Saint Bernardine says, that to form an idea of the greatness of Mary’s grief in losing her Jesus by death, we must consider the love that this Mother bore to her Son. All mothers feel the sufferings of their children as their own. Hence, when the Canaanitish woman entreated our Saviour to deliver her daughter from the devil that tormented her, she asked Him rather to pity her, the mother, than her daughter: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David, my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil.” But what mother ever loved her son as Mary loved Jesus? He was her only Son, reared amidst so many troubles; a most amiable Son, and tenderly loving His Mother; a Son who, at the same time that He was her Son, was also her God, who had come on earth to enkindle in the hearts of all the fire of Divine love, as He Himself declared: “I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” Let us only imagine what a flame He must have enkindled in that pure heart of His holy Mother, void as it was of every earthly affection. In fine, the Blessed Virgin herself told Saint Bridget, “that love had rendered her heart and that of her Son but one.” That blending together of Servant and Mother, of Son and God, created in the heart of Mary a fire composed of a thousand flames. But the whole of this flame of love was afterwards, at the time of the Passion, ranged into a sea of grief, when Saint Bernardine declares, “that if all the sorrows of the world were united, they would not equal that of the glorious Virgin Mary.” Yes, because, as Richard of St. Lawrence writes, “the more tenderly this Mother loved, so much the more deeply was she wounded.” The greater was her love for Him, the greater was her grief at the sight of His sufferings; and especially when she met her Son, already condemned to death, and bearing His cross to the place of punishment. This is the fourth sword of sorrow which we have this day to consider.
The Blessed Virgin revealed to Saint Bridget, that when the time of the Passion of our Lord was approaching, her eyes were always filled with tears, as she thought of her beloved Son, whom she was about to lose on earth, and that the prospect of that approaching suffering caused her to be seized with fear, and a cold sweat to cover her whole body. Behold, the appointed day at length came, and Jesus, in tears, went to take leave of His Mother, before going to death. Saint Bonaventure, contemplating Mary on that night, says: “Thou didst spend it without sleep, and whilst others slept thou didst remain watching.” In the morning the disciples of Jesus Christ came to this afflicted Mother, the one to bring her one account, the other another; but all were tidings of sorrow, verifying in her the prophecy of Jeremias: “Weeping, she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; there is none to comfort her of all them that were dear to her.” Some them came to relate to her the cruel treatment of her Son in the house of Caiphas; and others, the insults He had received from Herod. Finally to come to our point, I omit all the rest—Saint John came, and announced to Mary, that the most unjust Pilate had already condemned Him to die on the cross. I say the most unjust Pilate; for, as Saint Leo remarks, This unjust judge condemned Him to death with the same lips with which he had declared Him innocent.” “Ah, afflicted Mother,” said Saint John, “thy Son is already condemned to death; He is already gone forth, bearing Himself His cross, on His way to Calvary,” as the Saint afterwards related in his Gospel: “and bearing His own cross, He went forth to that place which is called Calvary.” “Come, if thou desirest to see Him, and bid Him a last farewell, in some street through which He must pass.”
Mary goes with Saint John, and by the blood with which the way is sprinkled, she perceives that her Son has already passed. This she revealed to Saint Bridget: “By the footsteps of my Son, I knew where He had passed: for along the way the ground was marked with blood.” Saint Bonaventure represents the afflicted Mother taking a shorter way, and placing herself at the corner of a street, to meet her afflicted Son as He was passing by. “The most sorrowful Mother,” says Saint Bernard, “met her most sorrowful Son.” While Mary was waiting in that place, how much must she have heard said by the Jews, who soon recognised her, against her beloved Son, and perhaps even words of mocking against herself. Alas, what a scene of sorrows then presented itself before her! the nails, the hammers, the cords, the fatal instruments of the death of her Son, all of which were borne before Him. And what a sword must the sound of that trumpet have been to her heart, which proclaimed the sentence pronounced against her Jesus! But behold, the instruments, the trumpeter, and the executioners, have already passed; she raised her eyes, and saw, O God ! a young man covered with blood and wounds from head to foot, a wreath of thorns on His head, and two heavy beams on His shoulders. She looked at Him, and hardly recognised Him, saying, with Isaias, “and we have seen Him, and there was no sightliness.” Yes, for the wounds, the bruises, and the clotted blood, gave Him the appearance of a leper: “we have thought Him as it were a leper,” so that He could no longer be known: “and His look was, as it were, hidden and despised; whereupon we esteemed Him not.” But at length love revealed Him to her, and as soon as she knew that it indeed was He, ah what love and fear must then have filled her heart! as Saint Peter of A1cantara says in his meditations. On the one hand she desired to behold Him, and on the other she dreaded so heart-rending a sight. At length they looked at each other. The Son wiped from His eyes the clotted blood, which, as it was revealed to Saint Bridget, prevented Him from seeing, and looked at His Mother, and the Mother looked at her Son. Ah, looks of bitter grief, which, as so many arrows, pierced through and through those two beautiful and loving souls. When Margaret, the daughter of Sir Thomas More, met her father on his way to death, she could only exclaim, “O father! father!” and fell fainting at his feet. Mary, at the sight of her Son, on His way to Calvary, did not faint, no, for it was not becoming, as Father Suarez remarks, that this Mother should lose the use of her reason; nor did she die, for God reserved her for greater grief: but though she did not die, her sorrow was enough to have caused her a thousand deaths.
The Mother would have embraced Him, as Saint Anselm says, but the guards thrust her aside with insults, and urged forward the suffering Lord; and Mary followed Him. Ah, holy Virgin, whither goest thou? To Calvary. And canst thou trust thyself to behold Him, who is thy life, hanging on a cross?” And thy life shall be, as it were, hanging before thee.” “Ah, stop, my Mother” (says Saint Lawrence Justinian, in the name of the Son), “where goest thou? Where wouldst thou come? If thou comest whither I go, thou wilt be tortured with my sufferings, and I with thine.” But although the sight of her dying Jesus was to cost her such bitter sorrow, the loving Mary will not leave Him: the Son advanced, and the Mother followed, to be also crucified with her Son, as the Abbot William says: “the Mother also took up her cross and followed, to be crucified with Him.” “We even pity wild beasts,” as Saint John Chrysostom writes; and did we see a lioness following her cub to death, the sight would move us to compassion. And shall we not also be moved to compassion on seeing Mary follow her immaculate Lamb to death? Let us, then, pity her, and let us also accompany her Son and herself, by bearing with patience the cross which our Lord imposes on us. Saint John Chrysostom asks why Jesus Christ, in His other sufferings, was pleased to endure them alone, but in carrying His cross was assisted by the Cyrenean? He replies, that it was “that thou mayest understand that the cross of Christ is not sufficient without thine.”