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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Cross of Christ, Christian Prayer and Mary

Those who open their heart to the Our Lady of Sorrow learn the abandonment of the cross, the glory of redemption, the deepest sorrows, and the most unspeakable jubilation as they converge in Christian contemplation. In such contemplation the heart raises a hymn of glory - or rather, Christ raises this hymn in the soul as it learns to surrender to the Holy Spirit as did his mother, Mary. Elisabeth of the Trinity explains that if anyone wants to raise the hymn of glory like Christ offered with his last breath, they must put themselves in the hands of Mary, the mother who knows this music more deeply and more fully than any other soul. The Virgin Mother stood at the foot of the cross as that unrepeatable Spirit-filled canticle exploded from the death rattle of her Son’s spent body. She could hear this because she stood in faith before the antithesis of everything that was promised her about her Son and she attended to his heart. In that moment, fulfilling words that were foretold, Her heart was pierced with His. Can one's own heart be pierced by the plight of another? This is a work of the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of God which moved Jesus to surrender himself in obedience to the Father on the Cross: this Holy Spirit makes it possible to share in Christ's same surrender, His same heart piercing hymn of praise. Pierced like her Son on the Cross, her heart shared in the music of His and she knew the most powerful prayer ever uttered, the most penetrating contemplation a heart in this life has ever glimpsed. Allowing His last cry to pierce her until He gave up his last breath, she was the first to be caught up in the resounding note of new life, the first to let this new life raise her up even as crushing sorrow gripped her heart. Yes, this Mother of Sorrow grieved not only for her Son but for all those her Son has ever loved. In grieving for her Son, she has shared in the sorrows of us all. This is why Mary helps us enter into deep prayer. She knows Christ's canticle on the Cross is more powerful than the grip of weariness in the world, and she yearns for the children entrusted to her to raise the song that her Son offered - for this song glorifies the Father, this song saves the world, this song raises the dead. She wants what her Son wants and she rejoices in the very same things that cause her Son to rejoice. So Jesus gives his Mother to us so that her joy and ours might be excessive, and in this excess of love, she envelops in prayer those who allow themselves to learn from her to listen and to raise her Son's great canticle. She teaches heart piercing contemplation - a kind of prayer in which one makes up in one's own body what is lacking in the suffering of Christ. Only contemplation which has this Marian character, which receives from Jesus the heart piercing gift of his Mother, goes deep into the mystery of the Cross. Only that contemplation that goes deep into the mystery of the Cross really discovers unspeakable and inexhaustible joy - the Font of Eternal Life.

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