Fr. Francis Marino, Founder of the Anawim Community, often spoke of how the Liturgy constantly teaches and forms us. This profound process of “liturgical formation” takes place not only through each day’s readings and prayers, but also through the orderly arrangement of the feasts and seasons. In the month of September, the Church celebrates two feasts that clearly go together, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) and the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (September 15). Each feast has its own character and richness, but we can appreciate them even more if we ponder them together. Fr. Francis used to speak of them as “companion feasts.”
Taken together, the two feasts present us with the profound interpersonal communion of Jesus and Mary, revealed at the Cross. The Cross is both the altar of Jesus’ deepest self-emptying and the throne of his greatest exaltation. Mary at the Cross is pierced with sorrow and also revealed to be a mother in a new way – “spiritual motherhood.” This is the meaning of Jesus’ words to her, “Woman, behold your son” (Jn 19:26). The life-giving union of the hearts of Jesus and Mary, in sorrow and in joy, is a true mystical marriage.
Any mention of a marriage between a mother and a son can only be repulsive to us, unless we understand how mystical marriage far transcends natural marriage. The gospels reveal that Christ has come as the Divine Bridegroom; his Bride is the Church. The whole Church, and every baptized person, has truly been “married” to Christ. This is the sense in which we are to understand the mystical marriage of Jesus and Mary, for Mary is the perfect representation of the Church.
The New Testament speaks of Christ as a new Adam (cf. Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:45-49). Who is the new Eve? She is the Church, the mother of all the faithful. But from the earliest years, the faithful have also identified Mary as the new Eve. When Jesus addressed her as “Woman,” he was revealing her as the new woman, the new “mother of all the living” (cf. Gn 3:20). Symbolically, she comes forth from the pierced side of Christ, just as Eve was taken from the side of Adam in the garden (Gn 2:22). From the spiritual union of Jesus and Mary, consummated at the cross, come forth the innumerable offspring of the Church. In Mary we see the Church as a mother, and all the faithful are her children.
In his drawing of the scene of the crucifixion, Fr. Francis depicts the anawim, the remnant few, gathered with Mary at the foot of the cross. She is both sorrowful and fruitful, a sorrowful mother. All those who unite themselves with Mary in all their sufferings are also united with her Son and share in her spiritual fruitfulness. With Mary, we are given a share in the mystery of co-redemptive love, as we unite our sufferings with his for the redemption of the world (cf. Col 1:24).
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 7. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.