Mary, did you know
That your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered
Will soon deliver you?
Buddy Greene, Mark Lowry
In the stone of this masterpiece, Michelangelo has so poignantly sculpted Mary’s sorrow that we are drawn into its depths. In Jesus’ infancy, Mary had been told that a sword would pierce her own soul because of this child, and she must have viscerally shared his agony at his crucifixion.
Years ago, when my mother-in-law was deeply mourning the death of her 32-year-old son, she said “I hope you never have to do this.” The sharp pain in the untimely loss of a child is recognized in cultures all over the world. In Greek mythology, crops were imperiled when the grain goddess Demeter desperately searched for the daughter that had been snatched from her.
When the tragedy is so great, words can feel so inadequate a consolation. Jesus had said that he would rise again, but to his despairing family and friends this seemed like mere talk. He had been betrayed, abandoned, had sustained mockery and savage brutality from his enemies.
In the hours of darkness, Mary stayed there, witness to her son’s pain. In love, Jesus entrusted her to John, his beloved disciple, before He declared his work finished, committing his spirit to his Father. And then there was the silence, the burial.
Labour pains are sharp pains, but in the joy of new life, these are forgotten. Mary had to have been profoundly changed by what happens next, this incomprehensible mystery: three days later, Jesus rises from death into glorious life.
As a seed falls to the ground, sacrifices itself so that there can be a much greater increase, so Jesus’ courageous decision to live and die in humility and complete humanity makes possible our own delivery from death into life. Way has been opened for her, for us, for our sons and daughters, for all who want to live in the presence of God.
Alleluia, Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed!