Our Lady’s Way of the Cross
This Lent, many of us join the ancient tradition of praying the Way of the Cross. We may often be moved to pity and contrition, the Holy Spirit willing. Yet have we ever wondered: how can we feel less like passive, if sympathetic onlookers, and more like true participants in the sufferings of Christ?
The answer is simple: if we journey with Our Lady, she will bring us close to Christ—even into His very Heart. Her love for Him surpasses all human love. She was not a mere observer, even though she had to stand and watch. For it is she of all humans who is closest to Him, even when He traveled, for He never left her heart for an instant. And it is she who participated in His suffering most profoundly, living as if dying in her grief. Her love for Him surpasses all our love combined; and her unimaginable love for us will bring us to Him unfailingly.
The chant of the Stabat Mater (“At the Cross Her Station Keeping”), often recited at public devotions of the Way, is a hymn of grief and mourning. It is hard not to shed tears ourselves when we hear its words, imagining Our Lady weeping brokenly at her Son's Cross. Yet this is not enough to convey the depth of her love and participation in His sufferings. Our Lady walked the Way with Christ, meeting Him once; and after, when she could not reach out to console him with her arms, she suffered with and consoled Our Lord at every moment in her heart. Her grief was in proportion to her love for her Son; we cannot compass the agony she endured at her Son’s torments, an agony compounded by her knowledge that her own grief caused Him the greatest of torments. St. Bernard, among many other saints, tells us that in the torment of the Passion, she died with Him, yet without dying, “for death was her very life.” She died with Him in her heart, while living in the most extreme agony of suffering with Him.
Our Lady is both our model and our mother as we renew our practice of the Way of the Cross. The Marian antiphon Ave Regina Caelorum (“Hail, O Queen of Heaven Enthroned”) is sung nightly throughout the Lenten season; it is a spot of joy in a season associated often with sorrow. Furthermore, we are fortunate this year to have two First Saturdays in Lent to fulfill the devotion requested by Our Lady at Fatima. The joy of the Annunciation also falls within Lent, celebrating the Virgin Mary’s full participation in God’s will, and the Incarnation. This “co-incidence” (for it is no coincidence) reminds us that the Incarnation is part of Christ’s journey to His Passion and Death. And finally, the Friday of Sorrows, often neglected today, is celebrated in the 1962 liturgical calendar one week before Good Friday. It is a companion to Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15) and uses the Stabat Mater as a sequence before the Gospel.
These observances and devotions remind us that Our Lady is always with us on the Way of the Cross—and that our own crosses might be borne with her aid, she whose love for us surpasses ours for her in every aspect. Our Lady walks the Way with her Son, and thus with us, all Lent long.
Will we choose to walk with Our Lady this Lent? For our own sake, would not the penances of Lent be easier with our Blessed Mother at our side? And—will we console her heart, and thus the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, with our love and devotion, as we meditate upon the Way of the Cross?