Tag Archive: cross


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Sooner or later, every Catholic “goth” chick will pick up devotion to the Mother of Sorrows. Perfect right? While I wrote some poetry about Our Lady at Calvary, weeping over the crucified Christ, early on in my spiritual journey, it wasn’t until recently that a true devotion emerged. If you venture to read my earlier post “The Mother of a Priest” (June/17/2013), you will learn how a friend’s crisis urged me to cling closely to Our Lady, especially in her sufferings. Now, my love can do nothing but continue and grow for Our Lord’s dear mother as she stood by His side- even at the hour of His bloody execution. How tearful and resolute, she watched her priestly son offer sacrifice!

I am not a mother, nor have I ever been, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say I know the feeling of losing a child. Nor can I imagine the torment of it. However, I have seen things and people that I deeply loved be destroyed, get violently taken from me. I have seen close friends and family suffer. I know that feeling, watching, just wishing you could do something…anything- to take their pain away. I know well this powerlessness, this bleeding compassion, such grave heart-ache.  And if there isn’t some kind of suffering right before me, I can imagine it.

I can’t decide which was more agonizing for our Blessed Mother, seeing the cruel torments inflicted on her son or knowing He so passionately loved these tormentors. That same mankind who, blind to grace, lacking love for God and utterly ungrateful, actually took enjoyment at the victim’s suffering. “He has come to save you, to give you eternal life, to heal you, to deliver you from your demons,” she must have thought, “and here you spit and mock him!” Certainly she may have cried unto the crowd: “Yes, your hatred crushes me- yet even moreso His love!”

This was the High Priest of the New Covenant. Mary clad him in the fair vestments of human flesh. Her lullabies were hymns. She offered the first-fruits of her maternity: warmth and milk to His infancy. Patience and wisdom in tender childhood. Rightfully would a priest lament, should his sacred offering be torn from his hands and desecrated or his holy vessel cast upon the ground.  Would he not rend his garments at seeing the temple destroyed? How much more did Mary lament seeing the immaculate Lamb of God stripped, broken, abused and rejected! How sharply she mourned, seeing the precious temple, born from her womb, destroyed! That men crucified His Only Son was such blasphemy that God Almighty rent the skies in two, snuffed out the sun and draped Calvary in darkness.

Mary spent her whole life preparing that offering, dressing him in garments of virtue, perfuming him with goodly faithfulness. Yet surely, did she know?

Yes, she reckoned the words of Simeon: “This child is set for the fall, as a sign of contradiction and a sword your own heart shall pierce.” She knew it, expected the day, the hour when her dearest son would appear as Messiah- and subsequently fall to dismay. Yet nothing could prepare for the flowing blood, the wounds and tears more bitter than gall. Her pondering heart could not bear the sentence, the scourging, the crown of spines pressed down, the rough, wooden cross and the cold nails. Thus, like Abel, she surrendered her choicest lamb to the cruel altar. Here, commenced the world’s most heart-wrenching liturgy. When Jesus cried out “My God, why hast thou forsaken,” Mary remembered the angel’s greeting “The Lord is with thee.” When her precious son, at last, bowed His head and said “Consummatum est”, she raised her arms, having given everything, and answered: “Fiat.”

But the most beautiful thing about Mary’s sorrow was that it came with true victory. No temporary grief over some earthly loss, her tears conquered evil; they erased the sinful pride of Eve and consecrated womanhood forever. They also consecrated manhood- for at Calvary, Mary showed herself mother to all who would call themselves disciples of Christ. Given the good water of such perfect tears, the bloody cross became a tree of life. At this altar, John the Beloved, made the first act of ministerial priesthood. Taking Jesus’s dead, broken body from the gruesome wood, he laid it like a precious host in Mary’s hands.  There, she also showed herself the mother of all priests.

Words cannot describe what an epic mother Mary was. It is with good reason that Scripture describes in few words her espousal to God. Her betrothal sealed in tears and blood; she emerges as the joyful daughter of Zion, the desired beauty of ages. Christ wore a ring of thorns and she, the wedding-band of blackest sorrow. In a heavenly place no longer sorrowful, Mary still desires we recall and venerate her sorrow, offered alongside the Savior’s passion. The poor, virgin-girl from Nazareth has left us with a resounding declaration that all human weakness can be sanctified, united to His suffering. Her example gives strength to Christians everywhere.

By her great pain, Mary stood as advocate of those in pain, bringing forth her Son’s healing balm. By wretchedness, Mary became a refuge of sinners; ever-beseeching executioners lay down their wicked instruments and turn to God. She cleansed Calvary’s hill with tears, saying to the dust: “From this garden, man will be created again.”

A warrior in her feminine way, Mary Most-Sorrowful drew that sword from her own heart and handed it to Christ so He may at last slay the Serpent! How the black rosebud, bowing her head, bloomed forth the white lily! Weeping, did Mother Mary bury her most-precious wheat and rejoicing, she carried back the Easter sheave.

 

So heartily, I end:

Virgin Most-Sorrowful,

Remove from us the dark veil of sin

so we may greet your Son’s dawning light.

O Widow Un-widowed,

Keep vigil when we lack strength.

Mother of Mercy,

Hold your silver lamp against the night.

O Moon,

Shine upon our graves, guide in death’s grim hour

and hush the avenging angel.

Mother Most-Sorrowful,

Black Rose of Calvary,

pray for us.

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Chapter 7.

Good Friday.

Before dawn peeked into the windows, Cardinal Fratelli awoke with a sore throat. He shivered a bit from night air then closed the window and laid back down, trying to fall asleep again. No success.

Irritated, he got up and softly moved downstairs. From the kitchen, he smelled the delicate odor of brewing tea and baking bread. Dina was awake and setting the table. Remembering a more important task, Fratelli went into the chapel. Six lit candles greeted him, flickering somberly.

Crossing himself, he said hoarsely:

Thank you, O Lord, for your providence and care. Please help me to feel fit enough for your service as I am not feeling too well. Give Gianni the grace to receive your communion tomorrow night, watch over Michele. I apologize, my God for rambling on like this, asking all these things. What matters most is you are here and that you sent your Son to save us… however, granting me a nice day would also be very pleasant.”

He smiled against the dim lights.

In the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, uphold me.”

Thankfully, when Fratelli joined Rodrigo and Adreo for breakfast, the hot tea soothed his throat. After another cup, he now spoke clearly and without any pain. He didn’t even mind that for this day of fasting, all they each ate was two slices of bread and three figs. Excitedly, the cardinal suggested that all the leftover bread in their house be distributed to the poor.

“But what else will we eat?” Adreo inquired.

“We have figs and olives and hard breadsticks,” Fratelli replied, “Let’s remember those who often fast more from necessity than from choice.”

This zealous excitement dwindled soon, as he approached the cathedral and found a man sitting forlorn on the steps. Moving aside his greyish hair, the man looked up.

“Your Eminence!” he cried.

He scrambled afoot, bowed and kissed the cardinal’s ring. Then he continued, “I really need to talk with a man of God.”

Fratelli’s forehead wrinkled as he tried to remember the man’s name. Indeed, he regularly attended Mass at the cathedral, always sitting towards the front and responding devoutly. Something like “Fred” or “Fido”…It bothered him he couldn’t remember.

“You don’t know me, do you Your Eminence?” he asked, catching on.

Embarrassed, Fratelli stammered, “I do, I do…Just wait for a minute…”

“Alfred! I’m Alfred!” the man said, concealing some annoyance.

Fratelli frowned and inwardly scolded himself. Returning attention to the man, he asked, “What do you wish to speak about, my son- Alfred?”

Alfred gestured that they step inside where no one could hear. They walked towards the altar then stopped before an ornate, stained-glass window. Faint sunlight cast a reddish glow upon Alfred’s face as he began:

“Your Eminence, I am so overcome by temptation and anger- I am ready to leave my wife.”

The gravity of his words struck Fratelli and feeling weak, he leaned on a near wall.

“Why?” was his only response.

“I am not a bad man, Your Eminence, I just grow tired of working so hard every day and coming home to an unappreciative woman. She yells at me and won’t cook for me…and there is someone else I would rather be with,” Alfred said.

Fratelli calmly listened while Alfred went on and on about how dissatisfying his married life had become. Finally, he raised one finger to quiet him then asserted, “No, no surely there is some other way…”

Fratelli spent the next hour talking with Alfred, convincing him to resist his emotions, stay home and for both he and his spouse to seek regular counsel from another priest. Fratelli’s mind spun by the time Alfred left. Now, he had a headache.

Leaving the cathedral’s side door, walking across the green, shady courtyard, Fratelli spotted Ernesto speaking with Francine beneath a tree. Francine furiously fanned herself with a silk, oriental fan and gazed at Ernesto. Back turned to Fratelli, he wore a deep blue, constable’s uniform and a black cape. Creeping closer, Fratelli overheard him say:

“Michele’s baby is going to be born this week. She is so weary and having great pain. I’m so glad for your help.”

Francine stared past Ernesto, easily seeing Fratelli, and exclaimed, “Angelo, you are dressed in bright scarlet-red, how can I not see you behind that bush?”

Ernesto turned around.

“Well, hello,” the cardinal said to his brother, nervously waving.

“Eminence,” Ernesto lazily replied.

His amber eyes glimmered tiredly, apparently deprived of sleep.

“I have been so worried about Michele,” he explained, “Then your aunt Francine here told me she would be glad to care for her as a midwife.”

“I am skilled at comforting and tending to new mothers,” Francine interrupted, “Just ask Angelo how well I cared for my eldest daughter after her first child.”

Fratelli nodded. He rubbed his right temple. The painful headache would not go away. Taking Ernesto’s hand, he assured, “My brother, if you need anything, don’t hesitate to summon me.”

“Even if it is in the middle of night?”

“Of course!”

Afternoon arrived. Uneasily, still rubbing his head and now drinking cool water, Fratelli examined the blood-red vestments which were to be used for Good Friday’s service. He placed his glass of water down, walked over to where the vestments hung and carefully put them on.

Then the people of Lucca gathered inside the cathedral to commemorate Jesus’s passion and ultimate death on the cross. Gianni was given the task of bearing a crucifix before the procession. The large, tall cross almost faltered in his small hands but determined, he kept grip on it.

Somber chant rose overhead:

We adore you O Christ, and we bless you for by your cross and resurrection, you have redeemed the world.”

Fratelli adamantly lead prayers and songs but the dull throbbing in his head felt worse. He pretended not to feel it. After his sermon, the words “Ouch, this hurts” suddenly slipped from his mouth! Noticing everyone heard him, he frantically pointed back to the crucifix as if implying that is exactly what Jesus felt.