Continuing with our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are meditated in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa, today we discuss The Descent from the Cross, and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother.
Traditionally prayed as the Thirteenth Station of the Way of the Cross, the Descent from the Cross and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother is the most touching scene in a very brutal Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the last scene before Jesus is buried in the tomb. Often depicted in art, as in Michelangelo’s Pieta (pictured below), the descent from the cross and Jesus in the arms of His Most Blessed Mother moves us emotionally in a way often hard to explain. I remember that first time, and the only time, I saw the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica. It was as if I was there personally when Jesus was laid in the arms of the Blessed Mother. The tears that flowed from my eyes and down my face were nearly uncontrollable.
A very instrumental character in these final scenes in the Gospels is St. Joseph of Arimathea. He was a wealthy, righteous, and holy man, who was part of the Sanhedrin, but did not condemn Jesus to die. He came forth with St. Nicodemus and assisted with the taking down of Jesus’ body from the cross, and the eventual burial of his body in the tomb. A tomb tradition believes was Joseph’s own, but because he was a believer of Jesus Christ, he gave it up for Our Lord’s body to be entombed. At the chance of risking his reputation in the Sanhedrin, he courageously and boldly stands up for Jesus Christ as a “disciple” and assists in the burial of Our Lord. It is for this reason that St. Joseph of Arimathea is the Patron Saint of Funeral Directors.
To help us understand today’s post a bit more, I turn to the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich which are catalogued in the book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ –
“…When the body was taken down it was wrapped in linen from the knees to the waist, then placed in the arms of the Blessed Virgin, who, overwhelmed with sorrow and love, stretched them forth to receive their precious burden.
The Blessed Virgin seated herself upon a large cloth spread on the ground, with her right knee, which was slightly raised, and her back resting against some mantles, rolled together so as to form a species of cushion. No precaution had been neglected which could in any way facilitate to her – the Mother of Sorrows – in her deep affliction of soul, the mournful but most sacred duty which she was about to fulfill in regard to the body of her beloved Son. The adorable head of Jesus rested upon Mary’s knee, and his body was stretched upon a sheet. The Blessed Virgin was overwhelmed with sorrow and love. Once more, and for the last time, did she hold in her arms the body of her most beloved Son, to whom she had been unable to give any testimony of love during the longs hours of his martyrdom. And she gazed upon his wounds and fondly embraced his blood-stained cheeks, whilst Magdalene pressed her face upon his feet.”
Let us pray that we never look upon this Thirteenth Station of the Way of the Cross without remembering the hardship, sorrow, and love that the Blessed Virgin Mary endured and felt. Let us pray that when pray the Stations of the Cross we too may come to know the sorrow of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Passion and Death.
Emmerich, Anne Catherine. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Tan Books and Publishers, 2005.
Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Ignatius Press, 2010.
The Navarre Bible – The New Testament Expanded Edition. Four Courts/Scepter, 2008.