As we prepare to enter Holy Week, and as I grapple with what BRIEF remarks I might make for Sunday’s homily following the reading of the Passion narrative, I ran across this wonderful piece. It is written by a woman named Rebecca Frech, with whom some of you may be familiar from the blogosphere. This piece is particularly poignant for anyone who has lost a child.
For your reading, then…
When Her Baby Died.
By Rebecca Frech
When I was a girl and even a young woman, I loved the Stations of the Cross during Lent. The prayers, the procession, the drama of the story, even the familiar smell of incense in the church would swirl me into the familiar litany. I could easily imagine myself a spectator for the great drama of Christ's last hours.
When I became a mother, my perspective began to change. I began to see the story through the heart of Mary instead. I was a mother myself and could well imagine all of her choked back sobs and smothering fear as she was forced to the sidelines, unable to protect her beloved son.
When my eldest son was still a tiny baby, I found that I could no longer make it through the Stations without tears streaming down my face. I ached for the agony of His mother. She knew the innocence of her sweet boy, and yet had to trust His Father completely.
How her emotions must have warred inside herself as she saw his public humiliation at Pilate's hands and heard her own people calling for the gruesome death of her child. These were her neighbors, her friends. These were the very people for whom her son was born. He was their Promised One, and they were screaming for his blood.
She saw him take the Cross into his battered arms. She knew from his face how great his pain and fatigue already were. Being no stranger to the reality of crucifixions, she knew what still lay ahead for him; she knew how far he still had to go. She was his mother, unable to touch or comfort her aching child. She witnessed his steady progress down the Way of Sorrows, watched her baby walking slowly, surely to his death.
I have listened to the priests recount his progress toward his triumphant end, and felt myself choking from her grief. To be a mother is to live with the fear that some horror will find our children. What a waking nightmare it must have been for her when it did.
When at last she got close to him and saw him face to face, what comfort did she offer him? What words did she say? Did she promise not to leave him? To give him that somehow magic presence mothers have? The way our children can be strengthened and find courage just because we are there? She saw her dying child, but she could not take him home. She could not wash away the dirt, bind his wounds, or kiss his aches away. Her baby was a man and she had to stand aside and love him to his death.
It is in the 5th and 6th stations where I can hear her pleas for him. Crying out to his Father, "He is your son and he's so tired.....please.....help him!" His Father heard her cries and sent Simon to help him bear the weight of his Cross.
Seeing his burdens lightened and his final steps eased, she wants only to see her beloved son. "He is my only son, let me see his face once more." and from the crowd, God sent Veronica to take her veil and wipe it clean.
Ever since I can remember, I have known this story with its villains and their plotting, the betrayal of friends, the reality of the Son of God crucified. It was only as an adult, a parent myself, that I discovered the other story of the Passion. How did I miss that in his moment of triumph, her baby died?