Scripture Passage: Luke 2: 7
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The hurt in Mary’s eyes is evident. This is her son. This was the child that she carried in the womb, birthed into the world in the rough hues of that cold desert night shielded only by a stable, or a cave, or a grotto, or something of the like. This was the child that she nurtured and saw grow into a young man. This was the child that she never understood, the one who seemed to choose his own path, the one who even at a young age always seemed to have some sort of incredible innate wisdom. This was the child that would rather sit at the feet of the rabbis, would rather soak in all of the eons of lessons, than play like the other children. This was the young man that had made her so proud, full of compassion and empathy, always thinking of others, always standing up for the poor and the outcast. This was the young man who had more courage than she had ever seen. Where did he get that? She remembers that night long ago in Bethlehem. They almost didn’t get there in time. They almost didn’t have a place. But there he was. Even the first time that she looked into his eyes, she knew. This child was different. Born of her and, yet, not really ever hers. He always seemed to belong to something bigger. But she could pretend. She could think that he was hers. And she could love him more than life itself. And now, today, the pain is almost to great to bear. It looked like this was it. Was it all for naught? After all, she herself had given up so much. What meaning did it have? Why was it ending so soon? It couldn’t be time to give him back–not yet.
This station is another one that is considered “non-canonical”. But we know that Mary was there. Love would put her there. Love would make her want to pick him up and hold him, cradle him like she did that cold Bethlehem night. The station is marked with a relief carved in stone. The church next to it still has the mosaic floor from an earlier Byzantine church that stood on the premises. In the floor is an image of a pair of sandals facing north, supposedly marking the place where Mary stood in suffering silence when she saw her son carried on the cross.
The Mary we know is usually silent. With the exception of that story of the wedding at Cana when she told Jesus to fix the problem with the wine, she is usually depicted as almost stoic. I don’t think stoicism has anything to do with it though. Mary’s grief and pain were real. When Jesus encountered her this one last time, they both knew it. And they both felt Mary’s deep, unending, nurturing love. Perhaps that is what we are to glean from this–that in the midst of one’s grief and pain and unbearable loss is the deepest love imagineable. We see it in Mary and we know that at this moment, this is what God is feeling too. After all, both have given themselves for the world and both are shattered that the world is throwing their love back.
At this point, nothing need be said. The love is evident–the love of Mary, the love of God. It is a love that we must experience–self-giving, suffering, silent–if we are to understand who God is and who God calls us to be. It is the love that we are called to have for one another, a love that in the deepest of grief pulls us up and pulls us through, a love that would compel us to stand up for another, a love that, finally, creates room, a love that is of God.
So, in this Lenten season, let us, finally, learn to love one another.
Grace and Peace,