One of the most recognisable images of the Blessed Virgin is that of Michelangelo’s “Pieta”, found in St Peter’s Basilica. It is an intensely sad sculpture, managing to capture something – just a little – of the sorrows of the Mother of Jesus, at the moment when She cradles His dead Body, newly taken down from the Cross on Golgotha. Somehow, the cold marble of the sculpture seems to echo the coldness of death itself, the chill piercing the Heart of Mary in that moment. All the while, there is also another expression upon Her face – almost a peacefulness or calmness.
I wonder what She was thinking as She held Her Son.
Very early in His life, when She and St Joseph presented Him in the Temple, there had been the prophecy of Simeon – foretelling that Jesus would be “a sign that is opposed”, laying bare the secret thoughts of many hearts; and in this, Her own Heart would be pierced with the sword of sorrow. As Mary cradled the lifeless Body of Jesus, did She hear these words again?
Mary was a Woman of deep faith and deep knowledge of the Scriptures; She surely would have known the prophecies throughout the Old Testament about what would happen to the Messiah, the One who comes in the name of the Lord. She knew Her own Child was that Messiah and so it is reasonable to think She saw the path lying ahead for Jesus.
But, beyond this, I think She also heard the echoes of something deeper in the Scriptures – a foretelling not only of the destruction of the Temple, but of it’s rising anew.
And so I believe that even in that darkest of hours, as She held the lifeless corpse of Jesus, Mary – although desolate in Her grief at the death of Her Son – was also waiting in hope and in trust for what would follow; the glory of the Resurrection. In this, She is an example to all of us, that even in the darkest moments of life, there is always hope, for there is always the Lord. He scatters the darkness, He brings light to the world, He tramples death underfoot and arises glorious and new.
Perhaps that is the ultimate message of Holy Saturday – hope.