After Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane
and his arrest by the soldiers and authorities,
in which Peter and John had at first slept,
and then both fled—
they have come together again
and have returned to Jesus,
witnessing his trial.
John, the beloved disciple,
who is known to the high priest,
enters into the courtyard of the temple
and asks for Peter also to be allowed in.
He remains close to Christ,
yet surrounded by and hidden in the crowd.
But Peter stands at a distance,
warming himself at a charcoal fire.
The Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ,
stands with John, at his side,
for after fleeing he found her:
but she already knew.
Together they found Peter
and came to the temple.
Son, this is the fulfillment
of the prophecies that have been given,
the foretelling of the Messiah’s path:
that he is to be a Man of Sorrows, afflicted,
who bears the guilt of the people in atoning love.
But it is promise, too, that he will rejoice,
rejoice at seeing the offspring of his soul,
the fruit of his own loving self-offering.
Further, Simeon, that old man in the temple,
so many years ago at your presentation,
said that you would be a sign of contradiction,
and that through you the thoughts
hidden in the hearts of many would be revealed…
and that my own soul a sword would pierce.
I have felt it already, that two-edged blade!
For your anguish throughout this night,
your prayer in the garden in agony—
this I felt in my own breast too.
I knew that you were taking humanity’s sin,
the anguish and sorrow and sadness we bear,
into your pure and holy Heart through love,
and bearing it compassionately with the Father,
to manifest to us his own merciful tenderness.
But how your flesh and your soul trembled,
at the immensity of this burden of human sin!
It would be impossible to bear it, my Jesus,
except that you are the Father’s beloved Son,
and you bear it precisely in this intimacy,
in the heart of your unbreakable union with him!
Thus, my Son, I know that you are reconciling—
for you are crossing over the distance created
by humanity’s infidelity and turning-away,
so as to weave together again, in your Sacred Heart,
the threads of love that sin has torn apart.
And I share in this, my Son, as well,
for in my own immaculate heart
I feel that I carry the burden you bear,
not in the fullness possible only to you,
but rather as a sharing in this mystery,
as I have been inserted from the first
into the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan.
I feel, I know that this is necessary,
my presence and my cooperation—
even though you alone redeem,
you alone atone for human sin,
drawing together as one estranged humanity,
and the fractured heart of every person,
into communion with the Trinity again.
For I stand before you on their behalf,
and I give that “Yes” they fail to give,
precisely so that my “Yes,”
merged together inseparably to your own,
may become the dwelling-place
for the “Yes” of every person forevermore.
I glimpse this mystery, too,
dear Mother of my Lord,
though it overwhelms me,
and the darkness obscures my sight.
It is by looking at you, faithful woman,
standing at my side, that I gain strength…
strength to remain here close to him,
come what may in this darkest night.
The scribes and Pharisees,
accusing Jesus in loud voices,
have reached a decision,
and the high priest tears his garments.
There is suddenly a rush of movement,
and there are many cries of condemnation.
Thus it begins, my Son, my Life,
whom the heavenly Father has given us,
and who seek to draw us to your Father…
You pass through the anguish, and I follow you,
when the clouds fall and obscure our sight,
but in the midst of this, my Lord,
I simply say again, as I said so many years ago,
and as my heart has echoed every moment since:
“Let it be to me according to your word.”
Another voice is heard near Mary and John,
as they are pushed with the swelling crowd:
I tell you, I swear it!
I have already told you twice:
I do not know the man!
I have never seen him in my life!
Peter, after saying this,
turns away to flee,
and his eyes, for a while,
follow the crowd moving past.
He sees Christ being led by the guards,
and, for a moment, their eyes meet.
Then, as Jesus is forced ahead,
Peter falls to his knees and weeps.
Christ, stumbling with exhaustion,
with the extreme loss of blood,
his whole body lacerated with wounds,
and his head crowned with thorns,
reaches the top of Mount Calvary.
He lets the Cross fall from his shoulders,
and himself collapses to his knees,
unable to rise.
The guards approach him
and force him to his feet,
stripping away his garments
from his torn and bloody flesh.
He stands before the eyes of all,
naked and exposed,
his eyes cast down,
his face filled with pain
and yet serene.
For a moment he looks up
and sees the guards laying out the Cross
and preparing the nails for him.
His eyes move across the hill
and he sees, a short distance away,
his mother and his beloved disciple,
clinging to one another with tear filled eyes.
With them stand Mary Magdalene
and the other women, weeping,
who had for so long ministered to his needs
and brought such joy to his Heart.
The soldiers grasp his arms
and lay him out upon the prostrate Cross,
and he himself opens wide his arms.
As the first nail is driven into his flesh,
he cries out in an anguished voice:
Father…Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they do!
His sorrowful yet meek cries continue to resound
as the nails are driven through his hands and feet,
and then he falls silent again
as the Cross is raised into its place.
Mary and John draw near,
standing close to his Cross,
at his side, silently abiding with him,
unable to speak, to console,
but simply suffering with him,
assenting to that mystery, ineffable,
which is greater than they are,
or can comprehend.
As Mary looks upon her Crucified Son,
she consents to what is happening, and why,
even if it beyond her comprehension,
so much more immense than she…
and she feels herself to be but a little one
immersed in an ocean of Mystery.
In the sorrowful yet peaceful Face of Christ,
she reads the lines of his Love,
and in his extended Body,
naked and bare before her eyes,
she understands the meaning of his gift.
It is as if his silence says:
My love, my precious one,
I thank you for being here.
In you I see my mother,
who has given me everything
that, as I man, I have,
and what I now completely give.
And your compassion now
means so much to me.
I am sorry that this darkness is necessary;
I am sorry for the pain that you bear.
If there were some other way
then We would have chosen it,
but you understand that this was best,
for Love must descend into the lowest place,
and Light must pierce the deepest darkness.
I had to go to those “outside,”
to touch them in their woundedness and sin,
to take their anguished burdens on myself,
so as to break their bonds asunder
and to carry them back to the Father in myself.
This is where I am, suspended on this Cross;
this is where I am, immersed in this anguish,
surrounded by this enveloping darkness,
seemingly forsaken, crushed, and cast aside.
I am close to them, you see…I am close!
I am with every heart that feels cast aside,
that feels rejected and abandoned and alone…
Trust…trust in me,
even if you see me in this miserable state,
for I am trusting in my Father, in his Love,
even though I do not feel it now.
Even if I feel estranged, cut off from him,
from the consolation of his Love,
and the weight presses upon my shoulders,
upon my naked and vulnerable Heart…
know that I rest still in his arms!
And let yourself be held by me—by him!—
even as I am allowing myself, even here,
to be cradled by his ever present Love,
his ever-sustaining arms holding me.
Yes, for you see that in this place,
the darkest place of the sinner’s collapse,
I have let myself be stripped
and opened myself wide, vulnerable.
In this way alone can their narrowness expand,
can it be reopened from within
to the expansiveness of eternal Love.
Mary’s heart silently replies:
My Son, my God, my Life,
you are my Joy even in this place!
I love you with a mother’s tenderness,
and with the anguish of a mother’s heart,
beholding her child dying before her eyes…
Here in this place joy and sorrow intermingle,
and love, because of its pureness, is crucified,
and in being crucified is pure, thus bearing,
mysteriously, the mystery of unbreakable joy.
Ah, and yet I am not only mother,
since you in this place are the Bridegroom-God,
suffering for your unfaithful people!
And I am your bride, your spouse,
immaculate because of your sacrifice,
because of the power of your saving Love.
And in me, with me, and through me,
many others will come to stand in this place,
to know themselves loved by you,
a bride washed by the Bridegroom’s gift,
and united to him in love’s intimacy.
And together we will know childhood,
brought to consummation through this gift:
childhood before the Father of us all.
I don’t understand, I don’t understand…
what is passing between you both.
Jesus looks lovingly upon Mary and John,
and he speaks audibly,
his voice barely discernible
between his raspy gasps for breath.
He says to Mary:
Woman, behold your son.
And then, looking upon John,
Behold, your Mother.
From that moment John took Mary
into his own home and cared for her,
and he learned from her deep lessons of Love:
what it means to abide in Christ
even in the darkness of compassionate love,
and the beauty of the Mystery conquering all,
the intimacy of Father and child, Bridegroom and bride,
that endures, unbreakable, through everything,
and ties together again what was rent asunder.
After saying these words,
Jesus raises his eyes to heaven,
and for a long time he remains silent.
Then he raises his voice again,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
His cry echoes in the hearts of Mary and John,
and yet there is something here impenetrable,
something that they cannot grasp.
Yet they understand that at the heart of this event,
this death which is transformed into pure Sacrifice,
lies the prayer of the Son to his Father,
and the Father’s loving response, hidden and yet true.
This is the true perspective, and this alone,
in which the meaning of what is happening is seen.
Yes, the anguish of Christ itself unveils to them
a glimpse, a touch, an intimation
of the inner sanctuary of the dialogue
between the Father and the Son.
And this glimpse, in its very impenetrability
to the grasp of the mind’s comprehension,
allows the Mystery to enfold them in itself,
taking them up, in their frailty and pain,
into the space of union between Father and Son.
The words of Jesus that follow
confirm this Mystery that they feel,
this Heartbeat surging in the anguished silence,
the breath of Love in the sigh of the dying Christ,
the Breath of the Spirit passing
between the Son and the Father:
It is consummated…
into your hands I commend my Spirit!
At this moment he gives a final cry,
and exhales a breath that shakes the world.
And then that heartbeat, for a time,
ceases and becomes still, within that human breast…
while that Heart releases the torrents
that sweep through the universe,
touching, transforming, and making all things new.