27 April 2020

Mary and Easter: Part 2
Fr Kevin Alban reflects on Mary and Easter in this second part to his reflection. The first part is here.

On Good Friday in the account of the Passion we read from St John’s Gospel the poignant and iconic incident of the Mother of Jesus at the Foot of the Cross. 

Jesus’ mother stood near his cross. Her sister was also standing there with Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother. He also saw the follower he loved very much standing there. He said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the follower, “Here is your mother.” So after that, this follower took Jesus’ mother to live in his home. (John 19: 25-27)

This scene has given rise to production in the visual arts and in music, so moving and profound an image does it present. However, to appreciate it fully, we must connect it with the only other appearance of the Mother of Jesus in John’s gospel at the Wedding Feast at Cana. In that scene Jesus’ mother encourages him to begin his ministry and show his concern for the young couple who are about to see their banquet ruined. This scene is however, more than a lesson in how to cope with embarrassing social occasions. The key words are when Mary turns to the waiters and says. “Do whatever he tells you.” They are words that echo the fundamental relationship of the people of Israel and God himself – the obedience implied in the covenant that Moses announces.

At the foot of the Cross, Mary witnesses the climax of her son’s ministry and his concern now is for her directly. No longer does Jesus give his instructions to the waiters, but now he instructs the Beloved Disciple and his own mother. She must exercise her maternal role over the new community, symbolised by that disciple. He in turn must treat her as a mother with the same care and concern that Jesus showed. Both commands are quite challenging. Mary arrives at the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion accompanied by her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene. She must now move from the role she has with her relatives and friends to a new role at the heart of the praying Church, as Luke describes it. In the midst of the horror and grief of the crucifixion how does she react? What are her feelings and reactions? One of the most striking aspects of this scene is her silence. At Cana she spoke, she asked, she told the waiters to listen to her son. Now she is silent faced with her dying son who now instructs her. But her silence is a fertile one. She clearly takes her son’s words to heart and obeys his command. 

There are many ways we can draw on the figure of Mary and her role in the Easter season and I would suggest that she helps us move from a passive role in the Resurrection. We do contemplate the mystery of the Risen Lord and that is an important part of our prayer life. At the same time, Mary reminds us that the Resurrection challenges us in a number of ways. It tests the way we think about this mystery in our lives. It makes us think about our role in the Church. It asks us to change our lives. And Mary can be a model for all these demands. 

Our Lady, pray for us.

Let us pray..
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.