In other Martyrs, says Richard of St. Victor, the greatness of their love soothed the pains of their Martyrdom, but in the case of the Blessed Virgin, the greater her love was, the greater were her sufferings, and the more cruel was her Martyrdom. Where there is the greatest love there also is the greatest grief.
As other Martyrs, as Diez remarks, are all represented with the instrument of their sufferings–a St. Paul with a sword, a St. Andrew with a cross, a St. Laurence with a gridiron–Mary is represented with her dead Son in her arms; for Jesus Himself, and He alone, was the instrument of her Martyrdom, by reason of the love she bore Him. Richard of St. Victor confirms in a few words all that I have now said: “In other Martyrs, the greatness of their love soothed the pains of their Martyrdom; but in the Blessed Virgin, the greater was her love, the greater were her sufferings, the more cruel was her Martyrdom.”
It is certain that the more we love a thing, the greater is the pain we feel in losing it. We are more afflicted at the loss of a brother than at the loss of a beast of burden; one is more grieved at the loss of a son than at the loss of a friend. Now, Cornelius a Lapide says that “to understand the greatness of Mary’s grief at the death of her Son, we must understand the greatness of the love she bore Him.” But who can ever measure that love? Blessed Amadeus says that “in the heart of Mary were united two kinds of love for Jesus–supernatural love, by which she loved Him as her God, and natural love by which she loved Him as her Son.” So that these two loves became one; but so immense a love, that William of Paris even says that the Blessed Virgin “loved Him as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him.” Hence Richard of St. Victor affirms that “as there was no love like her love, so there was no sorrow like her sorrow.” And if the love of Mary towards her Son was immense, immense also must have been her grief in losing Him by death. “Where there is the greatest love,” says Blessed Albert the Great, “there also is the greatest grief.”
Let us now imagine to ourselves the Divine Mother standing near her Son expiring on the Cross, and justly applying to herself the words of Jeremias, thus addressing us: O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. (Lam. i. 12). O you who spend your lives upon earth, and pity me not, stop a while to look upon me, now that I behold my beloved Son dying before my eyes; and then see if, amongst all those who are afflicted and tormented, a sorrow is to be found like unto my sorrow. “No, O most suffering of all mothers,” replies St. Bonaventure, “no more bitter grief than thine can be found; for no son more dear than thine can be found.” Ah, “there never was a more amiable son in the world than Jesus,” says Richard of St. Laurence; nor has has there ever been a mother who more tenderly loved her son than Mary! But since there never has been in the world a love like unto Mary’s love, how can any sorrow be found like unto Mary’s sorrow?”
Therefore, St. Ildephonsus did not hesitate to assert, “to say that Mary’s sorrows were greater than all the torments of the Martyrs united, was to say too little.” And St. Anselm adds, that “the most cruel tortures inflicted on the holy Martyrs were trifling, or as nothing in comparison with the Martyrdom of Mary.” St. Basil of Seleucia also writes, “that as the sun exceeds all the other planets in splendour, so did Mary’s sufferings exceed those of all the other Martyrs.” The learned Father Pinamonti concludes with a beautiful sentiment. He says that so great was the sorrow of this tender Mother in the Passion of Jesus, that she alone could compassionate adequately the death of a God made Man.
(Saturday Meditation for the Third Week of Lent – by St Alphonsus Liguori)