On the Women of Jerusalem Who Wept for Our Lord

Christ carrying the cross, stumbling and looking back towards three weeping women on the right, while a soldier leans over to strike His face, others follow behind and another walks ahead, pulling Christ with a rope and pointing ahead. 1795 Hand-coloured mezzotint with etching, British Museum

A Lenten Reflection for Wednesday after Passion Sunday from Holy Cross Publications

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On the Women of Jerusalem Who Wept for Our Lord.

There is none to comfort her among all them that were dear to her; all her friends have despised her and have become her enemies.” (Lam. i. 2.)

To-day, my soul, while you recall to mind these words of the prophet, imagine that you see our Lord walking with tottering, unsteady steps along the way of the cross; see how His wandering glances look wistfully around, soliciting some sign of compassion, asking if He is not to meet with one pitying soul on His painful way, if His eyes are never to rest on any but scornful, scowling, savage countenances. For a long time Jesus sought in vain for any one who would compassionate Him; at length He encounters some; they are devout women who draw near to Him.

1st. Consider that Veronica approaches the Saviour, handing to Him her veil wherewith to wipe His face, and other pious women also approach who weep for Him. Here contemplate in the first and foremost place the courage displayed by Veronica and the holy women who compassionate our Lord. A weak woman makes her way through the crowd of savage executioners; she ventures to offer a napkin to the despised outcast; she heeds not the angry looks of the Pharisees, the mocking jests of the soldiers; nor do her companions shrink from publicly avowing their sympathy with One who was regarded by all as an object of hatred and aversion. Here, my soul, you see the might, the strength of compassion. Pitying love, the true love of one’s neighbor, hastens first of all to the way of the cross; it seeks out primarily our suffering brethren and sisters, and abounds in tender sympathy even for those who are rejected and despised by all; for unhappy sinners, malefactors, criminals condemned to death. O my soul, if you cannot help admiring the conduct of these compassionate women, ask yourself if the same pitying charity towards your neighbor urges you also to go out onto the Way of the Cross, to go there where an opportunity is offered of giving assistance, consolation, encouragement to the afflicted; for thus will our Lord’s words be fulfilled: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples if you have love one for another.” (St. John xiii. 35.)

2d. Magdalen is one of the women who show their sympathy with our Lord on the mournful way of the cross. Heartbroken, intoxicated as it were with grief, almost fainting from the excess of her emotion, every moment adding to her anguish, heedless of the jeers and taunts of the executioners and soldiers, she follows the Saviour bearing His cross. As Veronica represents compassionate charity, so Magdalen represents penitent charity on the way of the cross. She is indeed fully conscious that her sins form part of the heavy burden weighing on the tortured Redeemer, that her soul has to answer for part of His unspeakable suffering, and for this reason she feels all the more stimulated to compassionate Him and as far as possible to share in His Passion. My soul, if the pity that stirs your heart urges you to aid others on their via crucis, let contrite, penitent love induce you to walk willingly on your own way of the cross; not merely in compunction and penance to meditate upon our Lord’s Passion, but to bear a part of it with Him and for Him, by cheerfully practising the penances prescribed by your Rule, required by your calling, and voluntarily performing special acts of mortification. Thus you will not imitate Magdalen only by straying in the path of sin, but in climbing the steep path of Calvary.

3d. The Blessed Virgin Mary is also one of the women who show sympathy with our Lord on the mournful way of the cross. Grave and resolute, heedless of the curious stare of the gaping populace, from whom her recollected demeanor, her deep sorrow command a certain respect, she follows in the footsteps of her Son. This is the first time the way of the cross is made on earth. It is an act of worship, a silent supplication on Mary’s part; her heart shares in Christ’s Passion; in spirit she voluntarily, willingly carries His cross both out of love for her Son who suffers and out of love for the sinful world for whom He suffers. Here you see an example of the highest, purest charity, the charity which does not merely weep over and bewail the sufferings of another, as the women of Jerusalem did, which does not content itself with displaying sympathy by free-will offerings, as was the case with Veronica, but which courageously takes suffering upon itself, the practice of voluntary mortifications, of works of penance, and these it does not perform for itself as Magdalen did for herself, but on behalf of others. Learn to-day from the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary to follow our Lord on the way of the cross in atonement for the sins of others, that highest, most perfect act of charity.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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