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The Happy Priest: At The Foot of the Cross

By Fr. James Farfaglia
March 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Not everything was clear for Mary, but she continued to trust and she continued to obey.  She abandoned herself entirely into God's loving and providential care.

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "Stabat mater dolorosa juxta Crucem lacrimosa dum pendebat Filius."  "At the Cross her station keeping, stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to her Son to the last."

This 13th century Catholic hymn, sung between the Stations of the Cross and as the Sequence for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, expresses the sentiments of the saddest moment in the history of salvation.  "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother." (John 19: 25). 

I differ with those who assume that the Blessed Mother stood at the Cross of Jesus in a stoic manner without expressing profound emotion.  Years ago, many were the critics who disagreed with Franco Zeffirelli's depiction of an inconsolable Mary at the foot of the Cross in his celebrated film "Jesus of Nazareth."  I concur with Zeffirelli. 

The death of my maternal grandfather gave me my first glimpse into the suffering of a mother; in this case the suffering of my own mother.  Her tears at her father's funeral helped me understand, although imperfectly, the suffering of a mother; the suffering of a woman.  Only a woman who has lost a spouse, a parent, or a child can begin to really penetrate into the suffering of Mary at the foot of the Cross. 

"Stabat mater dolorosa juxta Crucem lacrimosa dum pendebat Filius." 

Sometimes people seem to have difficulty identifying with Mary's steadfast faith and fidelity. They have the impression that everything was very easy for Mary because she was conceived without Original Sin. 

Not everything was clear for the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Just as in any manifestation of the divine, each profound moment of light is followed by long and trying times of darkness.

Yes, Mary was enveloped in the light of God's presence during the Annunciation.  However, this brilliance of clarity was followed by the night of faith.

She fulfilled her unconditional "yes" by embracing the many trials and difficulties of her journey towards eternity.  The Passion of Jesus Christ was the greatest trial of them all. 
Mary's fidelity was heroic because her faith was heroic. 

"When everything seemed absurd, she responded 'Amen' to what was so absurd and the absurdity disappeared.  To the silence of God she answered, 'Let it be," and silence was transformed into presence.  Instead of demanding a guarantee of veracity, Mary clung indefatigably to the will of God; she remained in peace, and doubt turned into sweetness" (Ignacio Larraņaga, The Silence of Mary, p. 92).

"Stabat mater dolorosa juxta Crucem lacrimosa dum pendebat Filius." 

The Mother standing at the foot of the Cross seems absurd and incomprehensible. 

How could the Father permit such suffering?

"To believe is to trust.  To believe is to let go.  To believe, above all, is to adhere, to surrender.  In a word, to believe is to love" (Ignacio Larraņaga, The Silence of Mary, p. 63).

It is precisely in difficult and challenging times that we must look to the witnesses of faith.  Mary is the greatest of them all.  Through her pilgrimage of faith, she walked into the night of faith.  Not everything was clear for Mary, but she continued to trust and she continued to obey.  She abandoned herself entirely into God's loving and providential care.  Full understanding only came to her at Pentecost.  It was there that she understood all the things that she had cherished in her heart.

"Stabat mater dolorosa juxta Crucem lacrimosa dum pendebat Filius."

On this Good Friday let us turn to Mary, our Mother most Sorrowful.  Let us allow her to embrace us with her love.  Let us run to her and seek in her the maternal strength and consolation that we all need to walk through the things in our lives that seem absurd and incomprehensible.

Let us find in Mary the help that we need to journey toward the eternal Easter without becoming discouraged or tired. 

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Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org and listen to the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.   Apps for Father James' homilies are now available for Android and iPhone.

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