For our community’s anniversary concert this year, we boldly went where we had never gone before: we staged a mini-play (I don’t know how else to call it) depicting the struggles of key persons in the Bible in answering God’s call. “Called” (as the show was aptly named) tells the stories of Adam and Eve (called to be good), Joseph (called to forgive), Esther (called to stand up for what is right), Mary (called to surrender), and Peter (called to rise again). For whatever reason (I’ve given up trying to rationalize why I did), I volunteered to play Mary.
The scene takes place at the foot of the cross, with Mary weeping and hurting at the sight of her Son tortured and crucified. She cries out in despair, starting to say that if only she had known this is what her fiat entailed, perhaps she would have decided otherwise. But, catching herself, she realizes that deep inside, she’s always known that Jesus was never truly hers (as all our children are never truly ours), and in that moment, learns about surrender all over again, praying not only “Let it be done unto me,” but also, “Let it be done unto Him.”
And then, in the midst of sobs and tears, I artfully break into song (a real challenge, as singing while crying has always been my kryptonite).
About a week before the performance, I decided to read a book on the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, hoping to gather material for my “internalization” process. Not only did I get points to work on for my roughly 10 minutes in the spotlight, I found that there was so much more to appreciate, to honor, to love about Mary.
I was struck most by the reflection on the first sorrow, the prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:33-35). Reflections and revelations from different saints and mystics bring to light Mary’s unique pain of knowing, from the moment Simeon spoke his famous words of a sword piercing her heart, that her Son was to die a cruel death. Yes, Mary suffered greatly at the sight of her Son’s anguishing journey to Calvary, but her suffering started much earlier than that.
The blessed Virgin herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that while she lived on earth there was not an hour when this grief did not pierce her soul. “As often,” she continued, “as I looked on my Son, as often as I wrapped Him in His swaddling clothes, as often as I saw His hands and His feet, so often was my soul overwhelmed as it were with a fresh sorrow, because I considered how He would be crucified.”
As often as she put on Him His clothes, she reflected that they would one day be torn from Him, that He might be crucified, and when she beheld His sacred hands and feet, and thought of the nails that were to pierce them, as Mary said to Saint Bridget: “My eyes filled with tears, and my heart was tortured with grief.” (Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, from The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
For any parent, losing a child is such unspeakable, unimaginable pain, even more than losing one’s parent or spouse. And here is Mary, the knowledge of this pain looming over her for the whole duration of her Son’s life! How truly bittersweet was each tender moment with Jesus, each memory laced with joy as well as pain. This was the depth of her surrender–not measured by a day of passion and death, but by a lifetime of sorrow.
Because she loved much, she hurt much. Isn’t it the same way with us? The more we love the person who gets hurt (or hurts us), the more we suffer. If there is no equal to a mother’s love for her child, can we even begin to fathom how much Mary had to endure? Do we even realize that we, as her spiritual children, pierce her soul anew whenever we sin and hurt her Son?
Hail Mary, full of sorrows, the Crucified is with you. Most sorrowful are you among women, and most sorrowful is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of the Crucified, beg tears for us, the crucifiers of your Son, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
P.S. The show took place the weekend of September 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. I dedicated my performance to our Lady, hoping that in my own little way, I could bring a smile to her lips.