The Piercing of the Side of Jesus

“O, all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.” Devout souls, listen to what the sorrowful Mary says this day: “My beloved children, I do not wish you to console me; no, for my soul is no longer susceptible of consolation in this world after the death of my dear Jesus. If you wish to please me, this is what I ask of you; behold me, and see if there ever has been in the world a grief like mine, in seeing Him who was all my love torn from me with such cruelty.” But, my sovereign Lady, since thou wilt not be consoled, and hast so great a thirst for sufferings, I must tell thee that, even with the death of thy Son, thy sorrows have not ended. On this day thou wilt be wounded by another sword of sorrow, a cruel lance will pierce the side of thy Son already dead, and thou hast to receive Him in thine arms after He is taken down from the cross. And now we are to consider the Sixth Dolour which afflicted this poor Mother. Attend and weep. Hitherto the dolours of Mary tortured her one by one; on this day they are all, as it were, united to assail her. It is enough to tell a mother that her son is dead, to excite all her love. Some persons, that they may lessen a mother’s grief, remind her of the displeasure at one time caused by her departed child. But I, my Queen, did I thus wish to lighten thy grief for the death of Jesus, of what displeasure that He ever caused thee could I remind thee? No, indeed. He always loved thee, always obeyed thee, and always respected thee. Now thou hast lost Him, who can ever tell thy grief? Do thou explain it, thou who hast experienced it. A devout author says, that when our beloved Redeemer was dead, the first care of the great Mother was to accompany in spirit the most holy soul of her Son, and present it to the Eternal Father. “I present Thee, O my God,” Mary must then have said, “the Immaculate soul of Thine and my Son; He has now obeyed Thee unto death; do Thou, then, receive it in Thine arms. Thy justice is now satisfied, Thy will is accomplished; behold, the great sacrifice to Thy eternal glory is consummated.” Then, turning towards the lifeless members of her Jesus, “O wounds,” she said, “O wounds of love, I adore you, and in you do I rejoice; for by your means salvation is given to the world. You will remain open in the body of my Son, and be the refuge of those who have recourse to you. O, how many, through you, will receive the pardon of their sins, and by you be inflamed with love for the supreme good!” That the joy of the following Paschal Sabbath might not be disturbed, the Jews desired that the body of Jesus should be taken down from the cross; but as this could not be done unless the criminals were dead, men came with iron bars to break our Lord’s legs, as they had already done those of the two thieves who were crucified with Him. Mary was still weeping over the death of her Son, when she saw these armed men advancing towards her Jesus. At this sight she first trembled with fear, and then exclaimed: “Ah, my Son is already dead; cease to outrage Him; torment me no more, who am His poor Mother.” She implored them, writes Saint Bonaventure, “not to break His legs.” But while she thus spoke, O God! She saw a soldier brandish a lance, and pierce the side of Jesus: “One of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, and immediately there came out blood and water.” At the stroke of the spear the cross shook, and, as it was afterwards revealed to Saint Bridget, the heart of Jesus was divided in two. There came out blood and water; for only those few drops of blood remained, and even those our Saviour was pleased to shed, that we might understand that He had no more blood to give us. The injury of that stroke was inflicted on Jesus, but Mary suffered its pain. “Christ,” says the devout Lanspergius, “shared this sound with His Mother; He received the insult, His Mother endured its agony.” The holy fathers maintain that this was literally the sword foretold to the Blessed Virgin by Saint Simeon: a sword, not a material one, but one of grief, which transpierced her blessed soul in the heart of Jesus, where it always dwelt. Thus, amongst others, Saint Bernard says: “The lance which opened His side passed through the soul of the Blessed Virgin, which could never leave her Son’s heart.” The divine Mother herself revealed the same thing to Saint Bridget: “When the spear was drawn out, the point appeared red with blood: then, seeing the heart of my most dear Son pierced, it seemed to me as if my own heart was also pierced.” An angel told the same Saint, “that such were the sufferings of Mary, that it was only by a miraculous interposition on the part of God, that she did not die.” In her other dolours she at least had her Son to compassionate her; but now she has not even Him to pity her. The afflicted Mother, fearing that other injuries might still be inflicted on her Son, entreated Joseph of Arimathea to obtain the body of her Jesus from Pilate, that at least in death she might guard and protect it from further outrage. Joseph went, and represented to Pilate the grief and desires of this afflicted Mother. Saint Anselm believes that compassion for the Mother softened the heart of Pilate, and moved him to grant her the body of the Saviour. Jesus was then taken down from the cross. O most sacred Virgin, after thou hast given thy Son to the world, with so great love, for our salvation, behold the world now restores Him to thee; but, O God, in what state dost thou receive Him? O world, said Mary, how dost thou return Him to me? “My Son was white and ruddy;” but thou returnest Him to me blackened with bruises, and red-yes! But with the wounds which thou hast inflicted upon Him. He was all fair and beautiful; but now there is no more beauty in Him; He is all disfigured. His aspect enamoured all; now He excites horror in all who behold Him. “O, how many swords,” says Saint Bonaventure, “pierced the poor Mother’s soul” when she received the body of her Son from the cross! Let us only consider the anguish it would cause any mother to receive into her arms the body of her lifeless son. It was revealed to Saint Bridget, that three ladders were placed against the cross to take down the Sacred Body; the holy disciples first drew out the nails from the hands and feet, and, according to Metaphrastes, gave them to Mary. Then one supported the upper part of the body of Jesus, and the other the lower, and thus descended it from the cross. Bernardine de Bustis describes the afflicted Mother as standing, and extending her arms to meet her dear Son; she embraced Him, and then sat at the foot of the cross. His mouth was open, His eyes were dim; she then examined his mangled flesh and uncovered bones; she took off the crown, and saw the sad injuries which the thorns had inflicted on that sacred head; she saw the holes in His hands and feet, and thus addressed Him: “Ah, Son, to what has Thy love for men brought Thee; and what evil hadst Thou done them, that they should thus cruelly have tormented Thee? Thou wast my father” (continues Bernardine de Bustis, in Mary’s name), “Thou wast my brother, my spouse, my delight, my glory; Thou wast my all.” My Son, see my affliction, look at me, console me; but no, Thou no longer lookest at me. Speak, say but a word, and console me; but Thou speakest no more, for Thou art dead. Then, turning to those barbarous instruments of torture, she said, O cruel thorns, O cruel nails, O merciless spear, how, how could you thus torture your Creator? But why do I speak of thorns or nails? Alas! Sinners, she exclaimed, it is you who have thus cruelly treated my Son. Thus did Mary speak and complain of us. But what would she now say, were she still susceptible of suffering? What would be her grief to see that men, notwithstanding that her Son has died for them, still continue to torment and crucify Him by their sins! Let us, at least, cease to torment this afflicted Mother; and if we have hitherto grieved her by our sins, let us now do all that she desires. She says, “Return, ye transgressors, to the heart.” Sinners, return to the woundered heart of my Jesus; return as penitents, and He will welcome you. “Flee from Him to Him,” she continues to say with the Abbot Guarric; “from the Judge to the Redeemer, from the tribunal to the cross.” Our Blessed Lady herself revealed to St. Bridget, that “she closed the eyes of her Son, when He was taken down from the cross, but she could not close His arms;” Jesus Christ giving us thereby to understand that He desired to remain with His arms extended to receive all penitent sinners who return to Him. “O world,” continues Mary, “behold, then, thy time is the time of lovers.” “Now that my Son has died to save thee, it is no longer for thee a time of fear, but one of love—a time to love Him, who to show thee the love He bore thee was pleased to suffer so much.” “The heart of Jesus,” says St. Bernard, “was wounded, that through the visible wound, the invisible wound of love might be seen.” “If, then,” concludes Mary, in the words of Blessed Raymond Jordano, “my Son by excess of love was pleased that His side should be opened, that He might give thee His heart, it is right, O may, that thou in return shouldst also give Him thine.” And if you desire, O children of Mary, to find a place in the heart of Jesus, without fear of being rejected, “go” says Ubertino da Casale, “go with Mary; for she will obtain the grace for you.” Of this you have a proof in the following beautiful example.