St. Bonaventure asks: “O Lady, tell me–where didst thou stand? Was it only at the foot of the Cross? Ah, much more than this. Thou wert on the Cross itself, crucified with thy Son!” Mary suffered in her heart all that Jesus suffered in His Body. Who shall heal thee, O Mary, since that very Son Who alone could give thee consolation was by His sufferings the sole cause of thine.
St. Bonaventure remarks that “those wounds which were scattered over the Body of our Lord, were all united in the single heart of Mary.” Thus was our Blessed Lady, through the compassion of her loving heart for her Son, scourged, crowned with thorns, insulted, and nailed to the Cross. Whence the same Saint, considering Mary on Mount Calvary, present at the death of her Son, questions her in these words: “O Lady, tell me, where didst thou stand? Was it only at the foot of the Cross? Ah, much more than this, thou wast on the Cross itself, crucified with thy Son.” Richard of St. Laurence, on the words of the Redeemer, spoken by Isaias the Prophet: I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me (Is. lxiii. 3), says, “It is true, O Lord, that in the work of human redemption Thou didst suffer alone, and that there was not a man who sufficiently pitied Thee; but there was a woman with Thee, and she was Thine own Mother; she suffered in her heart all that Thou didst endure in Thy body.”
But all this is saying too little of Mary’s sorrows, since she suffered more in witnessing the sufferings of her beloved Jesus than if she herself had endured all the outrages and death of her Son. Erasmus, speaking of parents in general, says that “they are more cruelly tormented by their children’s sufferings than by their own.” This is not always true, but in Mary it evidently was so; for it is certain that she loved her Son and His life beyond all comparison more than herself or a thousand lives of her own. Therefore, Blessed Amadeus rightly affirms that “the afflicted Mother, at the sorrowful sight of the torments of her beloved Jesus, suffered far more than she would have done had she herself endured His whole Passion.” The reason is evident, for, as St. Bernard says, “the soul is more where it loves than where it lives.” Our Lord Himself had already said the same thing: where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke xii. 34). If Mary then, by love, lived more in her Son than in herself, she must have endured far greater torments in the sufferings and death of her Son than she would have done had the most cruel death in the world been inflicted upon her.
The Martyrs suffered under the torments inflicted on them by tyrants; but the love of Jesus rendered their pains sweet and agreeable. St. Vincent was tortured on a rack, torn with pincers, burnt with red-hot iron plates; but, as St. Augustine remarks, “it seemed as if it was one who suffered, and another who spoke.” The Saint addressed the tyrant with such energy and contempt for his torments, that it seemed as if one Vincent suffered and another spoke; so greatly did God strengthen him with the sweetness of His love in the midst of all he endured. St. Boniface had his body torn with iron hooks; sharp-pointed reeds were thrust between his nails and flesh; melted lead was poured into his mouth; and in the midst of all this he was heard saying, “I give Thee thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ.” A St. Mark and a St. Marcellinus were bound to a stake, their feet pierced with nails; and when the tyrant addressed them, saying: “Wretches, see to what a state you are reduced; save yourselves from these torments,” they answered: “Of what pains, of what torments dost thou speak? We never enjoyed so luxurious a banquet as in the present moment, in which we joyfully suffer for the love of Jesus Christ.” St. Laurence suffered, but when roasting on the gridiron, “the interior flame of love,” says St. Leo, “was more powerful in comforting his soul than the flame without in torturing his body.” Hence love rendered him so courageous that he mocked the tyrant, saying: “If thou desirest to feed on my flesh, a part is sufficiently roasted; turn it, and eat.” But how, in the midst of so many torments, in that prolonged death, could the Saint thus rejoice? “Ah!” replies St. Augustine, “inebriated with the wine of Divine love, he felt neither torments nor death.”
So that the more the holy Martyrs loved Jesus, the less did they feel their torments and death; and the sight alone of the sufferings of a crucified God was sufficient to console them. But was our suffering Mother also consoled by love for her Son, and the sight of His torments? Ah, no; for this very Son Who suffered was the whole cause of them, and the love she bore Him was her only and most cruel executioner; for Mary’s whole Martyrdom consisted in beholding and pitying her innocent and beloved Son, Who suffered so much. Hence, the greater her love for Him the more bitter and inconsolable was her grief. Great as the sea is thy destruction; who shall heal thee? (Lam. ii. 13). Ah, Queen of Heaven, love hath mitigated the sufferings of other Martyrs, and healed their wounds; but who hath ever soothed thy bitter grief? Who hath ever healed the too cruel wounds of thy heart? Who shall heal thee, since that very Son Who could give Thee consolation was, by His sufferings, the sole cause of thine, and the love which thou didst bear Him was the whole ingredient of Thy Martyrdom.
(Saturday Meditation for the Second Week of Lent – St Alphonsus Liguori)