The Burial of Jesus

When a mother is by the side of her suffering and dying child, she undoubtedly feels and suffers all his pains; but after he is actually dead, when, before the body is carried to the grave, the afflicted mother must bid her child a last farewell; then, indeed, the thought that she is to see him no more is a grief which exceeds all other griefs. Behold the last sword of Mary’s sorrow, which we have now to consider; for after witnessing the death of her Son on the cross, and embracing for a last time His lifeless body, this blessed Mother had to leave Him in the sepulchre, never more to enjoy His beloved presence on earth. That we may better understand this last dolour, we will return to Calvary and consider the afflicted Mother, who still holds the lifeless body of her Son clasped in her arms. O my Son, she seemed to say in the words of Job, my Son, “Thou art changed to be cruel towards me.” Yes, for all Thy noble qualities, Thy beauty, grace, and virtues, Thy engaging manners, all the marks of special love which Thou hast bestowed upon me, the peculiar favours Thou hast granted me,—all are now changed into grief, and as so many arrows pierce my heart, and the more they have excited me to love Thee, so much the more cruelly do they now make me feel Thy loss. Ah, my own beloved Son, in losing Thee I have lost all. Thus does St. Bernard speak in her name: “O truly-begotten of God, Thou wast to me a father, a son, a spouse: Thou wast my very soul! Now I am deprived of my father, widowed of my spouse, a desolate, childless Mother; having lost my only Son, I have lost all.” Thus was Mary, with her Son locked in her arms, absorbed in grief. The holy disciples, fearful that the poor Mother might die of grief, approached her to take the body of her Son from her arms, to bear it away for burial. This they did with gentle and respectful violence, and having embalmed it, they wrapped it in a linen cloth which was already prepared. On this cloth, which is still preserved at Turin, our Lord was pleased to leave to the world an impression of His sacred body. The disciples then bore Him to the tomb. To do this, they first of all raised the sacred body on their shoulders, and then the mournful train set forth; choirs of angels from heaven accompanied it; the holy women followed, and with them the afflicted Mother also followed her Son to the place of burial. When they had reached the appointed place, “O, how willingly would Mary have there buried herself alive with her Son, had such been His will!” for this she herself revealed to St. Bridget. But such not being the Divine will, there are many authors who say that she accompanied the sacred body of Jesus into the sepulchre, where, according to Baronius, the disciples also deposited the nails and the crown of thorns. In raising the stone to close up the entrance, the holy disciples of the Saviour had to approach our Blessed Lady, and say: Now, O Lady, we must close the sepulchre: forgive us, look once more at thy Son, and bid Him a last farewell. Then my beloved Son (for thus must the afflicted Mother have spoken); then I shall see Thee no more? Receive, therefore, on this last occasion that I behold Thee, receive my last farewell, the farewell of Thy dear Mother, and receive also my heart, which I leave buried with Thee. “The Blessed Virgin,” writes St. Fulgentius, “would ardently have desired to have buried her soul with the body of Christ.” And this Mary herself revealed to St. Bridget, saying: “I can truly say that at the burial of my Son one tomb contained as it were two hearts.” Finally, the disciples raised the stone and closed up the holy sepulchre, and in it the body of Jesus, that great treasure-a treasure so great that neither earth nor heaven had a greater. Here I may be permitted to make a short digression, and remark that Mary’s heart was buried with Jesus, because Jesus was all her treasure: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” And where, may we ask, are our hearts buried? In creatures-perchance in mire. And why not in Jesus, who, although He has ascended to heaven, is still pleased to remain on earth, not dead indeed, but living in the most holy sacrament of the altar, precisely that our hearts may be with Him, and that He may possess them? But let us return to Mary. Before leaving the sepulchre, according to St. Bonaventure, she blessed the sacred stone which closed it, saying, “O happy stone, that doth now enclose that sacred body, which for nine months was contained in my womb; I bless thee and envy thee; I leave thee the guardian of my Son, of that Son who is all my treasure and all my love.” Then raising her heart to the Eternal Father, she said, “O Father, to Thee do I recommend Him-Him who is Thy Son at the same time that He is mine.” Thus bidding her last farewell to her beloved Jesus and to the sepulchre, she left it, and returned to her own house. “This Mother,” says St. Bernard, “went away so afflicted and sad, that she moved many to tears in spite of themselves; and wherever she passed, all who met her wept,” and could not restrain their tears. And he adds that the holy disciples and women who accompanied her “mourned even more for her than for their Lord.” Saint Bonaventure says, that her sisters covered her with a mourning cloak: “The sisters of our Lady veiled her as a widow, almost covering her whole face.” He also says that, passing, on her return, before the cross still wet with the blood of her Jesus, she was the first to adore it. “O holy cross,” she then said, “I kiss thee, I adore thee; for thou art no longer an infamous gibbet, but a throne of love and an altar of mercy, consecrated by the blood of the Divine Lamb, which on thee has been sacrificed for the salvation of the world.” She then left the cross, and returned home. When there, the afflicted Mother cast her eyes around, and no longer saw her Jesus; but, instead of the sweet presence of her dear Son, the remembrance of His beautiful life and cruel death presented itself before her eyes. She remembered how she had pressed that Son to her bosom in the crib of Bethlehem; the conversations she had held with Him during the many years they had dwelt in the house of Nazareth; she remembered their mutual affection, their loving looks, the words of eternal life which fell from those Divine lips; and then the sad scene which she had that day witnessed, again presented itself before her. The nails, the thorns, the lacerated flesh of her Son, those deep wounds, those uncovered bones, that open mouth, those dimmed eyes, all presented themselves before her. Ah, what a night of sorrow was that night for Mary! The afflicted Mother, turning to Saint John, mournfully said: “Ah, John, tell me where is thy Master?” She then asked the Magdalen: “Daughter, tell me, where is thy beloved? O God, who has taken Him from us?” Mary wept, and all who were present wept with her. And thou, my soul, weepest not! Ah, turn to Mary, and address her with Saint Bonaventure, saying: “O my own sweet Lady, let me weep; thou art innocent, I am guilty.” Entreat her at last to let thee weep with her: “Grant that with thee I may weep.” She weeps for love; do thou weep through sorrow for thy sins. Thus weeping, thou mayest have the happy lot of him of whom we read in the following example.