A Fiat at the Foot of the Cross

Our Holy Week reflection is courtesy Mary Conway.

Mary Conway loves books, tea, and Jesus, but not in that order. She received her bachelor’s degree in English with minors in Business and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mary works in accounting for a local nonprofit where her secret undying love for Excel spreadsheets is put to good use. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X in Urbandale.

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

I hate these words. Every year as we stand and read the account of Christ’s Passion on Palm Sunday I choke on these words. I grow weary of repeating them. Just once I want to break free from the script and defend him instead. But I know that these words that I hate are the very words I speak each time I sin. So I bow my head, and I burn with shame, and I cry out along with the crowds. “Crucify him!”

This rejection cuts deep. It pierces the heart of my savior deeper than any thorn, or lash, or lance. And in my rejection of Christ, I feel myself rejected. How can I face Him? How can I draw near to the one I have so wounded? But this is precisely what Jesus longs for us to do. From His anguish in the garden and all along that lonely way of the cross he begs us to draw close, and stay with Him.

Praying with the stations of the cross I am struck this Lent by the many women who were with Him along the way: His mother Mary, Veronica, the weeping women of Jerusalem, Mary Magdalene and so many more. When the disciples turned their backs these women were there ministering to the Lord. In their witness they invite us to enter into this moment with Jesus. To draw close and offer him what little we have: a towel, our tears, or simply our presence. Let us ask these holy women to intercede for us as we seek to be with Christ in His passion this Holy Week.

And who can lead us closer than the woman who had carried Him in her very womb, and who walked beside Him every step of that wretched way? I recently read a beautiful meditation on Mary’s presence at the foot of the cross in The Gift of Faith by Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer. Fr. Dajczer speaks of Mary’s Fiat at the Foot of the Cross. He writes, “The yes during the Annunciation seems joyous and easy compared to the last yes spoken under the Cross. A person on a high level in his spiritual life is usually ready to sacrifice his own self. It is much more difficult to agree to the suffering of those close to us, the ones we love very much. Mary, standing at the Cross, gave a double yes: let it so happen to us, to Him and to me. If my beloved Son is to suffer and be tortured, then let it be so.”

So Mary watches in silent, humble assent as her son is stripped and nailed to the cross. She is quiet before His anguish on the cross until He takes His last breath. She watches as the spear pierces His side and the blood and water spill out. And when at last His body is taken down from the cross she opens her arms to receive Him. In her fiat at the Annunciation, Mary said yes and received within her body the body of Christ her son. In her fiat at the foot of the Cross, Mary said yes once more and received in her arms the lifeless body of her beloved son.

At this image I can’t help thinking of Michaelangelo’s beautiful Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Holding the body of her son Mary’s face shows not anguish, but serenity. A face more suited to the Annunciation than this sorrowful moment. And while her right hand supports His body, her left is open in offering. Indeed His body seems just on the verge of slipping off of her lap and onto the altar below. The place this precious body is offered for each one of us.

And so we reach the end of the passion story. Perhaps we breathe a sigh of relief as we sit back down in our pews, with those wretched words still ringing in our ears. As the altar is prepared for the celebration of the Eucharist we hold in our hearts that image of Jesus held in His mother’s arms. And as we approach the altar to receive the body and the blood, let us allow Mary to take us by the hand and transform the ugly shouting of a sinful crowd into that humble, brokenhearted Fiat from the foot of the cross. Let us draw so near to Him in love that her words become our own.

“Yes Lord, let it so happen to us, to You and to me.”

Copyright 2018 Mary Conway