Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Holy Week 2018 | The Seven Last Words from the Cross Part 3: Woman, Behold Your Son

Holy Week 2018 Seven Last Words from the Cross Reflection | Wednesday

Previous Seven Last Words from the Cross Posts:

Father, Forgive Them, For They Know Not What They Do
Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise

Third Words Focus

“Woman, behold, your son! ... Behold, your mother!”

John 19:25-27

25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
27 Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Third Reflection Readings

Jesus emptied himself. Mary emptied herself. The Greek word for this self-emptying is kenosis, it is the surrender of all that we hold most dear and, for Mary, it was the surrender of her dearest. Long before they looked at one another on Golgotha's place of strangest glory, they had been prepared by many little surrenders for this surrender by which all was restored. I once heard it put well: "Once his public ministry had begun, Jesus had nowhere to rest his head, and Mary had nowhere to rest her heart." And now it had come to this, she pondered in her broken heart, in her heart that by its breaking was made whole. That is the way it is with discipleship. The way of the cross is the way of broken hearts.

And Mary, what was she thinking then? They were likely looking at one another face to face. Much later, beginning in the Middle Ages, artists would depict a very tall cross, with Mary and the others far below at its foot. But historians believe that the cross was probably about seven feet tall. They were face to face. The sweat, the blood, the tearing tendons, the twitching, the wrenching, the bulging eyes – she would have seen it all quite clearly, as clearly as she saw him so long ago when she held him safely to her breast. When he was twelve years old they came to Jerusalem, and now she had accompanied him once more, to celebrate his last Passover there outside the walls of Jerusalem. But this time he is the Passover lamb. This time they would not be going home again.

In all this, Mary was following her son, step by inexorable step. Her kenosis mirrored his kenosis, her life's song was entirely attuned to his, a letting go into the vastness of whatever will be trusting that at the end will be glory. Now his hour had come, and his hour was completely hers. At Cana, with a different idea of his glory in mind, she had tried to rush this hour. No more. Here, here at the cross, this is how it had to be.

+ Fr. Richard John Neuhaus

Jesus's command that Mary should "behold your son" is to ask Mary to see that the one born of her body was born to be sacrificed so that we might live. As Gregory of Nyssa put it, "If one examines this mystery, one will prefer to say not that his death was a consequence of his birth, but that the birth was undertaken so that he could die." When God tested Abraham by commanding the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham's "Here I am" (Genesis 22:1) did not result in Isaac's death. Mary's "Here I am," however, could not save her son from being the one born to die on a cross.

Jesus's "behold your son" asked Mary to witness the immolation of the Son, to enter the darkness that is the cross, yet to hold fast to the promises she had received from the Spirit that this is the one who will scatter the proud, bring down the powerful from their thrones, fill the hungry with good things, and fulfill the promises made to Abraham and his descendants. Her son, the Messiah, will do all this from the cross. (And) Mary, the new Eve, becomes for us the firstborn of a new reality, of a new family, that only God could create.

+ Stanley Hauerwas, Cross-Shattered Christ 

In the Greek, we are told that the Beloved Disciple, traditionally called John, took the mother of Jesus to himself that very hour, or that he took her "to his own that very hour." What is actually happening in this word from the Cross is much more significant for us on this very day than we might have realized. The saying is about the new community that comes into being through the power of Jesus. When the Christian community is working the way it is supposed to, people are brought together who have absolutely nothing in common, who may have different views on things, who may even dislike each other. The Christian community when it is empowered by the Holy Spirit comes into being without regard to differences. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

In giving His mother to the disciple, Jesus is causing a new relationship to come into existence that did not exist before. The disciple and the woman are not only individual people here. They are symbolic: they represent the way that family ties are transcended in the church by the ties of the Spirit. That is why Jesus calls His mother "woman" in all of the Gospel of John. He is setting aside the blood relationship in order to create a much wider family. May we who belong to Christ be newly committed to our calling, so that blood and race and class may be truly transcended in His Name, for our good and for His glory.

Reflection Song

By Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa
2013 A.D.

Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man.
In His living, in His suffering,
Never trace nor stain of sin.
See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man!
Christ the great and sure fulfillment

Of the law; in Him we stand.

Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree,
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption!
See the Father’s plan unfold!
Bringing many sons to glory,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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