“Today it will do us good to stop a little and think about the pain and sorrows of Our Lady. She is our Mother.”
– Pope Francis
Italians are in the habit of referring to the time after the Crucifixion on Good Friday as “l’ora della Madre” – ‘the time of the Mother’. By extension, then, I think it is permissible to think of today, Holy Saturday, as ‘the Day of the Mother’.
This day is always a strange one.
It has no formal liturgy of it’s own and it is betwixt and between – sitting somewhere between the darkness of Good Friday and the blinding light of Easter Sunday. It is a day of stillness, of silence and of waiting. The whole earth seems to be still and silent, as it always is on this day. There is a feeling that something is going to happen. And in the evening, that something does indeed happen – a tiny glimmer of light pierces the darkness, the glow spreading out and becoming more powerful, until at last the entire Church upon the earth is filled with that Divine Light.
But before we reach that point, let’s go back to today. And think of Mary.
The time from the evening of Maundy Thursday onwards, moving all too swiftly into Good Friday, was a moment of horror. For Christians, we re-enacted the brutal Passion of Christ, walking with Him from the Praetorium, to the Via Dolorosa and then up to the very summit of Golgotha. And there, we watched Him die, venerating His holy Cross at 3pm, the Hour of Mercy.
For Mary, this was not simply a commemoration – although I expect She did indeed commemorate those bloody events every year. On that original Good Friday, She was there; She stood faithfully – ever faithfully – at the foot of the Cross, upon which Her Son hung, and watched Him give up His spirit to the Eternal Father. And all the while, She repeated in Her Heart that ‘fiat’ which She first uttered thirty-three years beforehand, at the moment of the Annunciation. Not long afterwards, the wise man Simeon warned Her that a sword would one day pierce Her Heart and there can be litle doubt that his words echoed repeatedly in Her Heart all the days after that. In the words of the ‘Stabat Mater’, we find the fulfilment of that prophecy –
At the cross Her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through Her Heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
Sitting here writing about those events, I find it impossible to come to any real conception of how sorrowful that moment truly was for the Blessed Virgin. But I know this – Her sorrow was total and complete.
I know one thing more. Despite that intense sorrow and grief, still She kept faith with the Lord, Who had sought from Her that ‘fiat’ so long before. Giving it, She had said – “let it be done to Me according to Thy word”. This submission to the Divine Will was not to the Annunciation alone – it was to everything the Divine Will would ever ask of Her. Even this. Perhaps, especially this.
Before the events of Good Friday, did Jesus speak to His Mother of what would shortly take place? Did He tell Her something of the horror that would unfold before Her eyes? I don’t know. But I do know that Her faith in Him was like Her ‘fiat’ – total and complete.
And because of that, I have no doubt that on that first Holy Saturday, the ‘Day of the Mother’, while darkness reigned across all the world, and while the Apostles and the other disciples had scattered in fear and despair and confusion, the light of faith and of hope shone brightly in just one single place upon the earth. That place was the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
It was perhaps with some prophetic sense of what was to come much later that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, cried out –
“Blessed is She who believed that the promise made to Her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45)