by Eleanor James.
Brother André of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal once said, "It is with the smallest brushes that the artist paints the most exquisitely beautiful pictures." The Divine Artist uses the little ones, those in pain and sorrow, those who are humble and who love, to paint the exquisitely delicate details of his divine plan.
Suffering is not a tragedy. The tragedy is that so much suffering is wasted. Every event in our lives, the sorrowful as well as the joyful, is a gift from God, who loves us. And we treasure that gift best by using it for the good of others. Through suffering, willingly accepted—if not exactly received with joy—we can win powerful graces for ourselves and others. And, strange as it may seem, when we suffer with Christ, we come to know joy—and peace. This is a paradox like that in St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer: "It is in giving that we receive."
Christ and Cross
Wherever the cross is, there is the Crucified, not visible but present nevertheless by his love and strength. Pain and suffering get their meaning through Christ, the Man of Sorrows. He took onto himself the sorrows of all the world and offered them, with his own life, in ransom for the sins of all. Man’s gift to Christ was crucifixion and death; Christ’s gift to us is redemption and life. Suffering in a spirit of faith and love becomes a power. It saves us from being superficial; we grow in strength and depth of character. It gives us an awareness, a keenness of perception without which we cannot fully grasp reality. When we have learned to suffer with Christ, our sorrows "will be turned into joy, and our joy no one shall take from us." (cf, Jn 16:20-22)
Christ and Mary
Christ is the Man of Sorrows, Our Lady the Mother of Sorrows. The height and depth of her love and compassion for her Son are immeasurable. Christ, in giving us Mary, gave her a heart to understand and love us. She would have loved to clasp her dying Son to her heart as he hung on the cross. But he let her arms go empty that he might receive us, might hold us! It was only in death, after he had said to her, "Behold thy Son," that he came to her arms again—thus sealing her timeless pact with his love for us.
Mary is the Mother of Mercy. Her fingertips are tinged with the precious blood of her Son, and she diffuses its radiant glow over all the world. She is the Mediatrix of all graces. She rejoices because she has shared his sufferings more fully and more intimately than all other creatures. It is to her we must turn in all pain and sorrow.
We share our greatest works with those we love best. That is why Christ chose his mother to be the "Lady of Sorrows." She, who he loved most dearly, suffered more than any other woman ever born. The seven swords we see pictured in images of her represent countless sorrows.
All those Christ loves most dearly are privileged to suffer—with Mary, and with him—and are invited to share in his greatest work, our redemption.
When we accept pain, and suffer in union with him on his cross, our trials are lifted up. They acquire a supernatural value. They are clothed with the merits of his passion. Our sufferings become his. It is through this sharing of suffering with the Redeemer that we are able to expiate our sins, merit grace, and become channels through which sanctifying grace reaches others.
The apostolate of prayer and suffering knows no limitations. Prayer goes to the throne of God. Suffering, "the highest form of prayer," according to Abbot Marmion, pierces the very heart of God. When we grow in awareness and appreciation of our calling as co-sufferers with Christ, our pains of body or of mind open the doors to a house of joy. When we are oppressed by worry or doubt, we can turn to Christ agonizing in the Garden of Olives and unite our anguish with his, and he will breathe his eternal peace upon us. When the cross of great pain or sorrow weighs heavily on us, we can learn the greater weight of his cross—and hasten out onto the Via Dolorosa to help him, as did Veronica and Simon of Cyrene.
Lady of Swords
On Calvary the Lady of Sorrows became our mother. She had willed the death of her Son, agonizing as it was, because it was his will. She also willed the rebirth of mankind to the life of grace. If we are to co-operate with her, and with Christ, in helping others to heaven, we must will the death—in ourselves—of all that is opposed to Christ. In this we will suffer! But Our Lady will teach us the joy of suffering.
Mary sang her Magnificat with greater joy at the foot of the cross than she had known in her visit to Elizabeth. She sang it with a deeper and richer gladness, for it was a gladness born of sorrow.
"He who is mighty has done great things to me, and holy is his name." A song of triumph echoing and re-echoing down through the corridors of time from the sword-pierced heart of Our Lady! And many co-sufferers with her have joined in the majestic swell that rises to heaven in thanksgiving: "My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior."
—Reprinted from Restoration, October 1956
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