Into His Marvelous Light (through Mary’s Seven Sorrows)
“…that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
The Second Sorrow: “…Rachel weeping…”
Whenever I meditate on the Second Sorrow of Mary (The Flight into Egypt), my first thought is actually about the Scriptural passage that follows directly after that account of the Holy Family’s flight from the violence that Herod wanted to commit against the Christ Child. It is the account of the mass murder of the Holy Innocents:
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more." (Matthew 2:16-18)
Mary, Our Sorrowful Mother, is my Rachel. How many times have you wept for me, Mother? How many tears have you wept for my children and so many other little ones?
It is a terrible thing to lose a child. Why is it that children give us such joy? Maybe there is a deeper reason than we realize. A spiritual teacher that I respected used to often say that “joy is the one infallible sign of God’s presence.” It seems to me that, when we are in the presence of a very young child, we are powerfully in the presence of God.
When my sister, Kathy, was born—when I was nine years old—I fell in love with her, in a similar way that a mother falls in love with her firstborn. She was my living doll, and I was truly a little mother to her. In some ways I replaced my mother with her. Whenever I was not in school, I gladly took care of her. I fed her, changed her, held her, and comforted her when she cried. I would even get up in the middle of the night to take care of her when she cried. I gave her the attentive, loving care that I had lacked from my mother.
When I was ten years old, my mother began working as a manager at a fast-food restaurant, and I was given the responsibility to take care of my two youngest sisters and my younger brother after school. For doing that, my mother used to give me a $1.00 allowance each week, which was worth a whole lot more then—more than fifty years ago—than it is now. I spent most of it on toys and clothes for Kathy.
I remember, when Kathy was several years older, that she would often wake up in the middle of the night crying, and she would come to my bed and tell me that there was a bear outside of our house, and I would invite her into my bed, and she would say, “Don’t go to sleep.” And I would respond, “If I fall asleep and the bear comes in, you can wake me up.”
Kathy grew to love me as I loved her. Every day, when she got home from school, she would come and tell me something about her day, maybe show me something she had made.
When I was nineteen years old, and Kathy was nine years old, she was struck and killed by a car. It was one of the greatest tragedies of my life. I was at home when she had left with one of my other sisters, Theresa, to take a walk along the narrow highway that ran near our house. Beside the highway was a drainage canal, and the shoulder was very narrow. On the side of the highway where Kathy and Theresa were walking an 18-wheeler truck was coming fast, and I imagine that Kathy must have gotten frightened by the size of the truck, and she ran to the other side of the highway, where a car was also running at a fast speed. Running in front of the car, she was hit; she was was thrown up in the air and fell down to the asphalt highway, and when I saw her a few minutes later, her body looked like a lifeless mannequin that was made to look like her. I knelt down by her side and felt her pulse, which was racing furiously, but her face was colorless and motionless. I rode with my mother in the ambulance to the hospital, because my father was not at home.
The whole way there I prayed, “Don’t let Kathy die…don’t let Kathy die…” over and over and over again, and I believed that God would not let Kathy die. After all Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive…” My faith had not matured to the point to know, as I do now, that God has a plan for each of us--“plans for welfare and not for evil” (Jer. 29:11)—and only He knows fully what is good for us. (Sometimes that good comes even in the form of physical death.) While we were waiting for the doctor to come from the emergency room, I kept saying to my mother over and over again, “God won’t let Kathy die, Mom.” Looking back, I realize that I was trying to convince myself, as well as her, that our urgent prayer that Kathy would live would be granted. But when the doctor came to us, he told us that Kathy had been “dead on arrival,” and he had tried to revive her, but was unable to.
I didn’t cry that day. I didn’t cry at the “wake” or the funeral, nor even at the cemetery.
I was a sophomore in college. I used to catch three buses from our house to the university, and three buses back. It was the day that I returned to school that I cried for the first time. It was when I was waiting for the last bus to take me home, and I knew that Kathy wouldn’t be there when I got home, that I broke down crying in a crowd of people. I called my mother and asked her to come and pick me up, and she did.
Kathy was buried just about a block from our house. When I was upset about something at home, I would walk to Kathy’s grave, sit on the ground, crying, and pour out my heart to her. I would stay there until I had no more tears to cry that day.
After Kathy’s death, I continued to attend the Church of Christ where my father was the minister; to sing the hymns, to read the Scriptures at the services; and, if my memory is correct, I even continued to teach Bible school to the teenagers. But I was “going through the motions.” I don’t think I prayed any more, except for the prayers that I “performed” for my Bible class, and I stopped reading the Bible daily. Jesus, who had been my Best Friend and Constant Companion, seemed to have disappeared from my heart. I felt so abandoned. Now, of course, I realize that I had left Jesus’ Heart. I no longer trusted Him. While I clung to my intellectual belief in Him for a while, my heart no longer experienced His presence.
The image that comes to my mind first whenever I think of Kathy’s death is the image of a total eclipse of the sun. It was an eclipse that lasted over a decade of my life. It was an eclipse of joy, an eclipse of faith, an eclipse of love. It was a profound depression.
As I already stated, I was a sophomore in college; I was attending a very liberal state university. I had become friends with some very liberal unbelievers—young women and men who seemed to love to challenge my belief in God. For my whole first year of college and part of my second year I had fought a fervent faith battle with them, and my faith remained for that time. But after Kathy’s death my faith had been so badly shaken, like a house that has been picked up by a twister and dropped down, only half on the foundation, broken.
A few months after Kathy’s death I met and fell in love with a boy named Tony; he was my first love; though, I say without any vindictiveness, he was not a good choice for a first love, since—as he told me his psychiatric social worker told him—he was unable to love, because of being rejected and abandoned by his father. I guess the rejected, abandoned “child” in me was drawn to his brokenness, as well as to his cold heart.
One day Tony, who was an unbeliever, told me that I was not truly a Christian, because the Christians he knew were filled with joy, while I didn’t seem to have any joy. His statement painfully wounded me, but, in my own spiritual and emotional confusion, I believed him. His statement further broke my already broken self image.
It was very soon after that that I decided that I didn’t know whether God existed or not. I can vividly remember the moment that I made that decision. Deep inside I felt that I lost my Best Friend, and the truth is that, at that moment, I let go of my Best Friend, and I became like a little boat that was loosed from the dock and drifted out into the immense ocean alone, tossed about by every wave and wind, directionless—committing sins that I will regret for life, because I soon, like so many others in this age of relativism, did not have a clear sense that sin even existed.
When I was sharing with my spiritual director about that agnostic period of my life, I told him that I used to think that my loss of faith was something outside of my will, but then I reflected on that day that I had decided that I was agnostic. Yes, Father said, faith is a gift, and so a person cannot lose it, but they can choose to cooperate with it or not to cooperate with it. And, so, I am sad to say that I chose not to cooperate with the gift of faith for several years. What motivated me to begin to seek to cooperate with the Lord again in a life of faith was my observation that couples who have a relationship of genuine love also have a living faith. It was my hunger for love that led me to seek to rediscover that gift of faith.
What painful wounds I must have inflicted in Jesus’ and Mary’s Hearts! What sad and bitter tears my Mother Mary must have shed, for her wounded Son and for her lost daughter! I deeply regret the pain I caused them.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ It was in a Quaker Meeting, of which I became a member at the age of 32, that my faith was revived. I had been attending the Meeting for about six months, praying for faith, because I didn’t know at that time that faith is not something you can lose. The kind of Quaker Meeting that I attended met every Sunday for an hour of silence. (Looking back, I think it was a good rest stop for a budding contemplative.) One Sunday, silently, impatiently I spoke to the Lord: “I have been coming here for six months praying for faith. You said, ‘Ask and you shall receive.’ When are you going to give me faith?” Then I sat back in my chair, kind of relieved to get that off my chest, and for the first time in my life, I clearly heard the Lord speak to me: “Faith is like a seed; it begins in darkness.” The words came crystal clear as a bell, and I knew that God had spoken to me, and I have never again doubted His existence. And ever since that day I have been developing a dialogue with the Lord, knowing that He truly does speak to us, and so I have sought His word.
Almost every morning I get up before my husband, Charles, and my daughter, Sofia, so I can have solitude and silence to spend intimate time with Jesus. During that time I am filled with the Lord, like a person who has found an oasis in a desert, where I can drink the “living water,” about which He spoke to the Samaritan woman. I experience His love, His understanding, His peace, and His joy. He is “the One who is good,” and I rest in His Good Heart. I know that He cherishes me; I know, not with my mind, but with my cherished heart. He is my Bridegroom, and I am His Bride.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…” (John 10:27)
I hear the Lord’s voice in a variety of ways. I have been practicing spiritual journaling very regularly for about eight years. In my journal I write letters to the Lord, or sometimes to the Blessed Mother. Sometimes I journal as part of my practice of lectio divina. Sometimes I journal about a word, an image, a Scripture, or a song that the Lord communicates to me when I first wake up. (Most of the images that I receive are symbols of something the Lord or the Blessed Mother want to share with me.) The words do not come audibly; they come as what a friend of mine called “the thought voice”—a powerful, communicative thought that I discern clearly is not my own. I experience the spirit that is a part of that word as the Spirit of Jesus, or the spirit of Mary.
Sometimes the Lord communicates to me by giving me an extraordinary understanding that I can recognize unmistakably as truth that could come only from He who is Truth.
In my journal I often ask the Lord, or the Blessed Mother, questions, like a little child asks his Father or Mother questions. It is the way I was taught by my former spiritual director to come into an ever deeper dialogue with the Lord.
I would like to share with you some of the dialogue that I had with the Lord that brought me profound healing from my grief about my sister’s death:
From my journal entry of October 18, 2013:
On the way back from San Antonio yesterday, an image came of me picking up Kathy’s dead body from the place where it lay on the road, and I carry it, draped over my extended arms. I am carrying it with a sense of urgency, saying over and over: “My God…my God!” I am not calling out with a desire for Kathy to be revived, because I know she’ll never be revived in this world. Each time I call out to God, I do it with a sense of greater urgency and energy. As I carry Kathy’s body, each step of the way, I feel the strength in my arms and legs increase. Each time I call out, I feel the same surge in energy. I feel the depression in my heart, and even in my body, released.
In Lectio Divina: Spiritual Reading of the Bible, by Jean Khoury, I read a commentary on the Gospel account of the blind man who repeatedly called out to Jesus to be healed:
“His entire being was calling out to be healed and to see…When we go to the doctor, we are not ashamed of showing our wounds…we present Him our entire being and ask Him to act as He wills.”
I realize that, in my image, my entire being is extending to the Lord the part of me that died emotionally and spiritually when Kathy died, and remained dead to a lesser degree, even up until yesterday, when I called out with my entire being for the Lord to revive me.
I didn’t know where I was carrying Kathy’s body until I found myself in the image, at the foot of the Cross. I don’t want to lay Kathy’s body on the ground, and so I lay it in Our Sorrowful Mother’s arms, where she tenderly holds it, and I know that she offers it to Jesus. Then I feel my grief released, and I am fully alive again.
Jesus says: “It is finished, My child.” Thank You, Jesus. Thank you, my Mother.
The next day I journal:
This morning, in contemplative prayer, an image came of You silently crying, Jesus. Tears are pouring out from Your face and the rest of Your head. I know that You are crying with me in my grief about Kathy’s death. Then in the image my tears of grief start pouring out, and You are crying with me, and I am crying with You, and I realize that You cry with all of Your grieving brothers and sisters, and I am crying with You for them, my brothers and sisters.
Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw Him, fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled, and He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. (John 11:32-35)
Lord, I have often wondered why You wept before You raised Lazarus from the dead, because You knew that You would raise him from the dead; and then one day it occurred to me that You were crying in empathy with Mary and Martha. You were crying with them, as You were crying with me this morning, and my grief was released by Your tears.
Why was Your whole head weeping in my image, Lord? Jesus responded: “I was weeping with my whole being.” Thank You, Lord. Do You want to say more? “Be blessed forever and ever in My Heart!” Thank You, Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life;he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.” (Jn 11:25-27)
I believe that You wept with me, Lord, when Kathy died, even though You knew that she was safe in Your arms, Lord. I believe that You wept with me. Do You want to say more about this, Lord? Jesus answered: “I know your heart, My child.” It is a beautiful heart, blossoming in Mine.” I had an image of a prickly pear cactus with a yellow blossom on it…”We are married.”