Between heaven and earth

© Ave Cerquetti, ‘Crocifissione’ – Lienz (Austria) 1975

“Mary did not faint at the foot of the cross, but raised her eyes and heart to the Father. She offered him her Son, as a pledge of the re-established pact and as the guarantee of the change achieved, as a precious offering, a priceless sacred host.

She stood between heaven and earth: Mary of sorrows, the desolate one, the woman who was suffering the most. However, unbowed by tragedy and aware of the service to be given by the handmaid of the Lord to his children, she stood there like a priest at the altar, the altar of the cross, to offer to eternal justice, in adoration, her innocent son, sacrificed for all.

Her brave resistance held firm later, too, when the soldiers took down the body from the cross. They placed him in her arms and went away, with the rest of the crowd, into the alleys and sleep laden houses of the dark night. By the light of the few remaining lamps and the first stars, in the silence that had fallen on the completed tragedy, she remained alone, continuing her offering to the Father of that innocent victim, the Son without compare. She held him her arms immediately after his death, just as she had held him in her arms, the child beloved of angels, in her arms immediately after his birth in Bethlehem. Having come into the world to be held in a virgin’s hands, he had left this life in a virgin’s hands. Virgo altare Christi [Virgin altar of Christ]. Then, he was new-born, now he had just died: that was the price with which he ransomed all from suffering, the result of the fault.

This is the sublime attitude of the Christian virgin who, being rooted in God, does not fear. How often has the persecuted Church – Christ the victim – been gathered into the arms of humble and strong virgins, while around them most people fled and hid away! Virgins, whether consecrated or not, and mothers with virginal hearts, and a few men, who follow John’s example, have often witnessed the renewed butchery of Calvary and kept the mystical Christ alive in their hearts.

Trusting in God, Mary offers the Son to the Father, handing him back, to identify herself with his will. In that moment, her graceful feminine form stood straight, like an altar, on which her son was sacrificed for all, the unblemished lamb. Hers is the faith of a priest who makes sacrifices at a tragic hour, the most decisive of all the hours that ever struck as the world went on.

St Augustine taught that every soul is virgin, in so far as they are part of the Church which is virgin. This mystery connects us with Mary’s desolation, because it unites us to the passion of Jesus; a passion which virginises repentant souls, gathered at the foot of the cross with Mary’s heart.

Mary at the foot of the cross, who offers her Son to the Father, incarnates the universal priesthood of the Church. She fulfils its first deed, which the Church never ceases to repeat.
She incarnates the Church and is a symbol of the Church, (it too virgin and mother) which continues the work of Mary, united with that of Jesus.

Right from the start, the Church was compared to Mary, so as to signify its beauty and purity, and at the same time its nature and mission. The Church was almost seen as the Virgin Mary present in the universe to lead all souls to Christ. The Church repeats the unique beauty of Mary’s virginity, to start anew, unceasingly, the redemptive work of Christ.”

Igino Giordani, Maria modello perfetto, [Mary, model of perfection] Città Nuova, Roma, 2012, pp.139-141

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