The Third Word: Woman, Behold Your Son
The Third Word: Woman, Behold Your Son
An angel of light went out from the great white Throne of Light and descended over the plains of Esdraelon, past the daughters of the great kingdoms and empires, and came to where a humble virgin of Nazareth knelt in prayer, and said, "Hail, full of grace!" These were not words; they were the Word. "And the Word became flesh." This was the first Annunciation.
Nine months passed and once more an angel from that great white Throne of Light came down to shepherds on Judean hills, teaching them the joy of a "Gloria in excelsis", and bidding them worship Him Whom the world could not contain, a "Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger". Eternity became time, Divinity incarnate, God a man; Omnipotence was discovered in bonds. In the language of Saint Luke, Mary, "brought forth her firstborn Son... and laid Him in a manger." This was the first Nativity.
Then came Nazareth and the carpenter shop where one can imagine the Divine Boy, straightened until baptized with a baptism of blood, fashioning a little cross in anticipation of a great Cross that would one day be His on Calvary. One can also imagine Him in the evening of a day of labour at the bench, stretching out His arms in exhausted relaxation, while the setting sun traced on the opposite wall the shadow of a man on a cross. One can, too, imagine His mother seeing in each nail the prophecy and the telltale of a day when men would carpenter to a Cross the One who carpentered the Universe.
Nazareth passed into Calvary, and the nails of the shop into the nails of human malignity. From the Cross He completed His last will and testament. He had already committed His blood to the Church , His garments to His enemies, a thief to Paradise, and would soon commend His body to the grave and His soul to His Heavenly Father. To whom, then, could He give the two treasures which He loved above all others, Mary and John? He would bequeath them to one another, giving at once a son to His Mother and a Mother to His friend. "Woman!" It was the second Annunciation! The midnight hour, the silent room, the ecstatic prayer had given way to the mount of Calvary, the darkened sky, and a Son hanging on a Cross. Yet, what consolation! It was only an angel who made the first Annunciation, but it it God's own sweet voice which makes the second.
"Behold your son!" It was the second Nativity! Mary had brought forth her First-born without labour, in the cave of Bethlehem; she now brings forth her second-born, John, in the labours of the Cross. At this moment Mary is undergoing the pains of childbirth, not only for her second-born, who is John, but also for the millions who will be born to her in Christian ages as "Children of Mary". Now we can understand why Christ was called "her First-born". It was not because she was to have other children by the blood of flesh, but because she was to have other children by the blood of her heart. Truly, indeed, the Divine condemnation against Eve is now renewed against the new Eve, Mary, for she is bringing forth her children in sorrow.
Mary, then, is not only the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, but she is also out Mother, and this not by a title of courtesy, not by legal fiction, not by a mere figure of speech, but by the right of bringing us forth in sorrow at the foot of the Cross. It was by weakness and disobedience at the foot of the tree of Good and Evil that Eve lost the title, Mother of the Living; it is at the foot of the tree of the Cross that Mary, by sacrifice and obedience, regained for us the title, Mother of the Living. What a destiny to have the Mother of God as my Mother and Jesus as my Brother!
O Mary! As Jesus was born of you in the flesh at your first Nativity, so we have been born of you in the spirit at your second Nativity. Thus you gave birth to us and brought us into a new world of spiritual relationship with God as our Father, Jesus as our Brother, and you as our very own Mother! If a mother can never forget the child of her womb, then, Mary, you shall never forget us who are your own. As you were Co-Redemptrix in the acquisition of the graces of eternal life, be also our Co-Mediatrix in their dispensation. Nothing is impossible for you, because you are the Mother of Him who can do all things. If your Son did not refuse your request at the banquet of Cana, He will not refuse it at the celetial banquet where you are crowned as Queen of the Angels and Saints. Intercede therefore to your Divine Son, that He may change the waters of my weakness into the wine of your strength. Mary, you are the Refuge of Sinners! Pray for us, now prostrate at the foot of the Cross. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.