This meditation was written to accompany Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross, presented for Holy Week in my local congregation. As you read or listen, I trust you, too, will be struck by Jesus’ tender empathy and fierce devotion even as he was being executed. I hope in this scene, as you watch Jesus caring for his mother and nurturing community between her and John, you can also picture the empathy, care, and connection Jesus has for you.
Click here to watch the entire event, or scroll to the 31:50 mark to hear my reading and the musical piece that follows.
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” -John 19:26-27
Pinned to the cross. Spikes and thorns bursting blood vessels. Injuries beyond human remedy. Most of us, if ever faced with this kind of torture, would have detached long before this point, too consumed with suffering to take any notice of the scene around us. Yet Jesus still sees and interacts with those he loves. He shows empathy even in his agony.
Contractions, wailing, blood, and vernix, Mary labored her controversial baby into the world, and for 33 years mothered him through the miraculous and mundane details of his human experience. At Golgotha, she watches him bleed and cannot bandage his wounds. He shivers and she cannot warm him. She holds back maternal instinct as her son is crucified and shamed. All of her other children have left in unbelief. Guttural sobs. Stabs of grief. A sword pierces Mary’s soul.
Jewish custom says the firstborn must care for the aging parent. Bereaved of Jesus, Mary will lose her child and her social security. But even in death, Jesus doesn’t forsake duty. In his hour of fading, pure and faultless, he looks after the widow in her distress.
Nearby, John, the only remaining male disciple, grieves without his band of brothers. Jesus knows the friend who has kept vigil at his public execution will have the spiritual fortitude to rightly care for Mary.
As if writing a will from the cross, Jesus entrusts his widowed mother to John. He initiates belonging and fellowship that will carry these two beyond his death, resurrection, and ascension. He creates new family ties, foreshadowing the communion of saints in the Church.
Loyal friend, here is your mother. Loving mother, here is your son.
He gives his beloved people to each other.
Meditation #3 for Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross, Faith Church, Indianapolis 3/28/21