(a meditation from “The School of Jesus Crucified” by Father Ignatius of the Side of Jesus)
The hour of the death of Jesus is fast approaching, and He beholds from His Cross His most dear and loving Mother, who is standing at its foot, assisting at His last sufferings in deep but silent agony, and He would address her for the last time. Bending down His sacred head, turning His dying eyes towards her, and indicating by a glance His beloved disciple, John, His pallid lips breathe forth the words, “Woman, behold thy son;” by which He bestows all the faithful in the person of John upon her as her children.
Such loving solicitude evinced for her by Jesus at this last awful hour is some consolation to Mary, but oh! what new anguish fills her heart on hearing that we poor sinners are given her in the place of Jesus the Man-God, and that she is to receive us as children in His stead! Her most amiable, beloved, and holy Son Jesus is taken from her, and ungrateful, wicked men, His crucifiers, given her in exchange!
Oh, how deep is the anguish of her Immaculate Heart! She is desirous of replying to the words of her Divine Son, or of addressing John, but at that very moment she feels her maternal heart overflowing with new love, and with the deepest emotions of charity she accepts as her children the faithful of all ages in the person of the beloved disciple John; “for these, O woman,” whispers a secret voice, “these shall be thy children.”
She beholds them at this time deformed with sin, the enemies of God, and objects of His wrath; nevertheless she accepts them! Oh, great indeed is the goodness of Mary, who, with tender and compassionate love, then receives her new children, and embraces them with all the loving solicitude of a Mother.
Then, O Mary, even so ungrateful a sinner as myself has been given to thee as a child, and received by thee as such! How can my heart ever testify sufficient gratitude to thee, or be filled with love and veneration commensurate with thy charity! O happy sinners, remember what a Mother you have, remember whose children you are! Your Mother is Mary, the Mother of God; a Mother full of grace, a Mother the mirror of purity and holiness.
It is not fitting that so holy a Mother should have sinful children. Are you desirous of being her true children? Fulfill the obligations of children in her regard, and never grieve her maternal heart by your hateful sins.
Jesus, then addressing John, and indicating Mary by a glance, says, in loving accents, “Behold thy Mother.” As though He had said, “By My death thou dost lose thy Father, but behold I leave thee My Mother in My place; I bestow her upon thee and upon all the faithful in thy person, that you may all regard her as your Mother.”
Jesus is not satisfied with saying to Mary, “Behold thy son” in the person of His beloved disciple John; but He also addresses these words to John: “Behold thy Mother,” that the gift being reciprocal, the sentiments of love and confidence may be reciprocal too.
Oh, how great is the gift bestowed upon us by Jesus in this His last will and testament! Our dear Savior has nothing else on earth to leave us but His own most holy Mother. His Body He has delivered up to the fury of His enemies, His Blood He has shed for the redemption of the world, His garments the soldiers have divided amongst themselves; nothing therefore remains for Him to bequeath, save His most blessed Mother, and her He leaves to John and to all Christians in his person. He bequeaths this tender Mother to us at the very moment when her soul is pierced by a double-edged sword of grief, and her heart distracted between anguish for the death of her Son, and desire for the salvation of men.
O most amiable Redeemer! how precious is the legacy which Thou leavest us in the last hours of Thy life. Whilst Thou art expiring, overwhelmed with ignominy and suffering, Thou dost bestow upon us the happiness of having Thee for our Elder Brother, and Mary for our Mother. I humbly beseech Thee, since Mary is my Mother, to give me grace to regard her as such, and to serve and love her with all the tenderness of a true son.
Take courage, devout soul, lift up thy eyes to our Crucified Jesus, listen to His voice, and hear how lovingly He says to thee, “Son, behold thy Mother.” Look at this Mother with the tenderest feelings of affection, and know that Jesus has placed in her hands all the blessings His mercy is willing to bestow upon us. No one is saved but through Mary, no one receives any blessing but by the hands of Mary, no one obtains pardon but through the intercession of Mary. Gratefully acknowledge the goodness of Jesus, have recourse with confidence to Mary, and let thy conduct be that of a son in her regard.
Thus enriched by the possession of so great a treasure, John, having in the name of all the faithful accepted Mary as a Mother, takes her to his own home after the death and burial of Jesus, bestows upon her all the anxious care due to a parent, and respects, honors, and serves her with the most filial devotion.
Similar are the duties which you must also fulfill as a child of Mary. You must entertain for her sentiments of profound respect, tender love, and filial confidence, and your desires and inclinations must ever be conformable to hers. She is the Mother of Purity and Queen of Virgins, and it is by purity of heart and morals that you will please her. Her whole life never displayed anything but holiness, innocence, and purity; and she will ever bestow upon you her most loving protection and particular patronage, she will ever be to you the tenderest of Mothers, if, in imitation of her, you lead a pure, holy, and innocent life. You will experience the effects of her maternal love if you are in all things a docile and devoted child.
Listen how she says to you from the foot of the Cross, where she is sorrowfully attending the last agonies of her dying Son, “Behold, I am your Mother.” Look at her suffering on account of those sins which have crucified Jesus, and weep at the sight of the bitter anguish with which they have filled her heart. Promise never more to commit those sins which crucify her Son anew, and cause her to be the most afflicted of Mothers.
Sweet Mother! through that inexpressible sorrow which thou didst suffer at the foot of the Cross on account of my sins, obtain for me grace to be henceforward a dutiful child to thee, and never more by my sins to become guilty of the death of thy most amiable Son Jesus; obtain for me grace to love thee constantly, to serve thee with the utmost fidelity, and to honor thee with heartfelt devotion, so that through the merits of the death of Jesus, and thy own deep sorrow, I may one day attain the happiness of praising and blessing my God and thee eternally in Heaven.
Next to Jesus, let your whole confidence be given to Mary, and suffer not one single hour of the day to pass without having recourse to her. But your devotion to Mary must mainly consist in delighting her pure heart by your love of modesty, purity, and humility; virtues so inexpressibly dear to her. You will never be really devout to her, unless you try to please her; and an impure, contaminated, proud heart never can be pleasing in the eyes of the Mother of Purity. In your endeavors to acquire the virtues of humility and modesty, let it be your intention to imitate the most blessed Virgin, and you will be fulfilling the duties of a son in her regard.