’ side, having brought with him Mary. The two fell in step behind the cross as Jesus continued on to Calvary. There, though Jesus was the Priest, Mary and John both offered up His sacrifice for the salvation of men, while He offered up their agony at watching Him die. There, Simeon’s prophecy was fulfilled; Mary’s heart was pierced by a sword while her Son’s was pierced through by a lance. Later, it was by her hands that Jesus was laid down in the sepulcher, like she did for him years ago in swaddling clothes, and she was the last to leave. She went home like everyone else, waiting in suspense for the return of her Son, for though the first time she had found Him, this time, He would find her.
Easter morning came and went; Jesus appeared to many people, one of whom no doubt was His dear Mother. Why should she not be included in that illustrious list, if not the first one, to see Him? She was one of the few who stood by Him to the end, offering Him up in accordance with God’s will to ransom humanity. But she did not get to go to Him in heaven until several years later, having been tasked by the Holy Trinity to help the young Church stay on course. She received her Son many times in Holy Eucharist until she could see Him again in Heaven, and though she did not receive the power to turn Bread into the Body of her Son, nor wine into His Blood, she alone could offer Him up more perfectly than any priest. But that was her birthright as the Mother of God; she could do what no one else could do, to give flesh to the God-made-man, to stand agonizingly by while her Son gave up His life for the salvation of all mankind, and to be raised gloriously into Heaven to sit at the right-hand of her Son.
It is because of Mary and the other women who stayed with Christ till His dying breath that we have convents, a place where women can choose a path of special closeness to Christ as consecrated virgins, a place where Christ delights in knowing that they have given everything for Him and that they belong to Him alone. Priests, on the other hand, must literally follow in Christ’s footsteps, even to the point of crucifixion for the glory of God and the good of the people. With Easter so close at hand, it’s easy to forget the sorrows undergone by Christ, His Mother, and His early followers, but it’s because of them that we even have Easter, so it’s best to remember what they went through as you put on your nice, new clothes and as you prepare to eat Easter dinner and candy, and thank them for this beautiful holiday and a beautiful sacrament.
(Author’s Note: For some reason, I’ve also been thinking of The Da Vinci Code. Is it just me, or is anyone else thinking that the author of that book was grasping at straws, like switching St. John for St. Mary Magdalene in Da Vinci’s The Last Supper? I mean, come on, really, is hogwash the sort of thing you want to drink, especially as heavily as Dan Brown did? Yes, Jesus loved them as his friends, but not in the way Brown implies. He came here because He loves all of us, it’s up to us to accept and return that love. That’s why St. John, St. Mary Magdalene, and His own Mother Mary were especially dear to Jesus; they really accepted and returned that love in full. Are you willing to do the same?)
By Aurora Mandeville