(Michelangelo's Pietà, St. Peters Basilica, 1499)
Thirteenth Station: Jesus is Placed in the Arms of his Mother
Leader: O holy Christ, we worship you, we adore you;
People: Your blessed mother wept over your lifeless frame for all of us.
It must have been Mary's first inclination to want to hold Jesus as they took him down from the cross. Some of the people leaving the scene must have been holding their own children as they left--babies in arms, toddlers on hips, older children being steered away by the shoulders or pulled by the hand, asking their parents questions their parents wondered how to answer. Some were tired and cranky. As she held Jesus' still body, his skin starting to cool, his limbs still floppy and not yet in rigor mortis, Mary thought of those days when she held this man in her arms as a babe, or when she did household chores with him on her hip. She thought of his never ending questions as a boy. So long ago--so long ago, it seemed.
Perhaps she asked God to take the life within her and give it to her son to restore him. Perhaps she thought of her own pain in birthing him, and found that pain to be minuscule compared to the pain she was feeling now.
Mary studied his lifeless hands and face. She saw the scars from the childhood bumps and bruises and all the things she could not protect him from as a mother, even through the gashes and wounds of his recent beating. For some reason they stood out more noticeably to her, when the rest of the world only saw his most recent wounds. The holes in his hands were almost unnoticeable to her, but she gazed lovingly on the birthmark she used to notice bathing him as a baby. She only saw the marks of their common life together--and for some reason, when she closed her eyes, as unlikely as it seemed, she could still hear the angel Gabriel's words about her son, and a part of her could still not give up on them. How, she thought to herself, could part of her "not give up" when she was holding her dead son? She pondered these things in her heart, just as she did that day when she and Joseph found him in the temple--but she kept them to herself.
Leader: Mary wept openly, her lifeless son in her arms,
People: No human comfort could possibly have consoled her.
Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)
Lord God, our truest parent--
The wounds the world inflicts upon us are ignored by you--
yet every hair you placed upon our head is known to you.
You see only our divine spark, and you love it as a doting mother loves her firstborn.
Even when we are spiritually dead to the world,
you do not give up on us.
You gave a piece of your own being to us in the form of Jesus,
and allowed the world to put a piece of yourself to death.
Teach us to see others
with eyes that see the divine spark in them,
and ignore the gashes and bruises the world places upon them.
Holy and Mighty,
Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.