A Meditation on the Pieta

John 19:38-42 - The body of Jesus Christ is taken down from the cross and buried in the tomb.

Mary's Son had just gone through the most horrendous death imaginable. Here is Jesus being taken down from the cross and laid in her arms again. Thirty-three years earlier, Mary held Jesus in her arms for the first time. She must have been in ecstasy, for this was her Lord and Savior whom she was cradling in her arms. Now she arrives at this moment in time, having suffered along with her Son during His passion and death. Mary is holding the lifeless body of Jesus and once again cradling Him. Does she see a dead body? No. After seeing Jesus die on the cross, she finally sees peace in her precious Son's face again. She is still sorrowful but at the same time filled with hope of seeing Jesus again in His resurrected body.

From the foot of the cross, Jesus gave Mary to His beloved disciple, John, who represented us. Her Son had just given her a new role as our spiritual mother. She knew she had to remain strong for her children, especially John, Mary Magdalene, and the other holy women who stood with her at the foot of the cross. Mary knows that true love always involves sacrifice. She and Joseph had sacrificed everything for their Son: keeping Him from harm, caring for His needs, nurturing Him, and raising Him in the Jewish faith. When Jesus was a baby, a man named Simeon told Mary that one day a sword would pierce her soul and that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed. At the beginning of Jesus' passion, she would come to accept this sword, which would indeed pierce her Immaculate Heart. She was with her Son at every step, suffering in silence as cruel men treated Jesus as less than an animal. Didn't they know who Jesus was? No, apparently not, because He kept asking God the Father to "forgive them for they know not what they do."

Oh Mary, my heart breaks along with yours as your Son, Jesus, is beaten up, spat upon, mocked, almost scourged to death, cruelly crowned with thorns, forced to carry His cross, and savagely crucified.

Dear Mary, I know you wanted to die along with Jesus because your Immaculate Heart could no longer endure the emotional and spiritual suffering you were sharing with Him. Oh, how I wish I could comfort you, sweet mother, for you have always comforted me in my darkest moments. You were always there for Jesus as He grew from a boy into a man, and you are here now for your children.

Dear Jesus, how it must have grieved You after Your death to see Your dead body being taken down from the cross and laid in Your virgin mother's arms again. What thoughts must have raced through Your mind of the many times Your mother had comforted You, especially during Your final hours here on earth. There was Mary cradling You again like a little baby. I can only imagine You kneeling by her, kissing her, and saying, "Mother, do not worry. I love you, and we will soon be reunited." Then they take Your dead body from Your mother's arms and prepare it for burial. The love You feel in Your Sacred Heart is magnified as You watch these faithful men and women gather around Your lifeless body: Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, John, Mary Magdalene, and the others. You then pray for Your disciples who abandoned you during Your passion and death. Your heart leaps with joy at the thought of being united with them again after Your resurrection.

Jesus, as Your body is laid in the tomb and the stone is rolled in front of its entrance, there is complete darkness. You are alone again, Lord, and Your spirit is immediately plunged into the depths of the dead. You carry Your cross again, not in defeat but in triumph, for You have won victory over death! Thank You, Jesus, for dying for our sins on the cross and rising from the dead. We adore You, oh Christ, and we praise You because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world!

Brother Angelo Casimiro, MIC, is a seminarian living in Washington, D.C.

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