|The image of Our Lady of Sorrows, located next to the altar of Calvary inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.|
The following reflection on the events of Holy Saturday was written by
Fr Eamon Kelly, LC, Vice Chargé of the Pontifical Institute
Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.
The typical Jerusalem Jewish Sabbath
is particularly quiet. Even in 2010 there are hardly any
cars on the streets. No machines work the construction sites.
Shops are closed. Everyone is at home, resting quietly, at
ease. This is all the more on the Sabbath of
the Passover week. Now add the eerie quiet, typically following
tragedy, when people are numbed by the violent death of
a close family member.
Mary wakes up on Holy Saturday
morning, if she went to sleep at all! What mother
can go to sleep the night of her son’s criminal
death! People remember last words and keep mulling over them.
His last words begin to come back to her. She
cannot let them go. The charity-filled tones in which he
spoke embedded them even more deeply into her consciousness, and
her pure and perceptive heart noticed those nuances. She ponders
them continually and they are to her advantage. Yesterday she
saw his body placed in the tomb and the sorrow
is great. His Good Friday continues in her Holy Saturday
and in ours.
So often we Christians go through our various
“Holy Saturdays.” Again and again we go through heavy moments
and barely survive or are badly bleeding or seriously wounded.
We do know there will be some solution but we
can’t really wait. We need something now to get through
all this. We are once again living a personal Holy
Saturday. Bad news and bad events strike quickly. Calvary was
over in hours. But Holy Saturdays often lasts a long
At such times it might be to our advantage to
draw close to Mary as she ponders these last minutes
and words of Jesus’ life. We will need to use
our brain to reflect and capture even a little bit
of the reality. Mary picked up the state of his
soul much more intuitively as mothers, and particularly she, are
capable of doing.
“Today you will be with me in
Paradise!” (Lk. 23:43)
How can he think of “Paradise,” let alone
utter the word with all his gaping wounds and butchered
body, the pain and, even worse still, the total rejection
of his person as his chosen people’s leaders incite them
to demand his crucifixion and Barabbas’ release? His body and
soul are experiencing an invasion of hell and yet his
heart has the peace of victory declaring “Paradise is yours
today alongside me.”
The smart thief really knows that it
is “because of” him, not only ”with” him! That’s why
he asked him in the first place. What peace must
reign in his heart to be able to say these
words with such certainty and evidently so contradicted by the
When Maximilian Kolbe intoned hymns of divine praise
in the hunger bunker where he was being starved to
death in August 1942, his fellow inmates probably sensed some
measure of this same confidence which Mary felt at these
final Calvary words. The inmates’ paradigms are changed. Beyond the
negative violence, other forces are also at work: Christ’s pervading
peace in the dark night of Auschwitz.
Let’s penetrate beyond the
words Christ utters and ponder our way with Mary into
his heart of victory. Those dying cancer victims, like my
mother in 1997, who give so much joy and hope
to the family around them are making this Christ present
in our midst once again. Peace reigns in his heart.
behold your Son. … behold your mother” (Jn. 19:26).
was thinking of us.
Despite his wounds!
It is not
easy to think of others’ needs when one has a
bad toothache! And he had more than a bad toothache,
yesterday. What interior self-dominion reigned in his heart and transcended
so much pain as to be able to consider others!
Extraordinary inner peace enables this focus on the situation of
others. He is sufficiently serene interiorly to be able to
be centered on others’ needs. His deep serenity particularly touches
Mary’s perceptive heart in these words directed to her. And
the fact that her new son, John, is there now
reminds her of this word, its tone and his heart
from which it sprang. Her heart is broken with this
new birth but from his broken heart some of that
peace flows to hers.
“It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). The work
his Father gave him to finish (Jn. 4:34).
all about his sense of mission and purpose. This statement
from the dying Jesus reveals two sources of peace.
a very clear inkling of what was to come grew
in him as he read the Psalms, Isaiah, Zachariah, etc.
So, he was able to accept this as he shows
time and time again: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Mt 16),
“The Son of Man must suffer …” “Not my will
but yours be done!” In order to be faithful to
his mission he had reckoned with hard times that would
surely come. He had already established “peace” with this future.
this mission is completely fulfilled to the last detail, the
hardest mission ever assigned to anyone in all of history.
What peace must have filled his heart, if we enjoy
the relief and peace from minor duties accomplished relatively well!
Mary registered this peace-filled prayer of thanksgiving – that was
the tone. He completed his life in peace. A mother
wants her child to be at peace. Mary knows her
own mission is not complete. Yet in some way it
is, because she has shared in his mission. She can
go ahead with her the rest of her mission with
some of his peace in her heart.
“Father into your hands
I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:46).
Search these words for any
trace of rebellion, defiance or complaint over so much injustice
suffered! It’s hard to find a slightest sign. He simply
is above any such reaction. He transcends the horrible agony
and the intentionally intimidating aggression and simply offers up his
life, laying it down into his Father’s hands.
No greater self-gift.
No greater peace.
At that moment Mother Mary must be
overwhelmed by her son’s passing. How could it be otherwise
for any mother! Yet now on Holy Saturday, as she
gradually comes out of the dazed numbness of pain, these
words come back and somehow she can also second this
self-gift without complaint.
In the midst of the raging seas
and the heated assaults on what we are and hold
dearest, Christ’s peace on Calvary can also reach our hearts,
especially if we live our sundry Holy Saturdays close to
Mary, taking her into our home (cf. Jn. 19:27). Let’s
ponder these words with her to our great advantage.