Standing with Mary at the Cross

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

Anytime we stand at the foot of the Cross of Christ we find that we’re not alone. Among others standing there are the Virgin Mary and the Beloved Disciple John. And if we listen attentively we hear Jesus say to Mary, “Behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother.” With those few words, Jesus gave Mary to us as a spiritual mother, a relationship that has been so fruitful for her children from the very beginning.

Seeing Mary at the foot of the Cross we understand why one of her cherished titles is “Mother of Sorrows.” It was on Calvary especially that the prophecy of Simeon was fulfilled, that because of her son, Mary too would be pierced by a sword. We think of the haunting hymn that’s used during Lent: “At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last . . . Is there one who would not weep, whelmed in miseries so deep, Christ’s dear mother to behold?”

Devotional writer Father Larry Lovasik, S.V.D., offered this reflection: “Mary’s sorrow on Calvary was deeper than any sorrow ever felt on earth. It was not because she was the Mother of God that she could bear her sorrows, but because she saw things from his point of view and not her own. Devotion to the sorrows of Mary is the source of great grace because it leads us into the depths of the heart of Christ.”

Anyone who’s traveled in this valley of tears we call life has known some degree of suffering: the death of a loved one, or a painful illness, or a bitter family dispute, or the darkness of depression, or a relentless struggle with sin. But whenever we suffer, whenever we’re frightened, it’s always comforting to have someone with us, to know that we’re not alone, isn’t it?

At the cross we find that it’s Mary who is with us, holding us, reassuring us. She teaches us to be strong so that we can survive the darkest moments. She reveals to us the infinite comfort of the heart of Christ, font of forgiveness, mercy and peace.

Something to think about: Think of Mary standing at the foot of the cross, and consider how deep her sorrow must have been, how helpless she must have felt, watching her innocent son being rejected, ridiculed, tortured, and crucified.