She could barely see his face through her tears, but her fingers moved across it, almost without thought, wiping away the blood, smoothing out the lines of pain. It was so long ago that she had been warned that a sword would pierce her heart, and in the glory of that youthful moment, bright as Springtime, she had willingly acquiesced. She had not known then that swords were quite so sharp or pain so bitter. She had not realized that one day she would hold the joy of her life and the hope of the world – the only hope of the world – dead in her arms. But now that the terrible moment had come, she would not turn away. She would wait, as she had learned to wait, shrunken and battered by the pain, but still there, tear-torn and broken, but still there, in the terrible darkness, waiting on the revelation of God’s meaning.
Of course, this wasn’t the first hurt, just the worst one. It seemed that, ever since the time of Eve, to be a mother was to carry sorrow in your heart. To bear a child, to love a child – this was to long for a perfection of understanding that does not exist in this world, and to be made aware that your own love, however hard you tried to shield and shelter, could never be enough. To be fulfilled, pressed down and running over, and yet, at the same time, achingly unfulfilled, because you discovered that the very act of birth, and taking your child into your arms, was an act of letting go, for a child is not a puppet, possession or plaything, but a separate human being, with their own destiny stamped upon them. And if that was true of any child, how much more was it true of this child?
From the beginning he had been different. There was no fault in him, no valid cause for reproach, but many moments of confusion. She would never forget the day when, a mere twelve year old, he had turned to her and said, “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” as if it were the most normal thing in the world for a child to dispute the meaning of the scriptures with the scholars in the temple. There was no possible answer to his question.
Even in his early adult years, when he was there by her side in Nazareth, she had known that he wasn’t there to stay, and there were moments in his ministry when she had asked herself (and sometimes him), “why does it have to be this way?” Loving him and watching him taking enormous risks and walking forward into pain was like putting her heart outside of her body, and watching, silently, while the world attacked it and left it bleeding and torn.
And now this. He was dead. Softly she lifted the crown of thorns from his brow, though it pricked her fingers, and leaned down to kiss the lacerations. Part of her wanted to hold onto this moment, to hold onto the only part of her son that was left to her, but she knew that she could not. They must bury him swiftly, before the sun set and the Sabbath began. She must let him go, down into the depths of death, beyond human knowledge. But not, she believed, beyond the knowledge of God. And only God knew what would happen next.