Meditation on a Meditation: At the Foot of the Cross

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At the foot of the cross, we were so much the object of thought of both mother and Son that the Savior looking down on her with love as he was dying spoke to her a last time. He spoke, not of himself, nor of her, but of us only. … He presented us all to Mary in the person of John as he said to her: “Woman, behold your son.” — Blessed Basil Moreau (JTC p. 129, Sermons)

It is a common wisdom that at times of physical or emotional suffering there is a kind of relief that comes when we focus on the suffering of another—when we minister to others in need. The Works of Mercy are offered for the sake of another but also have the effect of lessening our own suffering.

There are several devotions which help focus this sympathetic response in us. I first experienced the power of these meditations while on a day-long Stations of the Cross which passed through the neighborhoods of Canto Grande, Peru. Arriving at the fourth station where Jesus meets his mother, an image of Mary was brought out to meet our traveling image of Christ crucified. An outbreak of tears throughout the crowd released countless burdens as the people witnessed the power of a mother’s sorrow at the suffering of her son.

In my own life, the contemplation of Mary’s sorrows at the foot of the cross has many times relieved blinding physical pain no medication could touch.

Typical of his style of meditation, Father Moreau whose personal prayer took him often to the foot of the cross, turns the meditation around. No longer seeing the scene as a bystander or even through Mary’s eyes, he brings his reader to Jesus’ own vantage. He shows us that in Christ’s moment of deepest physical, emotional and spiritual pain, his concern is for us. We, caught in our own preoccupations, are the focus of his compassion. And, in this moment, he gives us his mother as our own, that in the contemplation of her and her son, our minds and hearts may be raised to their sublime love, our burdens lifted, our worries surrendered, our faith increased, and our hope magnified—a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Fr. J. Steele, CSC

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