I can hardly believe it’s almost Holy Week. When I was little, Lent seemed to last for centuries, but now it rushes by— a short period of renewal and grace.
As the glory of Easter approaches this year, let’s allow Our Blessed Mother to guide us through Holy Week as we meditate on Our Lord’s death on the cross.
Mary, the New Eve
In Genesis, God creates Eve from the rib of Adam. Unlike Adam, who walks with God and is Fathered by God, Eve wakes up to life ready to receive. She isn’t fathered like Adam; instead, she immediately meets the one whom she is created for in total love, Adam. Here we see the first indication of what so many saints and scholars have referred to as a woman’s receptivity— her open heart. She is the heart of creation.
Adam rightly names her Mother of the Living, for God created her to be a vessel of life, fruitful, and co-creator with the Divine.
One should note that Adam does not share in Eve’s title; we don’t refer to him as the “Father of the Living.” This distinction highlights the uniqueness of Eve and her calling. This is who she is. She is a mother. God made her made in love to receive love, and in that, she brings forth love. This is her venture and her purpose.
Yet, Eve denies it. She becomes transfixed by the serpent, who awakens in her a desire to control— the opposite of receptivity. “You will be like God… knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5) One might note that when the Bible uses the term “know,” it means “to experience,” you will experience these things. Eve ponders his words and admits that the fruit is beautiful. Beauty and control… how many of us are foiled by those two desires? Instead of being obedient to God, she decides she wants to be like God. And so, Adam follows suit, proving Fulton Sheen’s assertion that “virtue in a culture can be measured by its women.” For once Eve is corrupted, Adam falls without much effort. The heart has been poisoned; thus, everything else will die.
Sin enters the world. The gates of Heaven are closed. Like Satan’s famous, “I will not serve,” Eve falls through a similar sentiment, “I want to be like God.” This act is not giving or receiving but rather an act of ego: taking.
Enter Our Lady, the new Eve, who bore the source of life and is Mother to All the Living. “Behold your Mother!” (John 19:25). Mary, unlike Eve, is marked by her Fiat, “be it done unto me.” Her entire life is one of receptivity and obedience to God. While her words throughout Scripture are few and always point us back to God, through her loving surrender, she became the most powerful woman — the most powerful human — ever to live.
In Genesis, we see that in the creation of the human person, God made two distinct ways of being human: male and female. In reading Genesis, we understand that Adam has a role of leadership and Eve a role of tenderness. As Pope Pius XI reaffirms in Casti Connubii, “For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.”
God gave men and women their unique design, and in that, men and women both have something extraordinary to reveal about God. In the story of Adam, we see that a physical journey—walking with God— took place for him to understand what it means to be a man.
Jason M. Craig explains in his book, Leaving Boyhood Behind, that fathering is necessary for all men, “The mother nourishes and cherishes the boy, and then, knowing he has a mission in life as a man, offers the boy to the father. A father accepts. . . And sees that the boy is raised into a man.”
Up until this point, the mother keeps her son safe. She prevents danger from entering his life. Now, the wife cooperates with the husband, revealing her trust and love for him by allowing her son to venture into danger and grow up.
We see this same love and trust in Mary in regards to Jesus. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, Our Lord informs them that he was on His Father’s business. And how did the Blessed Mother respond? “She kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) She radically accepts this confusing and even alarming moment.
Mary’s radical openness and trust in God are at the forefront of her life. She truly lives out her Fiat, not just at the Annunciation but every moment. A woman doesn’t need to venture out on this fathering journey as a man does. Like Eve and Our Lady, a woman comes into the world ready to receive. Woman has been created in love and for love. Her mission is etched out in her heart.
Mothering is a constant journey of death to self. In bearing a child, a woman gives up her body as home and shelter for another. For many, that body goes on to nourish the baby. It’s a surrendering of the self in love for another. A woman’s receptivity opens up her heart in complete generosity.
The cross that Mary endures is not like the one of Christ’s, but instead, it is the piercing of her heart. Mary never left Christ, her Son, when so many of His friends abandoned Him. No, His Mother stayed and endured His Passion with Him. She gave up her Son.
One film scene that lingers in my heart is from Mel Gibson’s The Passion. The part when Christ falls and the Blessed Mother rushes out to her Son to comfort him. Immediately, there is a cut to when Jesus was a baby boy and fell, and His loving mother ran out to hold His bruised body.
“I’m here.” Mary cries out. Her face openly reveals the pain she feels on behalf of her Son.
Whether she be spiritual or physical, a mother gives of herself and puts behind her selfishness –her needs– for others. Every day she dies to herself for the good of another’s life.
She holds the bruised bodies from her husband to her child and whispers, “it’s okay. I’ve got you. I’m here.”
That gentleness of a woman, of a mother, is perhaps one of the most vital things in the world. For that gentleness can look directly at all the pain and hurt of the world and say, “I’m here.”
And that is what Our Lady does. She doesn’t try to take Our Lord’s cross away. She doesn’t try to get on the cross with Him. She states, “I’m here.” She understands that the Cross of Christ is the will of the Father, and she submits in total loving surrender, even though it pierces her heart.
The Pieta is the perfect image of Mary’s sacred, selfless, maternal suffering. She radiates agony and peaceful surrender as she embraces His Son’s dead body. She submits entirely to the will of God, and she does so in total love and gentleness.
Mary & Suffering
The Blessed Mother teaches us that sometimes we are not called to take away the pain, but rather, sometimes we are called to suffer through the agonies that God gives us in His wisdom and love.
We are called to humble submission.
The Blessed Mother never once rejects what Christ must do; she humbly accepts that He must walk to Calvary. She doesn’t run away from this hideous moment; she stays present with Christ and loves Him tenderly at the foot of the cross.
She is there, suffering with Him and consoling His most Sacred Heart.
As we enter into Holy Week, I cannot think of a more powerful yet humble example to follow. Instead of turning away from the wounds and aches in our lives, let us suffer through, take them to Christ at the foot of His Cross, and console His most adorable Heart like His Most Blessed Mother did.