“Jesus desires to associate with His redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of His Mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of His redemptive suffering.”
– Catechism of the Catholic Church, para.618
There seems to be something lonely and deeply personal about our experience of Lent.
Even when we take part in Church services with many others, still it can seem that we are there alone; I think in a sense this is a grace, for it signifies that in some intimate way, the holiness of the season is touching us at a personal level – and perhaps we are experiencing just a little of the desolation of the Lord in His sufferings.
On another level, we are not alone at all – after all, the entire Catholic Church is making it’s way through the season and all it offers us. We are part of that one body and as part of it, we are those to whom redemption is offered. It is for each and every one of us that Christ died on the Cross.
But we are called not just to be redeemed, but to take part with Christ in the work of redemption – as His followers, He offers us a share in His own work. This is what Saint Paul means when he writes about ‘making up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of His Body, the Church’ (cf. Colossians 1:24). Of course, the sacrifice of Christ lacks nothing whatsoever; but regardless of this, we are invited to take an active part in His work of salvation.
This is never more so than in the case of the Lord’s own Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In that original holy Passion of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin was there taking part; and Her motherly Heart was indeed transfixed by the sword of sorrows, as Simeon had prophesied more than thirty years beforehand. What the Lord suffered in His Body, His Mother suffered with Him in Her soul. And in this mystical manner, Her sufferings were united to His in the deepest way. This is simply and profoundly expressed on the reverse of the Miraculous Medal, where the Cross is intertwined with the monogram ‘M’, and beneath which, the Sacred Heart of Jesus sits alongside the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This sums it all up quite perfectly.
And so at those times when our Lent seems a hard, a dark or a lonely place to be – remember that we do not walk that Way of the Cross alone. The Mother of the Lord is right there beside us and it is She who leads us gently by the hand, so that at every step along that Way, we might obtain grace from the Lord. As the Catechism notes, this is Her pre-eminent place in the plan of salvation, at the express will of the Father.
Bear in mind, too, that as much as the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin were redemptive, so ours can be redemptive also. Properly disposed, and united to the Crucified One, our sufferings obtain merit and they obtain grace – for us and for others. That grace transforms hearts, ours included.
Throughout this holy season of Lent, let us try to remember always that the Mother of the Lord accompanies us as we visit, in spirit, all the scenes of the Passion of Her Son, as truly as She visited them on foot during Her earthly life. In Her company and through Her intercession, may the Lord of the Cross grant us every grace and blessing.