By Barb Arland-Fye
Reading the narrator’s reflection for the 12th station of the cross caused a lump to form in my throat and I came close to tears: “Jesus dies on the cross.”
I’ve read that passage to myself countless times and it always moves me, but last week the reflection on Jesus’ death soaked into the roots of my motherhood. I imagined myself in Mary’s sandals at the foot of the cross, grieving, and yet trusting in God’s will.
A week earlier, I watched a special showing of “The Young Messiah,” a new movie that imagines the life of Christ as a 7-year-old child. The portrayal of the Holy Family captivated me. The actors portraying Jesus, Mary and Joseph conveyed warmth, tenderness and love toward each other and others.
Mary and Joseph recognized they were raising an extraordinary child and expressed anguish about what to tell Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus played with his friends and cousins, but also performed miracles: raising another child from the dead, restoring sight to a blind rabbi, healing his gravely ill uncle and giving life back to a bird. Jesus worked miracles with compassion and no theatrics. People were awed and some reacted out of fearfulness.
The movie depicted gruesome crucifixion scenes that the Holy Family likely would have been exposed to in their oppressed homeland. Still, the way in which Mary and Joseph interacted with Jesus reminded me of raising my own family.
Jesus played with a camel figurine that a fellow traveler whittled for him. Memories flashed back to my younger son Patrick playing with his favorite toy cars and my older son Colin holding fast to “Scar,” his stuffed gorilla. In “Young Messiah,” Joseph and Mary are frantic to reach Jesus after he walked off alone from Nazareth to Jerusalem.
My husband Steve and I worried about our sons, too. I remember the fear that consumed us when Colin at age 9 wandered away in the summer twilight in his grandparents’ neighborhood. Or when a firefighter told me that Patrick, then 11, had been taken by ambulance to the hospital after cutting his head in a bicycle accident.
Two other memories surfaced that may have provoked my emotional response to the 12th station of the cross last week. A mother, sharing her thoughts after viewing “The Passion of the Christ” 12 years ago, said she particularly appreciated the portrayal of Mary in that movie. The mother had lost a young son to cancer. Before he died, the most difficult thing she had to do was tell her child that it was OK to let go. She walked in Mary’s sandals and like Mary, held her pain inside for the sake of her son.
A couple of years later, my family and I took a road trip to St. Donatus, Iowa, and walked the Way of the Cross up to the Pieta Chapel on Calvary Hill. Inside the tiny chapel, a statue of Mary cradling her dead son on her lap, took my breath away.
In this quiet place, Mary seemed to be reflecting on what it meant to let go of her beloved son so that he could bring us salvation and life everlasting. The lump forms again in my throat; sadness mingles with gratitude.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at email@example.com.)