*But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
(Revised Standard Version)
In lieu of notes on context, translation and vocabulary, the following is a synopsis by Kristen West McGuire of a commentary on this section of the book of John by Adrienne von Speyr, a Swiss mystic and doctor of the mid-20th century.
Alongside John, the beloved disciple, there are three women at the foot of the cross. Mary, the mother, personifies the suffering of the righteous. Conversely, the Magdalene personifies the sinners for whom Jesus dies. The wife of Clopas in the middle gives roundness to the reality that Jesus died for all of us, even the garden variety Catholic woman. Von Speyr reminds us that “one need be neither exceptionally pure, nor exceptionally sinful in order to be looked upon in a special way by the Lord at the cross.” Thus, we should never assume that our most ordinary of days nor mundane duties keep us from salvation.
Many humble, quiet days of work in the home separated Nazareth from Golgotha for Mary. From the moment of the Annunciation, Mary was the “potential” mother, just as Jesus in the womb was the “potential” Redeemer. When potential turned to reality, Jesus the divine Redeemer bequeathed divine Motherhood upon his mother. “…fruitful Christian motherhood,” exhorts von Speyr, “…lives as joy in self-sacrificing devotedness.”
We are the recipients of her devotion now. “Bodily fruitfulness requires overseeing the fruit.” finishes von Speyr. Conversely, “Fruitfulness in the Lord requires giving up all claim to overseeing one’s life.” Her obedience is intertwined in ours.
Mary’s obedience helps us aspire to eternal salvation. The grace which opened the gates of heaven to all men makes Jesus our brother, and thus His Mother our mother. Like so many Christians, I received Mary in darkness, barely aware of her intercession at first. Her obedience mysteriously enables my own.
What about John? Jesus’ bond with John is not like intimacy as many of us live it. Love for Jesus is expansive and open; not limited to those within its hold, and impossible to keep within. Whatever we receive of Jesus’ love is meant to be shared, not the extra, but all that we receive. As Jesus shares His love with John, it exponentially expands to the disciples and beyond, even to us here in the present.
Jesus gives his mother to John in the same virginal love that she bore Him in Bethlehem. It is a pure love that reflects directly the loving gaze of the Father in obedience and submission. Where others may look upon the virginal love and see only renunciation and hardship, its divine counterpart is unlimited fruitfulness. Mary receives us, nurtures us, and returns us to God the Father in love. Our fruit is her Fruit.
Pretend to be John. You are to take the Blessed Virgin into your home to care for her. Yet, she will also care for you. What gifts can you offer her? What gifts might she offer to you?
Three women named Mary are at the foot of the cross during the passion – the Blessed Virgin suffering, the wife of Clopas present, the sinner Magdalene grateful – which one are you?