Mary, at the cross with Jesus, is an image immortalised in Stabat Mater art – Stabat Mater meaning mourning mother. Sometimes this art portrays solely Mary with Jesus, sometimes the other women are there too, as in John’s Gospel, but mostly it is Mary on Jesus’ right hand side and John on the left. These images portray the artists’ impressions of how they see what John wrote about. The Stabat Mater is also a 13th century hymn, and I want to use some of the words to help us reflect on Mary and her thoughts and feelings as she stood at the cross with her son.
Stabat mater dolorósa
juxta Crucem lacrimósa,
dum pendébat Fílius.
Cuius ánimam geméntem,
contristátam et doléntem
At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
Watching, waiting, weeping.
Mary was promised by Simeon that her soul would be pierced too. She was not promised a lifetime of joy with her beloved child, but an eventual sharing in his pain and anguish. She did not run away and hide, as the disciples did, but stood there until the end.
Do we look at the cross and see the pain? Or do we look away, only inviting the joy of the resurrection that we know is coming?
Look at the cross. See Jesus the son, wrought with pain. See Mary the mother, stood below, watching, waiting, weeping.