I never tire of its beauty and the emotion it evokes. As I enter the quiet, unlocked neighborhood church to pray away my fears from this Coronavirus, my gaze quickly settles on the hammered copper altarpiece beneath the tabernacle. The Mother is gently caressing the hand of her Son, with a kiss. He has been taken down from the cross of crucifixion. His dead body awaits burial. His wounds—they are my wounds. His wounds are yours as well. “Yet it was our infirmities that He bore. Our sufferings that He endured.” (Isaiah 53:4)
Imagine how she must have felt to see her son this way. How can you relate to her through your own disappointments and the grief of infertility?
For years I have contemplated this artistic rendition of Michelangelo’s Pieta, trying to grasp its meaning beyond the obvious: the strength of the Mother’s love willing to sacrifice her own safety to comfort her Child. Or perhaps it is to remind us that no pain of ours ever goes unnoticed, no matter what the circumstance. As she grieves the death of her Son, may this scene imprint on my heart the love that I see, and may I know it is for me, as well.
Place your own broken heart in the care of this Mother’s love.
Pain and suffering can be defined and described from the perspective of “Me” or “You.” Mine is so real to me, and your pain is so real to you. Is it possible to honor the uniqueness of each other’s struggle, joining our vulnerability together to become a “We?” YES. This is what we are encountering in these uncertain times. It is the power of sacrificial love that we are seeing through many stories of compassion and generosity in the midst of confusion and fear.
In the most unexpected time and places we often find the other part of the we.”
The challenge of experiencing pain is not to get stuck in it. Tunnel vision keeps me looking inward. We have to calm the nonstop interior chattering to hear the voices of those around us. During 2019, the I picked to focus on was HIDDEN. Instead of having a New Year’s resolution, I wanted to take notice of the ways I felt hidden—in other words, invisible. Reflecting from another vantage point, Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote, “We will always remain partially hidden to ourselves. Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we can see ourselves. The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves. “
When we come out of hiding, we offer someone else a chance to give us a gift of friendship.
Ironically, my hidden self needs the benefit of being open and available to others. Our current “shelter in-place” lifestyle will require us to think outside the box, perhaps after St. Francis of Assisi’s well-known exhortation, “For it is in giving that we receive…” The unknown artist of the copper altarpiece has given me a precious image to visualize. May this be a time of gratitude for what we do have, more than a yearning for what we (think) we should have.
Which of your lists is longer…the haves or the should haves?
During this time of “Stay at Home” I’m wishing that I had purchased shelving for all the books that are stacked throughout the house. Whichever book is closest to my resting spot is the one I direct my attention to. In the quiet calm of the morning, today I discovered this quote from Chris Padgett’s book Wholly Mary as I sat outdoors reading: “Mary did not become Mother as do all mothers. She became Mother because of her surrendered and freely given yes. She heard the word of God and embraced it within the fertile grounds of her heart.” As I stared at these words I knew that my own heart needs a spring cleaning. Perhaps we have all been given this moment in time to do just that.
As I ponder the Blessed Mother’s yes, I believe she is asking of me, and each of us, three things: To listen. To surrender. To embrace.
Let’s anticipate what might grow when our hearts become fertile. We might be surprised what happens.
Susan is a wife, mother of five – and one in heaven – and an empty-nester. She has a heart for those in grief and sorrow.