The editorial of the month

Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P

by Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P

 

Not long ago I happened upon the writings of the 17th-century French Dominican theologian Father Louis Chardon. His two-volume meditation on the Lord’s Passion entitled The Cross of Jesus is considered a masterpiece. Father Chardon died of the plague in 1651 at the age of fifty-six.

Our Lady’s singular grace

The Cross of Jesus offers a profound meditation on the mystery of Our Lady of Sorrows. Chardon reflects on what makes the Blessed Virgin Mary unique, and states that the “singular grace” of Mary—the fruit of her Immaculate Conception—“resulted in Mary’s kinship with God,” for “the grace proper to the Mother of God is hers alone.”

Since “Mary, the Mother of God, entered into the super­natural state in an eminent way not granted to any other creature,” she “constitutes an order all by herself some­where between God by nature and God by participation.” Father Chardon goes so far as to claim that “Mary is, next to Christ, the object of our acts of religion, rather than some­one we can imitate.”

The singular grace of the Blessed Virgin shows itself in Mary’s inestimable capacity to love. “Mary must possess, so far as it was possible to a creature under grace, the Father’s love for his Son.” Our Lady demonstrated the depth of that love in her willingness to suffer. Chardon quotes Saint Ambrose: “In order to be made like unto him, Mary offered up her own life as a sacrifice.” And Chardon reminds us of something important: “Mary suffered, not as if she were an ordinary mother, but as the Mother of God. Her afflic­tion of heart was measured by her extraordinary dignity, just as the sufferings of her Son were proportioned to his infinite Person.”

Mary’s Affinity with the Cross

“The grace of the Mother of Jesus,” Chardon tells us, “was gauged by her cross. As she was the most blessed mother in the world, she must also have been the most afflicted. The closer she was to Christ, the more painful her martyr­dom had to be, for she was conformed to his sufferings as she was to his splendors.”

But our Lady’s affliction began long before Calvary—at the Annunciation. By virtue of the Blessed Virgin’s Fiat, Mary “was the principle of the Son of God’s cross in that human nature which she gave him. Mary was to burden him with a cross more painful to him than the one upon which he was to die. In becoming his Mother she became the occasion of Jesus’ martyrdom.”

Mary assumed her vocation as Sorrowful Mother from the first moment of her maternity because she “saw herself to be the cause, in the nature which she had given Jesus, of all the sufferings which our crimes deserved.” For all these reasons, it is “not only difficult but quite impossible to do justice to the greatness of Mary’s sufferings.”

The Mother of God at Calvary

Father Chardon says even more: “Mary is a cross. Jesus was bound to her by the bonds of nature as a fruit is united to the tree that bears it and from which it draws its life and growth.”

The author asks regarding the crucifixion, “Did Mary not know that her presence alone would cause Jesus more pain than would all the other persons there who were cru­cifying him?” For the Crucified felt “double shame”: “one, in looking upon himself, and the other when looking at Mary, plunged into a desolation so ill befitting one of her eminent dignity.”

Moreover, “affliction flowed from Jesus’ soul into the soul of his Mother. One and the same Passion, one cross, one martyrdom afflicted them both.” Even this served a most beneficial purpose: “Jesus desired to bestow upon Mary the graces and favors God’s Mother alone should have, and so she had to feel within herself all the afflictions and pains proper to a suffering God.”

With these graces come a one-of-a-kind certainty and serenity. “On Calvary this Mother was not troubled as she stood beneath the cross of her dying Son, but she was troubled at Nazareth when the Incarnation took place.” The woman set apart to be the Queen of Heaven “went to Calvary to learn the will of the heavenly Father in her re­gard.” And on Calvary, Jesus gives us his Mother to be our Mother also so that, united with Our Lady of Sorrows, we might ever learn the will of God the Father in our regard and do it.