by Ken Rolheiser
Mourning and sorrow and Mary

Few of us have escaped the feeling of desolation and pain that comes with the passing of a loved one. We may not realize it, but this is a time to turn to Mary, the Mother of the crucified Christ.

How many times during life do we naturally turn to Mary with the words “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death”? 

As a child I remember the Roman Catholic church rituals of Holy Week. On Good Friday we opened the side altar to reveal a crucified Christ, wrapped in linen but bearing the marks of the crucifixion. This was our focus through the darkness of Holy Saturday until Easter Sunday Resurrection – the three days in the tomb.

The loss of a loved one creates a similar time of darkness and anguished sorrow until we can start our way back to hope or adjustment or some consolation that will begin righting the ship that has lost its moorings and is adrift in darkness.

The greater the loss, the more desperate our plight in this time of mourning and sorrow. I remember a good friend of mine losing her husband to suicide. I imagined the darkness of spirit and the desolation of those first few days. 

I was moved to compose a short reflection on the loss of someone through suicide, and the hope of a loving Jesus who greets him or her. I passed on the message to my friend, and I did not hear from her for some days. Eventually she sent a message of thanks. She said that she wondered where her husband was during those first few days of loss.

Mary was present through the suffering and death of her son Jesus. As a human mother we can imagine the anguish and sorrow she felt. The pieta of Michelangelo perhaps comes closest to expressing through art what we cannot fathom in reality - Mary holds the body of her son Jesus.

In that tragic hour of abandonment, the hope of the world dwelt in the heart of Mary and Mary alone. The disciples had fled. They did not grasp the meaning of the Resurrection Jesus had tried to teach them.

Mary’s heart alone was holding on to the promise of the Resurrection, holding on to the seed of the Church Christ established with Peter as its head. Mary believed in the Son of God. In her soul she knew that he would rise again.

And Mary felt all of the absolute pain of loss and the separation that death brought. That is why we can turn to her for help, for her intercession in our times of mourning when the pain is unbearable. 

Mary believed “He shall rise!” The French playwright Edmond Rostand, in “Chanteclair” says, “It is at night that it is beautiful to believe in the light.” At noon it takes little faith to believe in the light. But at three o’clock in the morning?

Mary held in her hands the physical defeat and saw the impossibility of the Resurrection, yet her faith was strong, and she said, “He will rise. He promised. I believe.” (with thanks to Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira’s “Why the Church Honors the Blessed Virgin on Saturday”).

(545 words)