The young couple walked hurriedly across the Temple court. Yosef and Miryam had come to Yerushalayim to fulfill the duties required of new parents by Torah. This they had done, and now they were anxious to return home. The sun was low in the sky, and the late afternoon was already cooler.
An old man came toward them unsteadily. He reached out a shaking hand and touched the head of Miryam's first-born son. Looking intently at her, he held out his hands toward her. For no reason she could fathom, she handed Yeshua to him. He cradled the baby in his arms, gently rocking him from side to side. He looked heavenward, and began to speak.
"Now, Adonai, you have blessed your servant and may let him go in peace. I have seen with my own eyes your deliverer, visible to all, who will give light to the goyim and glory to your people Isra'el."
He handed the child back to Miryam. "I am Shim'on. I have waited my whole life to see this child. He will cause many in this land to fall, and many to rise. He will become a sign that many people will speak against. And a sword will pierce your own heart as well, my lady. All these things will happen so that the inner thoughts of many may be revealed."
Turning from Miryam, he walked away into the crowd, his hands open to the heavens.
Shaking her head, Miryam hugged Yeshua and glanced at Yosef. He looked at her, and nodded. Pulling their cloaks around them, they walked with new energy toward the Temple gate.
Miryam looked up at her son Yeshua. He had become a famous rabbi in the thirty-three years since that odd experience in the Temple in Yerushalayim. It was said of him that he could heal the sick, make the blind see, even raise the dead. He had fed thousands who had come to hear him speak, when there had only been a handful of dried fish and a few loaves of bread. He had gathered a large following in the first months of his ministry, but had lost many when he made it clear what he was asking of any who followed him. He had said, plainly and directly, "If you want to follow me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and continue to journey with me."
And now it had come to this. Yeshua had taken up his own cross. Miryam looked at him again, through eyes swollen from crying. He was above her, his arms stretched wide, nails driven through his wrists. He had been stripped naked, stretched across the rough wood of that cross, and other nails had been pounded through his heels. The Roman soldiers had then lifted the cross up and dropped it into a hole in the rocky ground, and steadied it with wedges pounded on each side of the upright.
Speech was impossible. Her voice failed her, and all she could manage were choked sobs. She reached out toward the bloodied wood, and Yeshua opened his eyes slowly and looked down at her. "Mother, this is your son." Then, looking over at Yochanan, one of his disciples, he said, "This is your mother."
Time seemed to stand still. The sky darkened, and the gusty wind picked up, blowing dust and debris around the rocky summit. Finally, Yeshua gave a cry, "It is finished!" His body went slack, and he was dead.
Miryam collapsed in front of the cross, weeping uncontrollably. Yochanan bent to embrace her. He helped her to stand, and led her away, as the rain began to pour from a blackened sky, strobing with lightning, rumbling with crashes of thunder.
Today was the celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows. That is, this is the official celebration. In many regions around the Mediterranean, it's celebrated with processions on the Friday before Holy Week.
Even as Mary is praised and venerated as the Mother of God, the Theotokos, she's also the woman whose heart was pierced by the sword of seeing her own son die before her. She ranged from the heights of being God's favored one, to the depths of sorrow. Her life mirrored the range of experiences and emotions that we all have at some point in our own lives. She would understand, just as would her son.
I am not Catholic, but I can understand why this celebration takes place. If we as Christians truly believe what we say about the Communion of Saints, then it is with Mary that we may first commune. She was there first.
What joys have you had today? What sorrows? Who do you share them with? And who shares their own with you? Where do you draw comfort? Who can you depend on?
These questions are alive and valid today, just as they were in first-century Palestine. Answers are sometimes hard to come by, but they're worth seeking out.