Our Lady of Solitude, you understood so well how it feels to be far from the ones you most dearly love. I’m not just talking about during Christ’s Passion. Mary, you spent three agonizing days away from your twelve-year-old Son when He remained in Jerusalem in the temple – learning, praying, and asking questions of the Pharisees. (Did no one wonder who this child was? Was it normal for children to be in the temple, listening to the theologians discuss God’s Word? I suppose Jesus was not a normal child… And where did our Sweet Savior sleep those two nights? Surely, Mary, your Motherly Heart was frantic, not knowing how far you were from your Son.) The years between this mystery and the wedding at Cana must have been blissful:
“He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:51-52).
Once Christ’s ministry began in earnest, you yourself invited Him into public ministry at the Wedding at Cana. Mary, Obedient Mother! Holy Mother! Selfless Mother! You welcomed Christ into His ministry, that for which He came down from Heaven, at great cost to yourself! In giving Him away, to cultivate His Bride the Church, you became for us Our Lady of Solitude. Christ’s public ministry sent Him physically far from you to serve, to preach to, to heal, and to love God’s wayward people. How often did your Immaculate Heart ponder the sorrow that would be yours, the suffering for which your Jesus came into the world? But that was not the first time you were given solitude as reward for your faithfulness. Was there anyone who knew the sorrow that you knew, when you were told by Simeon at the Presentation that a sword would pierce your heart? Then, too, you contemplated the sorrow and the solitude of being the Mother of the Christ.
Mary, Our Lady of Solitude…Mary, to whom the Archangel Gabriel announced that God’s own Spirit would come upon you, and that you would conceive and bear a Son, and His name would be Emmanuel, Mighty Counselor, Son of God, Prince of Peace. Mary, did you feel joyful solitude when you accepted that mission given you, to be the Mother of God? As we know from Scripture, faithful and good St. Joseph didn’t know what to do. Loving you deeply and trusting your virtue, but seeing you pregnant and knowing it not to be his child, he thought to divorce you quietly. Mary, you alone knew of that Sacred Revelation given you: the Child in your womb was God’s! What did you think while you waited for God’s angel to tell Joseph what had happened? Surely, you were in awe at the Christ-child already growing within. As theologians and Biblical scholars understand it, March 25th, exactly 9 months before the Nativity of Christ, Christ was conceived in your virgin womb. Mary, on that day, you became the Mother of God. There is none like you; you are blessed among women! That means, too, that none understood your position but God Himself, the voiceless Child in your womb. Not your cousin Elizabeth nor your saintly parents, not even your faithful husband St. Joseph. You entered into this state of solitude as the only one who would feel the Son of God move in her womb, kicking and growing. Oh, Mary, protector of life, pray for us who kill our preborn babies! Pray for us, truly the most desolate ones, we who kill the spark of faith in our souls with our ungratefulness for your Son’s sacrifice!
Mary, Our Lady of Solitude…You who raised God’s own Son along with your loving husband of virtue. You and St. Joseph have such a unique position in the life of the Church. You are the Mother and he the Foster-Father of our Jesus. Your work was difficult indeed…
Mary, Our Lady of Solitude…Sorrowful Mother. So many hours battling with those frustrations and temptations not to trust God’s will. You, who watched them (us) crucify God, were the only one to have ever lived who was not guilty of nailing Christ Himself to the Adorable Cross. How can we comfort your heart? Holiest of mothers, Mother who loves us more than all earthly mothers combined ever could, teach us to love your Son, teach us to console your Heart that suffered so much for our sins. Mother Immaculate, graced by God to be the sinless vessel by which Salvation would enter the world… Teach us to be grateful for the sacrifice of the flesh of your flesh!
In The Passion of the Christ, there is a blue-eyed soldier who witnesses Christ’s encounter with His Holy Mother on the Road to Calvary. He sees the tender embrace, Christ speaking to her. He asks a fellow soldier, who was that woman? The Mother of the Nazarene. From there on, through the rest of the movie, he is shown as a reluctant participant in this Crucifixion of Christ. As Jesus hangs on the Cross, he steps aside to let the Holy Mother approach her Son to kiss His bloody feet and to give Him whatever comfort she can. This same soldier is the one who is to break the legs of the criminals. (We can imagine that this was not his first crucifixion: he would have been conditioned in cruelty. Yet he hesitates before Mary, making eye contact, as if to say “I am sorry you have to see this.”) Christ, at that point, is already dead, and the ground’s shaking knocks him backwards. When his superior asks him why he has not yet broken Christ’s legs, he proclaims that our Savior is dead. (Had it sunk in yet, Mary? How sharp was the blow to your Immaculate Heart just moments after Christ’s body gave out? To hear so bluntly that the child of your womb is dead?) He is given a spear to stab into Christ’s side, and he hesitates again, looking between the Holy Mother and Jesus multiple times before stabbing His side. As he does this, Blood and Water pour forth. He falls to his knees, bathed in the saving Blood and Water of the Lord. Cassius stares up at the gushing side of Christ.
There are no accounts of a soldier who saw the meeting of the Lord and His Sorrowful Mother and was changed by it. Only this soldier from Matthew 27:54:
Now the centurion and those with him, guarding Jesus, having seen the earthquake and the things that were done, were very fearful, saying, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
This verse tells us that this proclamation comes out of fear of the earthquake that immediately followed Christ’s death, and the many other telling moments of Christ’s miraculously humble response to the hate piled on Him by those who wished to see Him dead. Our rich Catholic tradition tells us of a saint, St. Cassius Longinus (surely why this actor is casted under the name Cassius in the movie) who pierced the side of Christ as He hung on the Cross. Catholic.org tells us that Cassius was nearly blind and that as the Blood and Water from Christ’s side fell into his eyes, he was cured. His story, from there, is one of incredible beauty. I encourage you to read more on the link provided! Or here. (They say almost exactly the same thing.)
Though tradition does not tell us that this conversion moment began with Mary and Jesus’ encounter on the road to Calvary, it’s a powerful point to ponder.
Does the magnitude of Christ’s suffering intimidate us? Let us, therefore, approach the Suffering Lord as Mary did. According to this movie, she had no words to comfort her Son on His Sorrowful Way. Let us begin first in complete submission by simply approaching this Man, bathed in Sacred Blood. Once we learn to approach Him, perhaps we will come to learn that He emanates love, and our groundless terror will melt away.
Do we fear the harshness of our sins which have so ripped apart the Body of Christ? Mary is the tender one, full of love, who stands always beside the Cross. She is the most faithful disciple, believing from the beginning. She is called Our Lady of Solitude because she was the strength, the tower of faith, on Holy Saturday, that day of mournful, faith-filled waiting. Mary will not leave us as we learn to embrace Christ’s suffering as our own. She reminds us that God is pure mercy, and Love Itself.
Powerful imagery throughout the movie shows flashbacks of Mary and Jesus, once when Christ falls as a young child, again as He carves a tall table in His carpentry shop. Her words before Him as He hangs on the Cross for our sins are powerful: “Flesh of my flesh…heart of my heart…my Son, let me die with You.” Mary, Our Lady of Solitude, pray for us.
The various articles and readings that led to today’s reflection:
The Pope’s Good Friday Homily | http://thineownservice.com/2016/03/25/homily-for-good-friday-2016/
A highly recommended read about the Feast of the Annunciation, Good Friday, and March 25th | http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.com/2016/03/this-doubtful-day-of-feast-or-fast-good.html
Greta Haussmann, a fellow CUA student: a reflection from her blog on this special day | http://gretahaussmann.com/2016/03/25/radical-obedience/
A stumble-upon explanation of who Mary is as Our Lady of Solitude, from a group of Arizona religious sisters who take Her Name for their monastery | http://desertnuns.com/our-lady-of-solitude
A little post-posting moment: How could I forget? Today is Easter! Mary’s message as Our Lady of Solitude does not make us hopeless, lonely, forgotten people. Quite the opposite. Mary’s example as the Tower of Strength, the faithful apostle in every moment, reminds us that we can put our trust in God, because He loves us, and His Supreme Will guides us ALWAYS to new life, the new life we were given in the Resurrection! Feliz Pascuas de Costa Rica! El amor y la paz de Cristo sean siempre con ustedes! Cristo ha resucitado!