Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good Friday

This is taken from Women of the Passion, A Journey to the Cross, which I wrote some years ago for a women's retreat. Today, we hear from Mary, mother of Jesus.


V: “Do not call me Naomi, which means Pleasant.

R: “Call me Mara, which means Bitter: for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.

As I waited in pain for him to be born, now I wait in pain for him to die.

I cannot take my eyes off him, for every second that passes takes him farther from me. Where is my bright angel now?

I would be the God-Bearer, the angel said. Well, I did my part. And now here he is, this Child of God, dying in a dismal dusty place.

Anger washes through me, followed by new waves of grief. For days I’ve been an ocean, wracked by storms of emotion that threaten to drown my soul, kill my faith. This is too much to ask of me, Beloved! I believed Your promises. I believed them when I pushed him into the world with only Joseph and the animals as midwives. I believed them when the shepherds and the kings came. I believed them when my angel warned Joseph to take us into Egypt. And I believed them when, at the Temple, he disappeared. I feared You already had taken him from me then, much too soon. We searched for him for three whole days, days like years. When we found him teaching in the Temple, he said he had to be about Your business.

But Joseph and I persuaded him to wait a bit longer. And when the time came, it was still too soon by my heart’s reckoning. But I had vowed to do Your will, and so I helped him any way I could. Many times that meant stepping aside, occasionally it meant helping others to understand, and nearly always, it meant biting my tongue when I feared he’d gone too far, too fast.

But this! Oh Beloved, is this necessary! Must our child suffer so? We are not worthy of such pain. Take him! Take him now, before I go mad with rage and pain.

But stay! Do not take him yet . . . This is the body of my body, the blood of my blood. I will devour him with my eyes, eating his body, drinking his blood. I will carry him within me forever.

His soft summons of “Mother” reaches me as if in a dream. I move as close to his feet as the soldiers will permit, John beside me.

“Ema,” my dying son says to me, indicating John. “Behold your son.”

And to John he says, “Behold your mother.”

His voice is almost too faint to hear.

“I am thirsty,” he rasps. I turn in silent appeal. The young soldier at the foot of the cross hesitates. Then, with a slight shrug, he puts a sponge soaked in cheap wine onto his lance and hoists it to Jesus. He wets his lips, and speaks again, his words tearing into my heart like knives.
“It is finished.”

Then he cries out to You, Beloved.

“Abba, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”

He drops his head and his eyes meet mine. And as I watch, the light dies.


I hear a scream and wonder who it is. The sky darkens, thunder rumbles, and a great silence falls. My body feels numb. It seems as if the darkness lasts forever. After a time, however, light returns. Shaken, the soldiers begin taking my child down from the cross. One of them, a centurion I think, motions to them to give me the body.

I sink down on a rock, and with a curious gentleness, the soldiers hand him to me, draping him across my lap. I cradle him, my babe now man. His head lolls against my breast, and his soft hair strokes my chin. I gently close his eyes and with my veil wipe the blood off his face.

I have no tears left. My eyes are spent with weeping, my soul is in tumult, my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people.

John says something to me, and I look up, my eyes blazing.

“Do not call me Naomi, which means Pleasant. Call me Mara, which means Bitter; for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

John looks shocked, but what do I care? What are all the prophecies to me now? What do I care for all the fine words of men? My child is dead!

Agony forces my head back and I scream at the heavens, “My baby! I want my baby back!”


Barbi Click said...

Oh, Katie, this year I missed so much reading a part in the Women of the Passion...
Everything is so antiseptic blood, no guts. Maybe we can bring it to St. Louis next Lent.
Thank you for posting this.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Katie, The Women's Group at St. Paul's used this during Holy Week. Wern't a dry eye in the house. I am so blessed by your spirit and your spirituality and now a whole 'nother group of women is also enriched. Thank you, my sister.

June Butler said...

Katie, this is profoundly moving - the story of the Pietà beautifully told. Thank you.