As the adorable heart of our Savior was on fire with infinite love for His most holy Mother, the anguish which He bore in seeing her plunged into a sea of sorrow at the time of His Passion was beyond the power of human word or thought. The Blessed Virgin was the Mother of our Redeemer and she ever sustained in her heart an unceasing combat of love. She knew that it was God’s will that her Beloved Son should suffer and die to save souls. Thus her most ardent love for that divine will and for the salvation of souls placed her in utter submission to the commands of God. Her incomparable motherly love for her dear Son, however, caused her unspeakable sorrow, in view of the torments that He was to suffer to redeem the world.
The saints teach that, when the day of His Passion had come, in accordance with the loving obedience with which He always honored His holy Mother, and the goodness He always showed in consoling His friends in their affliction, He took leave of His dear Mother before the beginnings of His sufferings. To do all things out of obedience to the will of His Father and His Mother, since she had not a will different from the Father’s, He asked permission of her to carry out what His Eternal Father had commanded Him. He told her that it was the will of the Father that she should accompany Him to the foot of the Cross and that, after His death, she should wrap His body in a shroud and place it in the tomb. The saints also teach that He commanded her what to do and where to remain until His resurrection.
It is also possible that He revealed to her what He had to suffer, as much to prepare her as to encourage her to accompany Him in His sufferings. Because their interior sorrows were unutterable, they did not declare them to each other in words; their eyes met and their Hearts understood their mutual afflictions. The most perfect love of both and their entire conformity to the divine will did not permit any imperfection in their natural feelings. On the one hand, the Savior being the Only Son of His beloved Mother felt very keenly her sorrows; but, on the other, being her God and willing to fortify her in the greatest sorrow ever borne by a human being, He consoled her by His divine words, which she heard and kept carefully in her Heart. He poured an abundance of new grace into her soul so that she might endure and overcome the exceedingly terrible sorrows prepared for her. These sorrows were so great that if it had been possible and fitting for her to suffer in place of her Son, it would have been easier for her to do so. Her torments would thus have been much more bearable than the sight of her Son’s Passion. It would have been infinitely preferable for her to give her life for Him than to watch Him suffer such dreadful tortures. Since God had willed otherwise, she offered her Heart and Jesus gave His body, so that each should suffer what God had ordained. Mary had to suffer all the torments of her Son in her extremely sensitive Heart; Jesus had to endure in His body inexplicable torments and in His Heart the inconceivable sufferings of His holy Mother.
When He had taken leave of His Mother, the Savior plunged Himself into the immense ocean of His sorrows, and His desolate Mother accompanied Him in spirit as she remained in constant prayer. Thus that sad day began for her with prayers, tears, inner agonies, and a most perfect submission to the divine will, as she uttered in the depths of her Heart what her Son said to His Father in the Garden of Olives: “Father, not my will but thine be done” (Lk. 22:42). The night that our Redeemer was seized in the Garden of Olives, the Jews led Him, bound and manacled, first to the House of Annas, then to that of Caiphas, where, weary of mocking and insulting Him, they kept Him a prisoner until the next day.
St. John the Evangelist also left the house of Caiphas, whether by an order from our Savior or by some divine inspiration, and went to the house of the Blessed Virgin to inform her of what had taken place. Who, O my God, could express the grief and sorrow of the Mother of Jesus as His beloved disciple recounted what had happened since the opening events of the Passion? Surely the feelings and the griefs of them both were such that whatever one might say of them would be as naught compared with the reality. They conversed more with their hearts than with their tongues, more with tears than with words, particularly the Blessed Virgin, whose grief was so intense that she could give no outward expression to it. Later, when the time came to accompany her Only Son to Calvary, she set out at daybreak in silence, even as her Divine Son, her Lamb, took up His Cross without a word. She bathed the way with her tears and her Heart set up a thousand ardent sighs to heaven. Let the devout followers of this sorrowing Virgin henceforth gladly pursue a way whereby they can accompany her in her sorrows.
The Jews led the Savior to the house of Pilate and Herod, with every sort of insult and shame, but His sad Mother could not see Him because of the multitude and the noise of the people, until that moment when Pilate, after the scourging and the crowning of thorns, showed Him to the populace. Then it was that she heard the voices of the rabble, the uproar of the city, the insults vomited forth against Her Son, the outrages done Him, the blasphemies flung at Him. Her heart underwent immeasurable suffering and her eyes streamed with tears: Deduc quasi torrentem lacrymas (Lam. 2:18). As she had placed all her love in Him, she desired His presence above all else, even though it must have afflicted her the most, for love can be so ardent that it endures much less the absence of the object loved than the pain caused by the beloved’s presence, however great the pain.
In all this bitterness and anguish, passing all imagination, this innocent Mother aspired to the sight of her Divine Son. Finally she saw Him all torn from head to foot with whips. His sacred head was pierced with cruel thorns, His adorable face bruised, swollen, stained with blood and spittle. With a rope around His neck and His hands bound, He wore the scarlet robe of mockery. Well did He know that His sorrowful Mother was there; and she, too, knew full well that His divine majesty read the feelings of her Heart, which was pierced with sorrows not inferior to those He bore in his own body. There she heard the false testimony given against Him; she heard them prefer Barrabas, a thief and a murderer. She heard thousands of voices shouting in anger: Tolle, tolle, crucifige, crucifige! (John 19:15). She heard the cruel and unjust sentence pronounced against the Author of life. She saw upraised the Cross, on which they were to crucify Him; she saw Him bearing it on His shoulders and beginning His march to Calvary. She followed his blood-stained footsteps and washed the way with as many tears as He shed drops of blood; and she bore inwardly the burden of the Cross, as heavy upon her heart as upon His shoulders.
At last she reached Calvary, accompanied by the holy women who sought to console her. Like her gentle Lamb she was silent, suffering unspeakable agony, hearing the hammer-blows struck by the executioners on the nails fastening her Son to the Cross…
Whereupon, shedding new streams of tears, she began to suffer a fresh martyrdom of sorrow at the sight of her Son and her God hanging upon the Cross. Nevertheless, this did not prevent her from performing, within her soul, the office of mediatrix between God and sinners, cooperating with their Redeemer in saving them, and offering to the Father for them His blood, His sufferings, and His death, with the most ardent desire for their eternal happiness. On the one hand, the unspeakable love that she bore her dear Child made her fear to behold Him expire and die; on the other, it filled her with sorrow that His torments were dragging on so long, only to end in His death. Although she wanted the Eternal Father to soften the rigor of His torments, she also wished to conform wholly to His every command. Thus divine love engendered in her Heart a combat between conflicting desires and feelings which, from this same love, caused her to suffer unspeakable sorrows.
These sacred Lambs, divine and human, beheld and understood each other and communicated to each other their sorrows. It may be said with certainty that no one can understand their anguish except the two Hearts of Son and Mother who, loving each other perfectly, together suffered these cruel torments. Their mutual love being the measure of their sorrows, those who consider their excruciating pain are all the less able to understand it the further they are from comprehending the love of such a Son for such a Mother, and of such a Mother for such a Son.
The sorrows of the Blessed Virgin went on increasing. They were being renewed continually by new insults and torments inflicted on her Son by the Jews in their wrath. What sorrow when she heard Him utter these words: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). What sorrow to see gall and vinegar given Him to quench His burning thirst! What sorrow when she watched Him die on the gibbet between criminals! What sorrow to behold His Heart pierced with a lance! What sorrow when she received Him dead, taken down from the Cross and placed in her arms! What sorrow when the disciples took His holy body from her embrace to enclose it in the sepulchre! With what sorrow must she have returned home, there to await His resurrection! How gladly would the holy Virgin have suffered all the pains of her Son rather than witness His endurance! It is a result which perfect charity produces in the hearts of those strive to imitate their Divine Father and their good Mother that they bear with joy their own afflictions and keenly feel those of others. Thus it is easier for them to endure pain themselves than to see the loved ones suffering. That is what our Savior did throughout the course of His life and particularly on the day of His Passion. Knowing that the traitor had sold Him for money, He showed far deeper concern over the lost soul of Judas (saying it would have been better for him if he had never been born rather than merit damnation), than over the torments that He had to suffer by betrayal.
He also showed to the weeping women who were following Him as He carried His cross on His shoulders, how the tribulations which they and the city of Jerusalem would have to suffer, were more painful to Him than all that He was undergoing. “Daughters of Jerusalem,” He said to them, “weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days shall come wherein they will say: ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have never borne, and the paps that have not given suck'” (Lk. 23:28-29).
Even while He was fastened to the cross, forgetting His own torments, He made it clear that the trials of sinners were felt more by Him than His own sufferings, in that He prayed His Father to pardon them. From this we know that His love for His creatures rendered Him more sensitive to their afflictions than to His own.
The greatest torture that our Savior suffered on the Cross, a torture more painful to Him than His own bodily sufferings, was to see His most holy Mother whom He loved more than all creatures together, overwhelmed with sorrow. She was of all mothers the most perfect, the faithful companion of His journeys and of all His labors, who, being immaculate, deserved not to suffer for any fault that she had committed. Her motherly love was greater than that of all angels and saints. She saw Him suffering torments that never had nor ever will have their like. How great is the agony of such a Mother, who sees before her eyes such a Son so unjustly tortured and agonizing in a sea of sorrows, without being able to help Him! Truly this cross was so huge and heavy that no human soul is capable of comprehending it. It was a cross which was reserved for the grace, the love, and the heroic virtues of the Mother of God.
The fact that she was the innocent Mother of God did not prevent her from suffering such great torture. On the contrary, her Son would not permit anyone, even those who were crucifying Him, to dare to offer her insult or cause her grief. Desiring to make her like unto Himself, whose love was the principal and first cause of His sufferings and His death, He also willed that His love for His Mother and her love for Him should be the cause of the martyrdom of His heart at the end of His life, just as at the beginning it had been the source of His joys and satisfaction.
The Son of God witnessed from His cross all the griefs and sorrows of the holy Heart of His Blessed Mother; He heard her sighs, He saw her tears and the loneliness in which she was to remain after His death. Each vision was a new torment and a new martyrdom for the divine Heart of Jesus. Thus everything was present that could afflict and crucify the most lovable Hearts of the Son and the Mother. Therefore, some authorities think that when the Savior spoke from the Cross to His sorrowful Mother, He did not wish to call her Mother, so as not to cause her more pain. He spoke only words which showed that He had not forgotten her and that, in accordance with His Father’s will, He was succoring her in her loneliness, giving her the beloved disciple to be her son, saying: Mulier, ecce filius tuus— “Woman, behold thy son;” and to the disciple, “Behold thy Mother,” Ecce Mater tua (Jn. 19:26-27). Henceforth, St. John remained bound to the service of the Queen of heaven, honoring her as his Mother and serving her as his Lady, esteeming the service to her as the greatest favor that he could receive in this world from his loving Master.
All sinners have a share in this grace of St. John, for he represented all human beings at the foot of the Cross and our Savior beheld them all in him; so in speaking to him He was addressing all men in general and each soul in particular, saying, Ecce Mater tua—”Behold thy Mother.” I give you my Mother to be yours, and I give you to her as her children. What a precious gift! What an inestimable treasure! What an incomparable grace! What an obligation we have to our Savior in His unspeakable goodness! What thanks we should render Him! He has given His Divine Father to be our Father; and He gives us His most holy Mother to be our Mother, so that we shall have with Him but one and the same Father and Mother. We are not worthy to be the slaves of this great Queen, and lo! He makes us her children! What reverence and humility we must have for such a Mother! What zeal and affection in her service! What pains we must take to imitate her holy virtues, so that there will be some resemblance between Mother and children!
This gentle Mother received great consolation when she heard the voice of her Dear Son. At the hour of death any word whatsoever from one’s child or dear friend lends great comfort and peculiar consolation. Since those two Sacred Hearts, the Hearts of such a Son and of such a Mother so well understood each other, the Blessed Virgin accepted most readily St. John as her son, and in him all sinners in general, knowing well that that was the intention of her dying Son. He was shedding His blood for sinners, and their sins were the cause of His death. He desired in that last hour to remove from them any possible mistrust of Him, when they saw the great sufferings that they had caused Him by their sins. To that end He gave them His most valued treasure, a treasure most capable of influencing Him, His most holy Mother, so that by her mediation and protection they might have the confident assurance of being received and welcomed by His divine majesty. One cannot doubt, therefore, the inestimable love of the Mother of goodness for sinners, since, in that spiritual begetting at the foot of the Cross, she suffered unspeakable pain which was absent from the virgin birth of her Son and her God.
All these things clearly show that the sorrows of the Mother and the sufferings of the Son culminate in immense graces, blessings, and favors for sinners. What an obligation we have, therefore, to honor, to love and to praise those two most lovable Hearts of Jesus and Mary; to employ our whole life in serving and glorifying them; and to endeavor to imprint on our hearts a perfect image of their most eminent virtues! It is impossible to please them if we follow any other path except the one they trod upon earth.
This excerpt was taken from St. John Eudes, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Chapter 4, and edited by the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, at www.heartsofjesusandmary.org. The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary is a contemplative community of lay and religious dedicated to serving the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through Eucharistic Adoration, contemplation, and corporal works of mercy.