The most solemn week of the year has arrived—Holy Week. After the grand drama displayed before us on Palm Sunday, sweeping from Jesus’ entrance on a colt to His entombment, where should we focus our reflections? One of the best ways to start is with the help of Mary, our Blessed Mother. She understands better than anyone the meaning of the events of Holy Week, and she suffered along with Jesus, through the intense sorrows of her heart. If we take Mary as our guide in the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, she will help us delve into these mysteries more deeply. Praying for her intercession will also secure graces to help us grow more like Christ.
The Agony in the Garden
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed alone to do the will of the Father. His three closest disciples, overcome by weariness, lent Him no support. But Jesus did know that His mother supported Him in prayer, because she had never flagged in her eager desire to do God’s will, especially since she had given her fiat to the angel Gabriel. It is unlikely that Mary was also in Gethsemane, but she was certainly there in spirit. She also prayed for God’s will to be done, despite the cost.
The Scourging at the Pillar
When Jesus was scourged by the Roman soldiers, He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, that “by his stripes we were healed” (53:5). Mary knew these prophecies too, but it was awful still to behold her Son stripped of His dignity and punished as a criminal. When she heard the sound of the scourge and saw His blood flowing, another prophecy was also fulfilled. Simeon had said to her at the Presentation, “you yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35). Just as the burning charity of Jesus made His blood a sacred offering to God, Mary also offered up her transfixing sorrow in love.
The Crowning with Thorns
Did the soldiers mock Jesus in public or in private? If Mary did not see her Son clothed in a royal robe and spat upon, she did see the crown of thorns the soldiers wove for Him. They left this crown when they stripped off the robe, wanting all to see what they thought of the “King of the Jews.” But Mary knew the truth of Jesus’ kingship, a truth fixed in mind since Gabriel had told her that He would “rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:33). Her faith in this promise gave her strength to endure this hour of darkness when the world denied the kingship of Jesus.
The Carrying of the Cross
At the insistence of the crowd, Pilate passed his sentence. Then Jesus took on His shoulders the instrument of His execution and walked the path to our redemption. His Apostles had abandoned Him, all except one, but a faithful band of women accompanied Him to Calvary. What consolation Jesus must have taken from seeing Mary while He carried the Cross! She understood best the reason that He bore it, and that on it He would display the kingship of His love.
The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
The Crucifixion must have happened in slow motion for Mary. Each rough handling of Jesus’ limbs, each nail hammered home, reverberated in her body also. But even in this hour of agony, Mary knew that this suffering was fruitful. Jesus entrusted her to John, and John to her. She knew that she would be the mother of all her Son’s followers, all of the new members of His body to be born again in baptism.
Then Jesus breathed His last, and all was finished. When Mary was finally allowed to touch Jesus’ body, she cradled Him in her arms. He had accomplished the work for which He came, but Mary had to wait for the sign of Jonah to be fulfilled, the days spent in the belly of the earth. By faith she knew His resurrection would come, but the present was filled with sorrow. As Jesus was laid in the tomb, He lay also in Mary’s heart, covered with a mother’s love.
Mary, our sorrowful mother, pray for us to understand the mystery of your Son’s Passion! Through your intercession and our meditation on the rosary, may we be filled with the same spirit of love that kept you faithful to Jesus in His darkest hour.
Image: Giovanni Bellini, Pietà