Mulier, ecce filius tuus … Ecce Mater tua (John, xix. 26, 27.)
Considerations on the Words of Jesus Spoken on the Cross
Mulier, ecce filius tuus … Ecce Mater tua (John, xix. 26, 27.)
“Women, behold thy son … Behold thy mother.”
We read in St. Mark that on Calvary there were present many women, who watched Jesus on the cross, but from afar off, among whom was Mary Magdalen. (Erant autem et mulieres de longe aspicientes, inter quas erat Maria Magdalene) – Mark. Xv.40. We believe, also, that among these holy women was the divine mother also; while St. John syas that the Blessed Virgin stood, not afar off, but close to the cross, together with Mary of Cleophas and Mary Magdalen. (Stabant autem juxta crucem Jesu Mater ejus, et sorror Matris ejus, Maria Cleophae, et Maria Magadalene.) –John. Xix. 25. Euthymius attempts to reconcile this discrepancy, and says that the Holy Virgin, seeing her son drawing nearer to death, came from among the rest of the women close up to the cross, overcoming her fear of the soldiers who surrounded it, and enduring with patience all the insults and repulses which she had to suffer from these soldiers who watched the condemned, in order that she might draw near her beloved Son. Thus also a learned author, who wrote the life of Jesus, says, “There were his friends, who watched him from afar; but the Holy Virgin, the Magdalen, and another Mary stood close to the cross, with John; wherefore Jesus, seeing his mother and John, spoke to them the words above mentioned. Truly it was the mother who not even in the terror of death deserted her Son. Some other mothers fly when they see their children dying; their love does not suffer them to be present at their death without the power of relieving them; but the holy mother, the nearer her Son approached to death, the nearer she drew to his cross.”
The afflicted mother thus was standing close to the cross; and as the Son sacrificed His life, so she offered her pangs for the salvation of men, sharing with perfect resignation all the pains and insults which her Son suffered in his death. A writer says that they who would describe her fainting at the foot of the cross dishonour the constancy of Mary. She was the strong woman, who neither fainted not wept, as St. Ambrose writes: “I read of her standing, but not of her weeping.” (Stantem lego, flentem non lego.)
The pain which the Holy Virgin endured in the Passion of her Son exceeded all the pains which a human heart can endure; but the grief of Mary was not a barren grief, like that of other mothers who behold the sufferings of their children; it was a fruitful grief, and through her love (according to the opinion of St. Augustine), as she was the natural mother of our head Jesus Christ, so she then became the spiritual mother of us who are his faithful members, in co-operating with him by her love in causing us to be born, and to be the children of the Church.
St. Bernard writes that upon Mount Calvary both of these two great martyrs, Jesus and Mary, were silent, because the great pain that they endured took from them the power of speaking. The mother looked upon her Son in agony upon the cross, and the Son looked upon the mother in agony at the foot of the cross, and torn with compassion for the pains He suffered.
Mary and John then stood nearer to the cross than the other women, so that they could more easily hear the words and mark the looks of Jesus Christ in so great a tumult. St. John writes: When Jesus then saw His mother and the disciple standing, whom He loved, he saith to His mother: Woman, behold thy son. (Cum vidisset ergo Jesus Matrem et Discipuum quem diligebat … ) – John, xix. 26 But if Mary and John were accompanied by other women, why is it said that Jesus beheld his mother and the disciple, as if the other women had not been perceived by him? St. John Chrysostom writes that love always makes us look more closely at the object of our love. (Semper amoris oculus acutius intuetur – Sermon 78) And St. Ambrose in a similar way writes, It is natural that we should see those we love before any others. (Morale est ut, quos diligimus, videamus prae caeteris) The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget that in order that Jesus might look upon Mary, who stood by the side of the cross, He was obliged first to compress His eyebrows in order to remove the blood from His eyes, which prevented Him from seeing. (Nec ipse me adstantem cruci vedere potuit, nisi sanguine expresso per ciliorum compressionem)
Jesus said to her, Woman, behold thy Son! With His eyes pointing out St. John, who stood by His side. But why did He call her woman, and not mother? He called her “woman,” we may say, because, drawing now near to death, He spoke as if departing from her, as if He had said, Woman, in a little while I shall be dead, and thou wilt have no Son upon earth; I leave thee, therefore, John, who will serve and love thee as a son And from this we many understand that St. Joseph was already dead, since if he had been still alive he would not have been separated from his wife.
All antiquity asserts that St. John was ever a virgin, and specially on this account he was given as a son to Mary, and honored in being made to occupy the place of Jesus Christ; on which account the holy Church sings, “To him a virgin He commended his Virgin Mother.” (Cui Matrem Virginem virgini commendavit.) And from the moment of the Lord’s death, as it is written, St. John received Mary into his own house, and assisted and obeyed her throughout her life, as if she had been his own mother. (Et ex illa hora accepit eam Discipulus in sua) – John, xix. 27. Jesus Christ willed that this beloved disciple should be an eye-witness of His death, in order that he might more confidently bear witness to it in his Gospel, and might say, He that saw it has borne witness; (Qui vidit, testimonium perhibuit.) – John, xix. 35. and in his Epistle, What we have seen with out eyes, that we both testify and make known to you. (Quod vidimus oculis nostris …, testamur et annuntiamus.) 1 John, i.1. And on this account the Lord, at the time when the other disciples abandoned Him, gave to St. John strength to be present until His death in the midst of so many enemies.
But let us return to the Holy Virgin, and examine more deeply the reason why Jesus called Mary woman, and not mother. By this expression He desired to show that she was the great woman foretold in the Book of Genesis, who would crush the serpent’s head: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. (Inimicitias ponam inter te et Mulierem, et semen tuum et semen illius: ipsa conteret caput tuum, et tu insidiaberis calcaneo ejus.) – Gen, iii. 15. [*additional note: please check your version of the bible, all the words referring to her and woman have been changed deliberately by luther and his gang (forces against the Church) in protestant translations of the old testament. The original Latin vulgate edition (The Douay-Rheims version is given here)] It is doubted by none that this woman was the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, by means of her Son, would crush the head of Satan, - if it be not more correct to say that her Son, by means of her who would bear Him, would do this. Naturally was Mary the enemy of the serpent, because Lucifer was haughty, ungrateful and disobedient, while She was humble, grateful and obedient. It is said, She shall crush thy head, because Mary, by means of her Son, beat down the pride of Lucifer, who lay in wait for the heel of Jesus Christ, which means His holy humanity, which was the part of him which was nearest to the earth; while the Saviour by His death had the glory of conquering him, and of depriving him of that empire which, through sin, he had obtained over the human race.
God said to the serpent, I will put enmities between thy seed and the woman. This shows that after the fall of man, through sin, notwithstanding all that would be done by the redemption of Jesus Christ, there would be two families and two posterities in the world, the seed of Satan signifying the family of sinners, his children corrupted by him, and the seed of Mary signifying the Holy Family, which includes all the just, with their head Jesus Christ. Hence Mary was destined to be the mother both of the head and of the members, namely, the faithful. The Apostle writes: Ye are all one in Christ Jesus; and if ye are Christ’s, then ye are the seed of Abraham. (Omnes enim vos unum estis in Christo Jesu; si autem vos Christi, ergo semen Abrahae estis.) –Gal. iii. 28. Thus, Jesus Christ and the faithful are one single body, because the head cannot be divided from the members, and these members are all spiritual children of Mary, as they have the same spirit of her Son according to nature, who was Jesus Christ. Therefore, St. John was not called John, but the disciple beloved by the Lord, that we might understand that Mary is the mother of every good Christian who is beloved by Jesus Christ, and in whom Jesus Christ lives by his Spirit. This was expressed by Origen, when he said, “Jesus said to Mary, Behold thy son, as if He had said, This is Jesus, whom thou hast borne, for he who is perfected lives no more himself, but Christ lives in him.” (Dixitque Jesus Matri: “Ecced filius tuus: perinde acsi dixisset: Ecce hic Jesus quem genuisti. – Etenim, qui perfectus est, non amplius vivit ipse, sed in ipso vivit Christus.)
Denis the Carthusian writes that in the Passion of Jesus Christ the breast of Mary was filled with the blood which flowed from His wounds, in order that with it she might nourish her children. And he adds that his divine mother by her prayers and merits, which she especially acquired by sharing in the death of Jesus Christ, obtained for us a participation in the merits of the Passion of the Redeemer. (Promeruit ut per preces ejus ac merita, meritum passionis Christi communicetur hominibus)
O suffering Mother! Thou knowest that I have deserved hell; I have no hope of being saved, except by sharing the merits of the death of Jesus Christ; Thou must pray for me, that I may obtain this grace; and I pray thee to obtain it for me by the love of that Son whom thou sawest bow His head and expire on Calvary before thy eyes. O queen of martyrs, O advocate of sinners, help me always, and especially in the hour of my death! Even now I seem to see the devils, who, in my last agony, will strive to make me despair at the sight of my sins; oh! abandon me not then, when thou seest me thus assaulted; help me with thy prayers, and obtain for me confidence and holy perseverance. And because then, when my speech is gone, and perhaps my senses, I cannot invoke thy name, and that of thy Son, I now call upon thee; Jesus and Mary, I recommend my soul unto you.
O all ye dearest Angels and Saints, please pray for me, intercede for me!
and, this is good.
Parce Domine, parce populo tuo: ne in aeternum irascaris nobis.