Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I was out wandering again & stopped by the Grotto. I hadn't been in years, maybe as long as a decade. Though it seemed familiar to me, there was something different about being there this time. I followed a short trail past the Christus Garden & staked my spot on a bench. The focal point of the plaza is a replica of Michelangelo's Pieta which resides in a hand hewn niche'. Being in this place, I felt like my spiritual eyes needed time to adjust. I took in the scent of the towering pines & observed tourists with their cameras. A nun with a small child passed by. They both stopped before the niche', bowed their heads briefly & continued on. Others passed, some traipsing about aimlessly, some lighting candles & placing them on either side of the altar. A few people actually took to their knees, crossing themselves & offering prayers at the threshold of the niche'. I found this to be deeply moving.

I remained seated, gazing intently at this scene of Mary holding the body of her Son, Jesus. I wondered at the feasibility of this scene occurring. Would she have been allowed to hold Jesus' gruesome, bloodied body when it was lowered from the cross or would He have been wrapped up & prepared for burial post haste? They didn't have much time with the Sabbath coming. Did Mary respond like other Jewish women when faced with the death of a loved one? That is, did she wail & grieve with theatrics? Did the other Marys join in? Or was she strong & steadfast, full of peace & "knowing"? Did she know He would die this way? Did Jesus give her the heads up? I'm under the impression that someone ran to her house to tell her Jesus had been arrested... Maybe she was already in bed, sound asleep. Imagine how her heart must have raced or sank or both as she gathered herself together & bolted out the door after her messenger. There's no record of this in the Bible of course, but what if? And when she was finally able to see her Son, was it only after He had been scourged, mocked, beaten? Was He already dragging His cross up the road? Imagine what frenzy & anguish she must have felt. Perhaps she had to be restrained by a Centurion or two.

I thought about Mary & her companions... when the sky grew dark & the quake shook the earth, did they know the veil had been rent in the temple? Probably not. Did they know the dead were being resurrected & vacating tombs all over? I doubt it. The physical manifestations of nature probably just added to the darkness & quaking in their own hearts. What if Jesus really did die? Did they watch Him in the final throes of death, secretly hoping He would be spared the inevitable? Did they fear all hope was lost when He breathed His last? Could they really bring themselves to trust that He would come back to life? Was the scene as silent, stoic & strangely ethereal as our modern day narratives imply or was it bone crushingly human?

I've always tried to contemplate the crucifixion by looking at Jesus on the cross all mangled, but the meaning escapes me. When I see through the eyes of Mary or the others however, when I look through the depth of their relationship with Jesus, I can acknowledge the gravity of that day & the profound consequence its had on my life as well.

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