In order to show us what the Martyrs suffered, they are represented with the instruments of their Martyrdom: St. Andrew with a cross; St. Paul with a sword. Mary is represented with her dead Son in her arms, for He alone was the cause of her Martyrdom; compassion for Him made her Queen of Martyrs.
St. Laurence Justinian considers Jesus on the road to Calvary with His Cross on His shoulders, turning to His Mother and saying: “Alas, My own dear Mother, whither goest thou? What a scene thou art going to witness! Thou wilt be agonised by My sufferings, and I by thine.” But the loving Mother would follow Him all the same, though she knew that by being present at His death she should have to endure tortures greater than any death. She saw that her Son carried the Cross to be crucified on it, and she also took up the cross of her Dolours and followed her Son to be crucified with Him.
Blessed Amadeus writes that “Mary suffered much more in the Passion of her Son than she would have done had she herself endured it; for she loved her Jesus much more than she loved herself.” Hence St. Ildephonsus did not hesitate to assert that “the sufferings of Mary exceeded those of all Martyrs united.” St. Anselm, addressing the Blessed Virgin, says: “The most cruel torments inflicted on the holy Martyrs were trifling or as nothing in comparison with thy Martyrdom, O Mary.” The same Saint adds: “Indeed, O Lady, in each moment of thy life thy sufferings were such, that thou couldst not have endured them, and wouldst have expired under them, had not thy Son, the source of life, preserved thee.” St. Bernardine of Sienna even says, that the sufferings of Mary were such, that had they been divided among all creatures capable of suffering, they would have caused their immediate death. Who, then, can ever doubt that the Martyrdom of Mary was without its equal, and that it exceeded the sufferings of all the Martyrs; since, as St. Antoninus says, “they suffered in the sacrifice of their own lives; but the Blessed Virgin suffered by offering the life of her Son to God, a life which she loved far more than her own.”
By this Martyrdom of thy beautiful soul, do thou obtain for me, O Mother of fair love, the forgiveness of the offences I have committed against my beloved Lord and God, and of which I repent with my whole heart. Do thou defend me in temptations, and assist me at the hour of my death, that, saving my soul through the merits of Jesus and thy merits, I may, after this miserable exile, go to Paradise to sing the praises of Jesus and thee for all eternity. Amen.
The Martyrs suffered under the torments inflicted on them by tyrants, but Our Lord, Who never abandons His servants, always comforted them in the midst of their sufferings. The love of God burning in their hearts rendered all their pains sweet and pleasing to them. So that the greater their love for Jesus Christ, the less did they feel their pains; and, in the midst of them all, the remembrance alone of the Passion of Christ sufficed to console them.
With Mary it was precisely the reverse; for the torments of Jesus were her Martyrdom, and love for Jesus was her only executioner. Here we must repeat the words of Jeremias: Great as the sea is thy destruction: who shall heal thee? As the sea is all bitterness, and has not within its bosom a single drop of water which is sweet, so also was the heart of Mary all bitterness, and without the least consolation: Who shall heal thee? Her Son alone could console her and heal her wounds; but how could Mary receive comfort in her grief from her crucified Son, since the love she bore Him was the whole cause of her Martyrdom?
“To understand, then, how great was the grief of Mary, we must understand,” says Cornelius a Lapide, “how great was the love she bore her Son.” But who can ever measure this love? Blessed Amadeus says that “natural love towards Him as her Son, and supernatural love towards Him as her God, were united in the heart of Mary.” These two loves were blended into one, and this so great a love, that William of Paris does not hesitate to assert that Mary loved Jesus “as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him.” So that, as Richard of St. Victor says, “as no other creature ever loved God as much as Mary loved Him, so there never was any sorrow like Mary’s sorrow.”
My sorrowful Mother, by the merit of that grief which thou didst feel in seeing thy beloved Jesus led to death, obtain me the grace, that I also may bear with patience the crosses God sends me. Happy indeed shall I be, if I only know how to accompany thee with my cross until death. Thou with thy Jesus–and You were both innocent–hast carried a far heavier cross; and shall I, a sinner, who have deserved hell, refuse to carry mine? Ah, Immaculate Virgin, from thee do I hope for help to bear all crosses with patience. Amen.
(Friday Meditation after Passion Sunday of Lent – by St Alphonsus Liguori)