Friday, April 3, 2015


Stabat Mater
           Tradition holds that our Blessed Mother daily visited the scenes of our Lord's Passion.  She would walk the one half mile of the via Delarosa (way of sorrows) or via crucis (way of the cross) and stop at each site.  In fact this stopping gave us the words "The Stations of the Cross," from the Latin statio (to stand still), for Mary would contemplate the events of each location, considering/pondering in her heart their meaning. 

The first stop is at the Fortress Antonia where Pilate washed his hands and the crowd called for crucifixion.  This very same crowd that a few days ago was spreading their cloaks and palms along the way of Christ into Jerusalem, now sees her son crowned with thorns, bleeding from cruel lashings by whips and hooks that tear the skin and calls “Crucify Him.”  And Pilate.  He knows her son is innocent of any crime worthy of death, yet is forced to do something to keep peace in Jerusalem. Pilate refuses to make the final decision.  He isn't strong enough to go against the crowd, the mob, he lets them win, lets them choose to have a rebel released and to kill this gentle man who speaks of a Kingdom not of this world.  Mary knows this all has to happen, this is God's plan to save mankind from the cost of their sin, but as a mother she feels the pain.

The crowd is appeased by the sentence of death, Her Son is given the cross to bear, the weight of His wood of death, but the Tree of Life for mankind.  He struggles.  He falls.   The soldiers force Him up, secretly cursing those who whipped and crowned Him.  The whipping was to make the dying faster, but this Man is so weak he may die on the way to His death.  Mary is able to follow her Son, unaware of those who clear her way- her sister, Mary Clopas, and friend, Mary Magdalen, and John who follows to protect her from the jeering crowd.  Where is the humanity now?  They have their way, Jesus is on His way to punishment for daring to be the Messiah, but still they call out, "Save yourself."  Is there no compassion for those destined to die this horrible death.  What evil did He do?  He only healed, cast out demons, raised the dead, restored children to parents and the ill to their family.  What evil did He do?  He fed thousands and preached love of God. He forgave some sins.  What did He do to be so horribly punished?

Mary remembers so clearly the moment when she looked into her Son's eyes on His journey.  Suddenly there had been a clearing in the mob, and there she was, face to face with her Son, her baby, her God.  She shared His human pain.  She shared the willingness that He should die for the salvation of the many alive now, of those who had died, and for those yet to be born.  Mary knew this was "Just and Right," but inside her mother's heart she mourned her loss, His pain of this moment.
The soldiers were really frightened now, this Jesus looked as if He would crumble at any moment, and there was still a quarter of a mile to go.  He could never carry a cross that far.  Then, there in the crowd, a strong man.  And so Simon of Cyrene was forced to help carry the cross.

Then compassion at last.  Veronica, amid the crowd, comes forward.  In her eyes is a man, weakened by torture, blood streaming down his face from the thorn crown, and salt sweat stinging his eyes from the strain of moving.  She feels she must act.  She removes the veil from her hair, there is nothing else to offer, and hands it to the man.  He takes it and wipes his face, a bit of relief, not just from the sweat and blood, but from the compassion.  From the crowd yearning for his death, here is one who sees a man in need.  She may not recognize God, but she is charitable to the man.

Despite this momentary relief of kindness, and this help from a strong man, Jesus falls again.  The soldiers are angry with Simon, but he couldn't support the full weight of the cross and keep the weak man ahead of him from falling.  As He rises, women come forward weeping for His pain and suffering.  Jesus knows what he is doing.  Though His human body is weak, His Wisdom is strong.  Knowing the reason for his painful journey, He tells them not to weep for Him but for themselves and for their children.
He falls again, this time it was the soldiers fault.  They were so close to Golgotha, they hurried Him along.  They had to get Him there before He died on the way.  Despite falling this third time, they had arrived.  Jesus was lain down on the cross, His hands and feet nailed to the wood.  The agony of the nailing was little in comparison to the moment his full weight strained against the nails once the cross was placed upright.  Now the soldier's job was done.  His clothing was divided amongst them, but His cloak was fine, and so they gambled for it.

Mary would never forget seeing her baby about to die in the same naked state in which he was born, only she would not be allowed to wrap Him in swaddling clothes.  Instead, she would help wrap Him in a shroud and not lay Him in a soft manger of straw, but in a cold slab in a tomb.  She would always see herself and Jesus.  Their eyes meeting.  A knowing passing between them.  This was God's will, and the pain would be only  for a time, death for a time, then He would arise, having beaten Death and Satan.  His death and resurrection would be the salvation and redemption of the world.  Justice would have been served.  Man would be free, if he would only accept the gift.

Each day she walked the half mile.  Each day we are asked to walk our paths, and journey as her Son did doing the will of God.
Katherine Stevens