THE FOURTH SWORD OF SORROW I

Mary meets her Divine Son carrying

His Cross to Calvary.

 

FIRST POINT.

When sentence of death had been passed, by  the unjust Pontius Pilate, upon Jesus Christ, St. John, together with several other Apostles, hastened to make known to Mary the lamentable tidings.

From the lips of these she learned the time of her Son’s execution. They told her where it was to take place, and the road along which He was to carry the cross. As soon as the Blessed Virgin heard this sad intelligence, she hastened to meet her suffering Jesus. Here began her fourth Dolour, for on this occasion her immaculate heart was for the fourth time transfixed with a sword of grief.

Contemplate, my soul, this dire sorrow,and compassionate her who endured it; for no other of God’s creatures ever merited compassion as much as Mary.

 

The Blessed Virgin had not proceeded far before Jesus met her view.

Was it her Son whom in the distance she descried ! Alas! how changed!

Once He was the fairest among the sons of men, the most perfect, the

most beautiful. The Divinity shone in his very countenance; grace and

majesty accompanied his every step, and angels loved to gaze upon Him.

But now, care-worn and bruised, His Sacred Face defiled, His garments bathed in Blood, His steps feeble and uncertain: bearing on His head a crown of thorns, and on His Shoulders a heavy cross—oh ! Mary, can this outcast be thy Son? Surely this is not Jesus, this cannot be God made Man. Yes, alas ! yes, ’tis He ; nor was it long ere Mary recognised Him.

For, as she approached this Man of Sorrows, He fixed on her His Eyes, from which He had removed the Blood, and gave her one of those loving God-like glances, which when a babe He was wont to give when reclining His Sacred Head upon her Virgin bosom.

 

No sooner does she recognize her Son than regardless of every obstacle, she flies to His embrace. But, oh God! what does she behold? His adorable mouth is perfectly saturated with blood, His beard and hair are torn and clotted with gore. “With blood are His garments stained ; with blood is His once lovely countenance horridly besmeared.

Blood starts and falls, drop by drop, from his wounded face, blood trickles fast from his sacred temples and dyes the ground upon which He stands.

In this state Mary beholds her Divine Son. Oh! what an afflicting sight for so affectionate a Mother. Yea, a sight calculated to wring compassion from the heart of the most bitter foe. You who read this meditation, what would your feelings be, and what your language, were you to meet a child you love most dearly in such a state ? Could you bear such a scene of woe ? How could you ?

Your tears would flow in torrents, and, overwhelmed by grief, you would fall fainting at the feet of your suffering child.

If you would act thus, what must have been the shock which such a sight as I have pictured caused to Mary? Behold her bathed in tears, unable to restrain her grief ; she utters piercing groans, she faints, she almost dies with anguish. Look down, 0 Blessed Spirits, from your thrones on high, and see your Queen prostrate upon the earth in agony, pierced by a sorrow greater than all the woes of every other creature.

As soon as the Blessed Virgin recovers from her death-like swoon, the same sad spectacle once more meets her view and fills her with dismay.

But, careless of her grief, the cruel soldiers seize her slender wrists, drag her from the feet of her Divine Son, and rudely push her behind the mob.

She cannot bear to be separated from her child’s embrace ; her grief, therefore, is increased a hundredfold. Oh my soul, no imagination can conceive,no eloquence describe the depth, the bitterness, the poignancy of Mary’s woe ; it was far deeper than the ocean, and far more bitter than any kind of myrrh. We may with good reason imagine on the lips of the Blessed Virgin the Lamentation of Jeremias, “My soul is far removed from good things; for He hath filled me with bitterness, He hath inebriated me with wormwood.”

But in order to form a more vivid representation of the intensity of her sorrow, I must listen to St. Bernard. He says that all the affliction of the Blessed Virgin springs from her compassion for Jesus, and explains that in these words : ” There are three things required on the part of the person that compassionates, relatively to the person that is compassionated.

First, vehemence of pain; second, knowledge of that vehemence by the sympathiser ; and thirdly, true friendship. The first, I say, is vehemence

of pain. The bitterness of the sufferings of Christ cannot be told by tongues of men or angels, as they are beyond the capacity of any creature to understand. With regard to the second requisite, Mary had a very clear knowledge of our Savior’s pains, because the Mother stood by her Son even to his last moments, and was well aware that He was also the Son of God»

Lastly, her love for Jesus was exceedingly great* She felt, therefore, almost infinite compassion during His Passion. But she would not have felt so much compassion had she not been witness of all his torments.” Thus this great Doctor of the Church argues the intensity of Mary’s woes.

“To conceive,” says Cornelius a Lapide, ” the intensity of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin, it would be necessary to know the ardour of her love for Jesus. But who can fathom this ? In the immaculate heart of Mary there were two loves ; the one supernatural, wherewith she loved Jesus as her God, the other natural, which excited her to love Him as her son.

These two loves in Mary’s soul formed one, but that a love so intense that the Blessed Virgin loved Jesus to such a degree, that a pure creature could not love Him more.

” Hence, as there was no love like her love, so there was no grief like her grief, and as the love which she entertained for Jesus was almost infinite, so, too, must the pain which she felt in seeing Him in so pitiable a state have almost approached infinitude. Justly, then, does the Mother of God deserve to be styled by the -Church the Queen of Martyrs ; for she suffered more, in meeting her Son on his way to Calvary, than all those holy souls endured either by fire, or on the rack, in scalding oil, or freezing water, by cruel scourging, or by the sword.

 

Oh, my soul, compassionate again this Dolorous Virgin, and if thou hast no tears to shed with her, at least learn of her to compassionate Jesus, ” the Man of Sorrows.

 

‘When thou dost contemplate His sufferings and agony, when thou dost consider Him covered with wounds and blood, when thou dost meditate on His being scourged at the pillar in Pilate’s Hall, crowned with thorns, bearing His cross, thrice falling under its weight, fastened to it by sharp nails, and agonizing and convulsed in death upon Mount Calvary, canst thou remain unmoved? If so, be assured, my soul, that thou hast little love for Jesus; for were thy love sincere, his anguish would be thy anguish, his pain thine; what tortured his flesh would torture thy heart, and like Mary, thou wouldst mourn over the afflictions of thy beloved.

Oh learn then of the suffering Mother of God—learn to love Jesus thy Saviour ; thus only wilt thou know how to compassionate Him in his Passion. For this purpose, say every day this ‘short but salutary prayer : ” Mary, Queen of Martyrs, teach me to love thy sweet Son Jesus, and to condole with Him in His Crucifixion and Death.

And determine as long as thou livest never to forget the pains of her maternal heart, when she met her Child, like another Isaac, bearing on his shoulders the very wood on which He was to die.