The Fourth Station: Jesus Meets His Afflicted Mother.
My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
My thoughts flow the most freely over this Station than any other thus far. Perhaps it is because I am a woman, and despite not having children of my own, my maternal instinct is strong. Maybe it is because of my love for the Virgin Mary that has grown tremendously knowing her as Our Lady of Sorrows. I wonder if it is because Jesus loved her so dearly and as I have come to know her, I have come to know him more.
Traditionally when praying the Stations of the Cross, stanzas of the Marian hymn “Stabat Mater” (from the first line “Stabat Mater dolorosa,” which means “the Sorrowful Mother stood”) are sung.
At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
Imagine the day of the Presentation, when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Christ to the Temple to be presented to the Lord. Already Mary had experienced supernatural revelations — first, from the angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, then through the profound dreams of her betrothed, Joseph, and finally at the greeting of her cousin Elizabeth at the Visitation. Not to mention the Nativity, when Mary beheld with her own eyes her Savior and her God for the very first time. And the day had come for her purification, and with joy, she brought her baby boy to be presented. Encountering Simeon, who was awaiting the consolation of Israel, and whose eyes were opened to see that Jesus was the One for whom he’d been waiting, Mary must have felt a mixture of awe and maybe even pride that her Son brought the man so much joy. But the mood shifted quickly.
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
“How much more miserable would life be,” St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote, “if everyone knew also the future evils which were to afflict him!” Can you imagine? How would you walk away from that? Luke moves along in the Gospel narrative, but I imagine Mary did not move on so quickly. I imagine her inner world must have come to a screeching halt.
The next story in that same chapter of Luke describes Jesus being lost for three days until Mary and Joseph find him in the Temple, “about his Father’s business” (Lk 2:49). She describes herself as being deeply anxious searching for her child. “How could you do this to me?” she asks, as any mother would.
O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.
Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
Twenty-one years later that blessed Woman would find herself searching the road to Calvary for her beloved Son, who was still about his Father’s business. This time, he was preparing to offer himself on the Cross. And at last, she sees him.
Now Jesus had come up to her. He halts for a moment. He lifts the one hand that is free, and clears the blood from his eyes. Is it to see? Rather, that she may see him, his look of sadness, his look of love. She approaches to embrace him. The soldiers thrust her rudely back. Oh, misery! And she is his Mother too! For a moment she reeled with the push, and then again was still, her eyes fixed on his, his eyes fixed on hers; such a link, such an embrace, such an outpouring of love, such an overflow of sorrow!
Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?
This moment gives new meaning to the words of St. Paul: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Cor 12:9). This has to be the only way Mary was able to even move after that moment with her Son: from her Fiat (Lk 1:38) she made an act of the will to be a slave of God. She didn’t deny her emotions, but her spirit transcended her senses. In Scripture we often see worship as the source of freedom in the midst of suffering (“Slay me though he might, I will wait for him” Job 13; “How long, O Lord? Will you utterly forget me?… But I have trusted in your mercy… I will sing to the Lord….” Ps 13; “He put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake. About midnight… Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” Acts 16) and we know from her Magnificat that Mary’s was a worshiping soul. This becomes the power in her infirmity — strength is made perfect in weakness. And though her heart groaned under the weight of the sorrow of seeing her Son under his Cross, she was able to see, through faith, “the pledge of the end of the deluge of pain in the glory of… the Light of the World” (Sheen).
O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.
Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified:
Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.
V: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You. (Genuflect)
R: Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. (Rise)
V: Consider how the Son met his Mother on His way to Calvary. Jesus and Mary gazed at each other and their looks became as so many arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly (Kneel)
R: My most loving Jesus, by the pain You suffered in this meeting
grant me the grace of being truly devoted to Your most holy Mother.
And You, my Queen, who was overwhelmed with sorrow,
obtain for me by Your prayers
a tender and a lasting remembrance of the passion of Your divine Son.
I love You, Jesus, my Love, above all things.
I repent of ever having offended You.
Never allow me to offend You again.
Grant that I may love You always; and then do with me as You will.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.)
Faber, Fr. Fredrick William, D.D. The Foot of the Cross or The Sorrows of Mary (Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1978), 208.
Sheen, Rt. Reverend Fulton J. The Rainbow of Sorrow (P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1938), dedication page.
Stabat Mater, 13th Century hymn
St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Stations of the Cross