It’s a time for hard questions. And hard answers. All week long, I have been pondering this piece I wrote a while back, a mediation on why, if we keep the crucifix before our eyes, it will teach us everything, and train us for the long view
It’s not that I’m an egoist, so fascinated with my own words. In truth, most of the time I forget what I’ve written unless someone reminds me or I come across an old piece while doing research.
But this piece has been singing to me all week, and forcing me back into a contemplation I have always found instructive and stirring. So, I’ve been praying with it, as though I’d never written it.
Today, I was struck in particular by this graph:
“Ask Mary to teach you what she knows too, what she learned while she stood beneath the reality of it. Ask the Blessed Mother to explain about taking the “long view” of things, about keeping the faith even when one does not understand why things happen as they do; about how sometimes what is horrifying and unjust must happen, if something else—something remarkable and unimaginable and precisely what is required—is to be able to happen.”
That’s a hard, hard teaching to share with anyone. How to say to someone who is processing trauma that, “this must happen; you must surrender to it, allow it to happen, because there is a greater plan at work.”
It sounds so awful, so smug, so condescending, too. “Deal with your personal horror for the sake of future glory” is a hard message to take when you’re in the thick of something so awful you can’t wrap your mind around it; when you feel violated and shredded and you know with certainty that everything you thought you knew, everything that ever felt common, ordinary, reassuring or warm would now feel forever changed, because something has pierced you to the heart, beyond your heart, into your very soul.
And perhaps that’s why — if the instruction of the crucifix (which teaches precisely that hard lesson) is hard to absorb because Christ Jesus is the man-god and we are all too human — we might ask Mary, his fully human mother, to explain it, to show us how to do this. How to keep going in the belief that all of our sufferings are not pointless but full of meaning — especially when they are joined to Christ’s sufferings on the cross — and wholly purposeful within the divine plan beyond all understanding.
O Mary, teach us what you know. Pray for us who have recourse to thee.