In this valley of tears every man is born to weep, and all must suffer, by enduring the evils which are of daily occurrence. But how much greater would the misery of life be, did we also know the future evils which await us! “Unfortunate, indeed, would his lot be,” says Seneca, “who, knowing the future, would have to suffer all by anticipation.” Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials which await us, that, whatever they may be, we may endure them but once. He did not show Mary this compassion; for she, whom God willed to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like His Son, had to see always before her eyes and continually to suffer all the torments that awaited her; and these were the sufferings of the Passion and death of her beloved Jesus; for in the temple Saint Simeon, having received the Divine Child in his arms, foretold to her that that Son would be a mark for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. “Behold, this Child is set . . . for a sign which shall be contradicted.” And therefore, that a sword of sorrow should pierce her soul: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.”
The Blessed Virgin herself told Saint Matilda, that, on this announcement of Saint Simeon, “all her joy was changed into sorrow.” For, as it was revealed to Saint Teresa, though the Blessed Mother already knew that the life of her Son would be sacrificed for the salvation of the world, yet she then learnt more distinctly and in greater detail the sufferings and cruel death that awaited her poor Son. She knew that He would be contradicted, and this in everything: contradicted in His doctrines; for, instead of being believed, He would be esteemed a blasphemer for teaching that He was the Son of God; this He was declared to be by the impious Caiphas, saying, “He hath blasphemed, He is guilty of death.” Contradicted in His reputation; for He was of noble, even of royal descent, and was despised as a peasant: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” He was wisdom itself, and was treated as ignorant: “How doth this man know letters, having never learned?” As a false prophet: “And they blindfolded Him, and smote His face . . . saying: Prophesy, who is it that struck Thee?” He was treated as a madman: “He is mad, why hear you Him?” As a drunkard, a glutton, and a friend of sinners: “Behold a man that is a glutton, and a drinker of wine, a friend of publicans and sinners.” As a sorcerer: “By the prince of devils He casteth out devils.” As a heretic, and possessed by the evil spirit: “Do we not say well of Thee that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” In a word, Jesus was considered so notoriously wicked, that, as the Jews said to Pilate, no trial was necessary to condemn Him. “If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up to thee.” He was contradicted in His very soul; for even His Eternal Father, to give place to Divine Justice, contradicted Him, by refusing to hear His prayer, when He said, “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me;” and abandoned Him to fear, weariness, and sadness; so that our afflicted Lord exclaimed, “My soul is sorrowful unto death!” and His interior sufferings even caused Him to sweat blood. Contradicted and persecuted, in fine, in His body and in His life; for He was tortured in all His sacred members, in His hands, His feet, His face, His head, and in His whole body; so that, drained of His blood, and an object of scorn, He died of torments on an ignominious cross.
When David, in the midst of all his pleasures and regal grandeur, heard, from the Prophet Nathan, that his son should die—”The child that is born to thee shall surely die,” he could kind no peace, but wept, fasted, and slept on the ground. Mary with the greatest calmness received the announcement that her Son should die, and always peacefully submitted to it; but what grief must she continually have suffered, seeing this amiable Son always near her, hearing from Him words of eternal life, and witnessing His holy demeanour! Abraham suffered much during the three days he passed with his beloved Isaac, after knowing that he was to lose him. O God, not for three days, but for three and thirty years had Mary to endure a like sorrow! But do I say a like sorrow? It was as much greater as the Son of Mary was more lovely than the son of Abraham. The Blessed Virgin herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that, while on earth, there was not an hour in which this grief did not pierce her soul: “As often,” she continued, “as I looked at my Son, as often as I wrapped Him in His swaddling-clothes, as often as I saw His hands and feet, so often was my soul absorbed, so to say, in fresh grief; for I thought how He would be crucified.” The Abbot Rupert contemplates Mary suckling her Son, and thus addressing Him: “A bundle of myrrh is my Beloved to me; He shall abide between my breasts.” Ah, Son, I clasp Thee in my arms, because Thou art so dear to me; but the dearer Thou art to me, the more dost Thou become a bundle of myrrh and sorrow to me when I think of Thy sufferings. “Mary,” says Saint Bernardine of Sienna, “reflected that the strength of the Saints was to be reduced to agony; the beauty of Paradise to be disfigured; the Lord of the world to be bound as a criminal; the Creator of all things to be made livid with blows; the Judge of all to be condemned; the Glory of heaven despised; the King of kings to be crowned with thorns, and treated as a mock king.”
Father Engelgrave says, that it was revealed to the same Saint Bridget, that the afflicted Mother, already knowing what her Son was to suffer, “when suckling Him, thought of the gall and vinegar; when swathing Him, of the cords with which He was to be hound, when bearing Him in her arms, of the cross to which He was to be nailed; when sleeping, of His death.” As often as she put Him on His garment, she reflected that it would one day be torn from Him, that He might be crucified; and when she beheld His sacred hands and feet, she thought of the nails which would one day pierce them; and then, as Mary said to Saint Bridget, “my eyes filled with tears, and my heart was tortured with grief.”
The Evangelist says, that as Jesus Christ advanced in years, so also did “He advance in wisdom and in grace with God and men.” This is to be understood as Saint Thomas explains it, that He advanced in wisdom and grace in the estimation of men and before God, inasmuch as all His works would continually have availed to increase His merit, had not grace been conferred upon Him from the beginning, in its complete fulness, in virtue of the hypostatic union. But since Jesus advanced in the love and esteem of others, how much more must He have advanced in that of Mary! But, O God, as love increased in her, so much the more did her grief increase at the thought of having to lose Him by so cruel a death; and the nearer the time of the Passion of her Son approached, so much the deeper did that sword of sorrow, foretold by Saint Simeon, pierce the heart of His Mother. This was precisely revealed by the angel to Saint Bridget, saying: “That sword of sorrow was every hour approaching nearer to the Blessed Virgin, as the time for the Passion of her Son drew near.”
Since, then, Jesus, our King, and His most holy Mother, did not refuse, for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives, it is reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something. Jesus, crucified, once appeared to Sister Magdalen Orsini, a Dominicaness, who had been long suffering under a great trial, and encouraged her to remain, by means of that affliction, with Him on the cross. Sister Magdalen complainingly answered: “O Lord, Thou west tortured on the cross only for three hours, and I have endured my pain for many years.” The Redeemer then replied: “Ah, ignorant soul, what dost thou say? from the first moment of My conception I suffered in heart all that I afterwards endured dying on the cross.” If, then, we also suffer and complain, let us imagine Jesus, and His Mother Mary, addressing the same words to ourselves.