The lifeless body of Jesus is taken down
from the Cross on which he died,
and he is taken by his mother and the women,
with the help of John the beloved, Nicodemus,
and Joseph of Arimathea, to a tomb nearby.
The hill of Golgotha—or Calvary—
is in the midst of a garden,
and they are surrounded by trees
as they take the body of Jesus
to its resting place.
John looks back over his shoulder
and sees the tree of the Cross raised high
on the hilltop, in the garden’s midst.
He thinks of Adam and Eve in the garden,
standing beside another tree,
so many, many years ago,
and he senses the connection
between this Death now
and the curse of their sin then.
But what does it all mean?
This is still an enigma to him.
The Innocent One, the Pure One,
God himself…suffered the curse of our infidelity.
The Beloved Son went down into the darkness
experienced so painfully by the prodigal son.
The Bridegroom went to rescue his Bride
from the chains of her unfaithfulness,
taking her again in his arms
and carrying her away from her harlotries.
But her weight, it seems, has crushed him,
and the very gift of himself, so totally given,
is now being buried like a seed in the earth
…or it is perhaps in the womb?
Beloved Son, Bridegroom-God,
what is the meaning of this?
Can your impure children,
your debased and sinful spouse,
ever become pure again?
Or is it that our sin has crushed you,
and extinguished the purity of your light?
His mind spinning with these thoughts,
John’s turns his eyes to the body of Christ
which is now being laid out on the ground.
The others gather around him
and begin to wind his body in a cloth.
(There is not time to anoint him;
they will come back on the third day
to do what they cannot do now.)
John sees the countless wounds of the scourging
and the bloodstained head from the crown;
he sees Jesus’ opened side, drenched in the blood
and the water that poured from his Heart.
The face of Christ is serene, at peace,
as if he had died, not in torture or loss,
but at rest in another’s arms.
Then he raises his eyes to the mother, Mary,
the mother of Christ, and now his own mother too.
Her face reflects the same serenity
even though her cheeks are stained with tears.
A noble sorrow he sees in her:
an anguish without despair,
a grieving without loss of faith,
a fully human pain and suffering
that is nonetheless pervaded with acceptance.
She turns her eyes to John, in silence,
and he sees in her gaze both hope and light,
but also the greatest abyss of sorrow
that any human heart could bear.
He feels like his own sorrow and grief
could find a resting place within her,
nestled in her own grief and pain.
He feels like his own darkness and confusion
could find a resting place in her darkness,
a darkness that abides in the hidden light, uncomprehending,
and yet totally surrendered in simple trust.
Mary and John sit together
in a house in Jerusalem,
silent and still,
their breath alone making sound.
John takes Mary’s hands within his own
and pulls her close to him;
then he wraps his arms around her,
wishing in some way to console her
in that immense pain he feels
reverberating silently from her heart.
But he knows that the abyss in her
cannot find consolation except in Him,
in the One who is her Life and Joy;
he knows that, though Christ entrusted her to John,
it is more John who has been entrusted to her.
In consoling her, perhaps it is more he,
the frail and little one, the beloved disciple,
who is consoled by the Mother of the Son.
But then she speaks to him, quietly,
and he is surprised by her words:
Dear John, I thank you for being here,
a son for me given by my Son.
In you I see and feel him, his presence,
and the beating of his Heart.
You have rested on his breast, I know,
and I love you, John, as he did.
But I also feel that you are learning
to love me, in turn, with his love.
He has been taken away by sinful men,
his life cut off by their wickedness,
but you must understand that this event
finds its explanation not in human choice,
but in the plan of the eternal Father.
My Son spoke to me of this so many times
throughout the years we spent together.
He prepared me, little by little, to let him go,
so that he could unite himself with them:
the children of his Father, he called them,
those who were lost outside in darkness.
He prepared me to let him go,
to return to the bosom of his Father,
passing through the darkness
into the enduring light.
You see, all of humanity is “outside,”
for all have closed themselves off from Love.
But he has taught me also that none are outside,
for even the greatest of sinner
is enveloped on all sides by Love,
cradled in God’s enfolding arms.
You see, little one, beloved child,
that he has opened your heart
to experience and accept this Mystery,
to let yourself be held unceasingly by God.
But there are so many who do not allow this,
who close themselves within their fear,
and prefer to cut off relationship
with the Love that gives them life.
This is why he had to go,
to descend into their darkness,
why he had to identify with them,
so as to make Love present there…
and to break this narrowness open again
to the cradling Love of the Father.
Mother, I could never have expected this,
that the Messiah would come in this way.
It surpasses all of our people’s expectations,
and is a scandal and contradiction for them.
But for the humble, little hearts,
who acknowledge their need for love,
and their thirst for intimacy…
The little have always seen Love in him,
the One for whom they thirst.
But now, this mystery,
his agony, his crucifixion, and his death…
What does it all mean for us,
and what does it mean for him?
John, you of all the disciples,
you must remain faithful, filled with trust.
Others falter in faith, they doubt,
they turn away and forget his words…
for their sake, do not forget.
forget that he said that he will rise?
That he will rise on the third day?
Love is stronger than death.