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LISTEN - Via Crucis: Women of the Cross

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

A Lenten meditation adapted from the book is entitled "Women of the Passion, a Journey to the Cross" by Katie Sherrod, Communication director of the Episcopal Church in North Texas.

First Station read by Judy Deaton

Several of us gather at Pilate’s house when we hear Jesus has been taken there. Some nearly faint when Pilate sentences him to be crucified. After they lead him away to be flogged, we settle in to wait.

Early on, there had been some tension between the women of Jerusalem and the Galilean women. But we soon discovered that our shared love for Jesus erased all differences among us. Mary the woman from Magdala, became my good friend. It is easy to see why Jesus so obviously loves her. It is equally easy to see why Peter is jealous of her. Peter, like many of the other men, is unused to having to take women into account. None of the men are as comfortable with us women as is Jesus. It was that ease that gave me the courage to approach him that day near Capernaum. I had been hemorrhaging for twelve long years. I had spent all my money on physicians, and still I bleed. The law says a bleeding woman is unclean and any who touch her is defiled. This is why my family scorned me and why I move out, alone at the edge of town.

But I had heard of the wonders Jesus worked. He was in great demand, so I thought, “I won’t bother him. But if I touch his clothes, I will be well again.” So, I came up behind him in the crush of people and touched the fringe on his garment. I knew instantly something had changed. My body felt lighter. Then Jesus exclaimed, “Who touched me?” Peter, the man with him, said, “The crowd is pressing upon you. What do you mean, who touched me?”

But Jesus turned and scanned the crowd, insisting, “I felt power go out from me. I want to know who touched me.” I was terrified. I hadn’t meant to offend. Trembling, I came forward and threw myself at his feet. Was I to bleed yet again? But his hand was gentle on mine as he helped me up. He said, “My daughter, your faith was the source of your healing. Be free and go in peace.”

I was amazed. He had touched me and had not withdrawn to cleanse himself of the taint of me! A powerful sense of joy filled me. I resolved to follow him wherever I could. I’ve since tried to model myself after the Magdalene. She warned me people would accuse us of being immoral because we traveled and studied with Jesus. The injustice of it often made me angry, but she just ignored them all with a serene confidence.

But now, when she heard the news of Jesus’ death sentence, she went white to the lips. The grief in her face was terrible to behold. And I am ashamed to say the first thought in my head was, “What will happen to us women when he is not here?”

But then I thought, “No matter what, I am bound in blood with this man. He made holy the blood that flows through me and holy is the blood that will be spilled here today.”

Second Station read by Kathy Hale

I can’t believe they really are going to kill this innocent man. Why, he changed my life. He cured me! After eighteen years of being bent almost double, eighteen years of terrible pain, eighteen years of being told it was because I was possessed of demons, eighteen years of being alternately shunned and preached at, he set me free.

It was Sabbath and I had gone to the synagogue to pray. It was usually my only outing of the week since I rarely risked the scorn of people out on the streets. I noticed him teaching when I entered and tried to listen without being noticed. To my dismay, he called to me.

I saw the other men look at me, and I shrank from their disgust. But he smiled and beckoned, and my fears dropped away. As I walked up to him, the other men drew back. But he didn’t shrink away. Instead, he stood up and, to my surprise, put his hands on me.

It felt so good! No human being had touched me except to shove me aside or abuse me since I was eleven. That was when my back had begun to curve. By the time I was twelve, I was as bent as an old woman. Now, in my twenty ninth year, a man was touching me with kindness.

If he had done nothing more than that, it would have been enough. But he didn’t stop there. He did something wonderful. He said, “You are rid of your infirmity.”

As he spoke a warmth flowed from his hands through my shoulders and down my spine. The pain vanished. Then he put his hand under my chin and lifted my head. As he did so, I stood up straight! Alleluias rang from my mouth as I looked skyward for the first time in years. I raised my arms over my head and praised God, for I knew from where this blessing came.

But then a synagogue official came bustling up, and he was very angry. “There are six days each week for manual labor. Come and be healed on one of those days. Do not come on the Sabbath,” he announced to the crowd that had gathered. And then he turned wrathfully on Jesus. I was horrified. I wanted no harm to come to this man on my account.

But Jesus just looked at him calmly, and with a soft voice said, “How hypocritical! Do you not untie your donkey or your ox and take it for water on the Sabbath? This woman, this daughter of Sarah, has been held in bondage for eighteen years. Why not release her on the Sabbath?”

And the officials were confused. But the people and I were not. We were filled with joy at his wonders and his words. I tried to kneel before him, but he stopped me, holding my hand. What we said then remains between the two of us. But I will tell you this. I followed this man to Jerusalem, and I know, as I watch him take up his cross, that I will follow him anywhere, even to Calvary, and beyond.

Third Station read by Sarah Beth Romanik

When the women begin keening, my heart is in my throat. This is dangerous! The Romans won’t appreciate our public grief over the death of a man they have named a criminal. They might even arrest us!

But these fears last only a second. Then my heart fills with admiration for the courage of the other women. I, too, lift my voice in protest and lament and walk with them behind the soldiers who surround Jesus and his terrible burden.

The men have all disappeared, but we women will not leave his mother, and she will not leave him. I can’t blame her. I am a mother. I followed him from southern Phoenicia and I, too, will follow him to the death.

I am a Greek, by birth a Syrophoenician, by religion a Canaanite. The Jews call me a pagan. I am a foreigner in their culture, outside their God’s covenant, and thus not welcome. But unlike many of them, I knew from the second I saw him that this was a very special man. He had come quietly to the region of Tyre and Sidon, not wanting anyone to know he was there. But I recognized him as a holy man, and in my great need, threw myself at his feet.

“Have mercy on me and my daughter, for she is possessed by a devil,” I pleaded.

Jesus didn’t say anything. But I wouldn’t give up, my daughter’s life was at stake. I would have stayed there until I died to get help for her. Finally, some of the men with him said, “Give her what she wants. She is shouting at us; she will never go away.”

Jesus turned to me and said, “Is it fair to take the children’s food and throw it to their dogs?” “Yes,” I said immediately, “for the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the family table.” Jesus smiled at me. “Great is your faith. Be it done as you desire.”

I leapt up and ran home. When I flung myself into my daughter’s room, she was sitting up in bed, smiling. The demon was gone! In joy, I praised God.

Now as my daughter and I walked along behind him, our grief rings out against the walls of Jerusalem. My daughter gasps as we see him fall. His mother is standing at a turn in the street and her hands reach out, just as they must have done countless times when he was an infant learning to walk. He pushes himself up and staggers on. Would that I could give my life to spare his!

Fourth Station read by Bijoux Mashauri

read in Swahili

I am standing next to his mother when he sees her. He had risen from his fall and walked only a few steps when he raised his head, as if she had called out to him, though she made no sound. I think my heart will break at the look of gentle compassion that appears on his face at the sight of her. She reaches out her hand and touches his cheek, cupping it with that tender gesture of mothers from the beginning of time. Their eyes, so alike, meet and hold. Neither of them weeps, although Mary’s entire body looks broken with grief.

The soldiers are uneasy, looking away. None of them are very old, and I suspect they can’t help but think of their own mothers. Finally, one of them puts his hand on Jesus’ back, almost gently, and says in a gruff voice, “Keep moving.”

Nimesimama karibu na mama yake anapomwona. Alikuwa ameinuka kutoka kwenye anguko lake na kutembea hatua chache tu alipoinua kichwa chake, kana kwamba alikuwa amemwita, ingawa hakutoa sauti. Nadhani moyo wangu utapasuka kwa sura ya huruma ya upole ambayo inaonekana usoni mwake wakati anapomwona. Ananyoosha mkono wake na kugusa shavu lake, akilishika kwa ishara hiyo ya huruma ya akina mama tangu mwanzo wa wakati. Macho yao, hivyo sawa, kukutana na kushikilia. Hakuna hata mmoja wao anayelia, ingawa mwili mzima wa Mariamu unaonekana kuvunjika kwa huzuni.

Askari wana wasiwasi, wanaangalia pembeni. Hakuna hata mmoja wao ambaye ni mzee sana, na ninashuku kwamba hawawezi kujizuia kuwafikiria mama zao wenyewe. Hatimaye, mmoja wao anaweka mkono wake juu ya mgongo wa Yesu, karibu kwa upole, na kusema kwa sauti ya chuki, “Endelea kusonga mbele.”

Fifth Station read by Helen Cooney

I am standing with my husband, Simon of Cyrene, wondering what all the noise is about. We have just come into the city and have barely caught our breath, when suddenly a Roman soldier hails my husband.

“You”, the soldier says, “come here.”

I am shocked. We are not common people. Simon is an important man in our community in Ethiopia. We have come to worship at the Temple as our people have from the time of Solomon. Why, we list one of Solomon’s wives among our ancestors! And this Roman soldier treats my husband like a slave.

They grab Simon and pull him into the street. As they do so, I see this poor wretch bent under the weight of a crossbeam. The soldiers order Simon to take the beam from him. I am afraid and very angry – how dare they thrust Simon into this mess! Women are crying and carrying on, as if this is an important man, not some common criminal. Simon is the important man, not this other. We are not part of this!

But Simon, who can’t bear to see a donkey suffer, gently takes the beam from the poor man, saying as he does so, “I will bear your burden for a short while, sire.” The bloody man lifts his head, and nods.

Sire! Why on earth would Simon call this criminal “sire?”

But then I see Simon’s face, and I know something is happening. Simon is a proud man, not given to honoring people without cause. And here he is bowing to this bloody wreck of a man as he takes the beam from him.

I open my mouth to protest, but Simon, who knows me all too well, looks up and says, “All is well. Come follow us.”

Marveling, I do so, wondering how all this will end.

Sixth Station read by Norah Goolsby

I wait for him by my door. I know he will have to pass by here on the way out to Golgotha. They all do, all the ones condemned to be crucified. And so, I wait, hoping I can give him some tiny bit of comfort.

I know they have beaten him. In some awful way, it is Roman kindness, for the weaker he is when they hang him on that cross, the shorter his final suffering will be. I hear the keening of the women long before I see them. The Roman soldiers turn the corner at the bottom of my street and there he is. A richly dressed black man has been pressed into carrying the crossbeam—probably because the soldiers are afraid Jesus will die before they can kill him!

Jesus already is straggling on the steps of the narrow street, and my heart breaks at the sight. As he slowly nears my door, I see in horror that they have put a crown of thorns onto his head, young soldier’s idea of fun. The thorns have pierced his scalp and blood courses down his face, nearly blinding him. As the soldiers pushed past, I remove my veil and shove myself toward him.

To my surprise the soldiers let me through. I bend beside him and put my veil to his face to wipe away the blood. He puts his hands over mine, holding the soft cloth to his face for a few seconds. Then he hands it back to me with a sigh and a small smile. A soldier grabs my shoulder and pushes me aside, and Jesus continues on his slow painful way up the sloping street.

Tears begin to run down my face, and I lift my veil to wipe them away. As I look at my veil, I nearly scream, for there looking back at me is the true image of his face. I hold it to my heart, and weep.

Seventh Station read by Letha Morris

Even with the help of the man called Simon, he soon falls again. As he does, a great groan goes up from the women, and our keening grows louder.

How different he is this day from the day I first encountered him in the Temple. I had gone to give my tiny offering into the Temple treasury, hoping it could help some other person in need. As I turned from doing this, I found him smiling at me.

“Look,” he called out to the men with him. “This poor widow’s gift is worth far more than all the other contributions, for you give of your abundance from the money you have left over, while she gives from the little she has to live on.”

At first, I was embarrassed to have all these men looking at me. But then I realized he was not making fun of me but instead was doing me an honor and using me as an example. I had heard about this man’s teaching, but I had been too shy to get near enough to hear him. I had never had time to study very much, and I was afraid I was not smart enough to understand this great man’s teaching.

But as I heard him more, I realized that many of his teachings were like this, simple stories of everyday life, about ordinary people were used to illustrate important points. So, I stayed to listen, and listening, discovered new depths in myself.

That’s why, when he fell again, I looked away, unable to bear the sight of his humiliation. This man has changed my life.

The least I can do is to be with him now.

Eighth Station read by Anne Tippens

When he painfully pulls himself up from where he has fallen, he sees our grieving group of women. His look causes everyone to fall silent. Then he speaks, his voice soft.

“Daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when people will say, “Blessed are those who are childless, blessed are the wombs that have never given birth and the breasts that have never nursed.”

The words fall among us like burning brands. The crowded narrow street goes quiet as he speaks, and his voice seems to pick up volume as it bounces off the stone walls.

“Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us up!” For if this is what they do when the wood is green, what will happen when the wood is dry?”

“What does it mean?” a woman asks me.

I said, “I think, he is the green wood, still alive and with us, and these fools are killing him. If we can do this to this Godly man, what hope is there for us when we can no longer see him, or touch him, or hear him?

Visions of people suffering overcome me and I fall to my knees, moaning. Around me, the women move on, the sounds of their grief washing up like waves against the uncaring walls of the city.

Ninth Station read by Mary Reyes

read in Spanish

When they arrested Jesus, the men urged us all to go into hiding, fearing the Romans would do a general sweep of the area in an effort to catch all of us who followed him.

But this mother refused to leave. Hearing this, I told my husband Cleopas to go with the others. I would stay. Cleopas protested, fearing for me. But I told him that I would be safe, for the Romans would never suspect mere women of being dangerous. We agreed to meet later, in the upper room of the house where we had shared the Passover Seder with Jesus the day before.

As I watched Cleopas leave, I realized it was the first time we had been apart in years, certainly since we had decided to follow Jesus. For the past year, we had traveled with him as he taught, watched over him as he slept, marveled at the miracles he performed, and wondered at the things he told us. Most of all, we loved him.

Our bond with one another had been strengthened by our bond to him. It is that bond that endangers Cleopas. He has been seen with him too often. But my womanhood renders me invisible to the Roman soldiers, and to many of my own people as well. Women are simply part of the background, regarded by Jewish and Roman authorities as nonpersons, unimportant, invisible. We Mary’s often had talked of this among ourselves, and reminded one another that our namesake, the prophet Miriam, also had been thrust into the background.

For now, we can stay here in relative safety, as long as we don’t create too much of an uproar or irritate powerful men. But we are all used to living with such strictures. It’s part of being a woman here.

That’s why, as we walk through the streets behind Jesus and the soldiers, our lament rising above the heads of the shoppers in the market, the peddlers at their carts, and the merchants in their doorways, half of me is busy gauging the reaction of the Roman soldiers. Are they getting angry? Are we pushing our luck too far? Deep as my grief is, for his mother’s sake I know I have to stay alert for any change in their mood that might endanger her.

Each time he falls, my heart breaks anew. When he came face to face with his stricken mother, I felt as if I were choking on wormwood and gall. And now, just as we approach the city gate, he falls yet again. My heart lurches, for he does not move. Is he dead? Is it over? Hope and grief fill my soul. But then one of the soldiers grabs a bucket of dirty water and pours it over him.

As he stirs, his mother groans. It isn’t over yet. He rises and walks unsteadily out through the gate. We follow, walking toward Golgotha.

Cuando arrestaron a Jesús, los hombres nos urgieron que nos escondiéramos temiendo que los soldados intentaran arrestarnos por seguirlo.

Pero esta mamá se negó a hacerlo. Le dije a mi esposo Cleofás que, si él quería, que se fuera con los demás pero que yo me quedaría. Cleofás protestó, temiendo por mi seguridad. Pero le dije que estaría bien, los soldados romanos nunca sospecharían que las mujeres fuéramos una amenaza. Acordamos reunirnos más tarde, en ese salón del segundo piso donde el día anterior compartimos la cena de Pascua con Jesús.

Cuando Cleofás se fue realicé que esta era la primera vez que habíamos estado separados en años, creo que desde que él y yo decidimos seguir a Jesús. Viajamos con él mientras enseñaba, lo cuidamos mientras dormía, quedamos maravillados ante los milagros que realizó y siempre reflexionábamos sobre lo que nos compartía. Sobre todo, lo amamos. Nuestra unión se fortaleció por el vínculo que tuvimos con Él.

Nuestra relación con Jesús es lo que hoy día pone en peligro a Cleofás. A él lo han visto a menudo con Jesús, pero por ser mujer, pues ni que fuera invisible para ellos y no solo para los romanos, mis compatriotas tampoco nos ven. Tanto para las autoridades romanas como para las autoridades judías nosotras no contamos, no tenemos importancia, somos insignificantes. Nosotras, las tres Marías, con frecuencia hablábamos de esto entre nosotras y con nuestra sabia amiga y profeta, Miriam.

Siempre corremos el riesgo de ser perseguidas por las autoridades romanas por seguir a Jesús, pero si no atraemos demasiada atención y si no irritamos a esos hombres de poder, estaremos seguras. Nosotras estamos acostumbradas a vivir con restricciones, es parte de ser mujer aquí.

Es por esto por lo que estoy mucho más alerta a las reacciones de los soldados puesto que estamos siguiendo a Jesús y todas estamos más y más angustiadas. Soy consciente de que nuestros gemidos y llantos pueden escucharse por encima del bullicio de los mercaderes en sus tiendas y no quiero ser víctima o que mis compañeras corran ningún riesgo. A pesar de mi profundo dolor tengo que mantenerme alerta, no solo por mi seguridad y la seguridad de las otras mujeres, sino por el bien de su madre, pues no quiero que ella corra peligro.

Cada vez que él se cae, mi corazón salta. Cuando se encontró cara a cara ante su madre atormentada, sentí como si me ahogara con ajenjo y hiel. Y ahora, cuando nos acercamos a las puertas de la ciudad, él cae nuevamente. Oh, Dios, no se está levantando. ¿Está muerto? ¿Todo acabó? Siento esperanza y angustia en el alma a la misma vez. Pero uno de los soldados vierte un cubo de agua sucia sobre él para sacudirlo, y se vuelve a levantar.

Su madre gime con dolor. Aún no está terminado. Él se levanta y aún tambalea, pero sale por las puertas de la ciudad camino a Gólgota.

Tenth Station read by Valerie Cadoo

As we walk through the city gate, and onto the dreary hillside, I think I may faint. This cannot be happening! When he fell that third time, I thought, “It is over. He is dead.” And for a second, a mad hope possessed me. Maybe the suffering could end this way, it would be less painful, instead of on that cross.

My two sons, James and John, had gone away with the other men, but I suspect John will return soon. He will never let Jesus die alone, even if it means risking his own arrest. Both my boys have been with Jesus from the time he called to them while they were mending their nets with my husband Zebedee in our family fishing boat on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

He is their cousin, but we all knew he was something very special, meant for bigger things than carpentry or catching fish. When I began to understand just how big, I went to him and requested a favor.

“What do you want?” he asked of me. “That these sons of mine may sit beside you, one on your right hand and one on your left, when you are in your kingdom.” “You do not know what you are asking,” he said gently. And turning to my sons, he asked, “Can you drink the cup that I will drink?” And they replied, “Yes, we can.”

“So be it,” he said. “You shall drink from my cup, but positions of power are not mine to give. They are awarded by God our Creator.”

After that, Jesus often teased my sons, calling them the “Sons of Thunder.” Some suppose he’s referring to my husband, but our whole family knows he’s referring to me, Salome. Like any mother, I am ambitious for my boys, but I also know that wherever this man goes, I want them to go. For good or ill, this is their destiny. And that of my husband, and me.

And now, as I watch him standing on this windswept hillside, I am realizing, just how bitter this cup we all must drink will be. I keep remembering him as a little boy, this bright-eyed nephew full of life and joy. His smile would light up the entire house, and his laughter would make us all giggle with him. Now all that laughter is drowning in tears.

The Roman soldiers set about their task methodically. Some of them begin preparing the cross while others strip him of his garments, dividing them among themselves, casting lots for his cloak. His poor abused body looks so frail as he stands there exposed to the jeers of the crowd. One soldier offers him some wine mingled with gall, but after one taste, he turns his head away.

I take his mother’s hand, and someone takes mine. It is John, he has come to be with us at the end.

Eleventh Station read by Connie Collier

As I watch them strip him and pull him down onto the cross, I long to scream, “Stop this madness! This is an innocent man! A good man!” I know. He saved my life.

I was a maid in the household of an important merchant in Jerusalem, and young and foolish. I had been betrothed since I was a child to a man I had never seen. I lost my way. I thought that I was in love with the merchant’s son, who mistreated me. Even though he was unkind to me, his family punished me, not their son, and sent me away from their household. The law is clear, a bethrothed young girl has no right to love another man that is not her bethrothed. By law I must stand and be stoned to death for my sin.

Although the Law clearly states that both the man and the woman are to be put to death, my lover is important in the community. I knew nothing would happen to him. But the Law says a betrothed virgin is to be stoned to death.

At daybreak they dragged me to the Temple. There was a man sitting there, surrounded by people. The Temple officials threw me to the ground in front of him. I knew already I was a dead woman. They said, “Rabbi, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. The Law says we should stone her. Tell us, what do you say?”

I was confused. Who was this man? Why were they asking him? What were they up to? The man ignored them, drawing with his finger in the dust near my face. But they kept at him, and he kept ignoring them. I finally calmed down enough to focus on what he was doing. There in the dust he had written the unspeakable name of God—YAHWEH. What did that mean?

The Temple officials persisted until he looked up and said quietly, “Let the one among you who has not sinned be the first to throw a stone.”

He bent back down and continued drawing in the dust, smiling sideways at me. One by one, those who had accused me silently slipped away, until he and I were alone.

“Where have they gone?” he asked me. I said nothing, shaking my head in bewilderment. “Tell me, has no one condemned you?” he then asked. “No one, sir,” I said softly. “And neither do I,” he said. “Go now, and sin no more.”

And he helped me to my feet, smiled at me, turned me toward the door and gave me a gentle nudge. “Go” he said with a smile. And I did. I went and got my belongings and set out to find the company of Jesus. He had given me back my life. I would now give it to him.

And now these foolish soldiers are going to kill him! I hear a terrible groan from his mother and look up. Oh, dear God! They are not tying him to the cross, they are nailing him to it! My heart feels every blow of that hammer. As they put his feet together and begin driving the nails through that precious skin, his body moves convulsively upward. And I fall, driven to the ground by grief.

Twelfth Station read by Lisa Goolsby

I watch them stretch him on the cross. Even in this moment of complete vulnerability, he is magnificent. As I look at him through eyes blurred with tears, he is no longer just one man, but seems instead to embody the suffering of all humankind. Could any human endure such a burden?

I would die in his place without a moment’s regret. That they should touch one hair on that head, hurt one inch of his body, sickens me with grief and rage. I have loved him forever, it seems, even though I met him only three years ago, when he was teaching near my home in Magdala. I knew from the moment we first spoke that he loved me, from before I was born.

I would have loved him even if he had not cured me of my affliction, taken from me that deep-seated sadness that had clouded my days. I seemed to always walk in darkness. I yearned to end this soul-eating pain.

Then I met him, and the sun rose in my life. With a glance he removed the pall of sadness that had dragged my life in the dust. With a touch he lifted me into a realm of spiritual brightness that dazzled my eyes and delighted my soul.

He called me “beloved disciple,” and when the inevitable rumors began, I went crying to him. He gentled my tears away and said, “Mary, feel my hand on your face. I am touching the image of God. Nothing they say can change that, not in my eyes, and certainly not in the eyes of the One who made you.”

“And know this,” he said, “though they may try, they will never be able to cast you into the darkness. My peace is upon you forever.”

“My peace is upon you forever.” I cling to those words as they stretch him out upon that dreadful cross. I brush tears from my eyes and see more clearly what they are about to do. Oh, Holy Lord, help us! They are not tying him to the cross. They are nailing him to it!

I turn to shield his mother from the sight, but it is too late. She lets out a low guttural sound, like that of a woman in labor. I put my arm around her shoulders and feel her body shudder with every blow of the hammer.

When they pull the cross upright and drop it into a hole in the rock, I think the jolt will tear his arms from his body. And for a terrible interminable time, we wait, as he slowly weakens. Finally, I hear him give himself to his father. Without looking, I know he is gone from me.

And I know if my grief were a river, the whole earth would drown.

Thirteenth Station read by Adrianna Golden-Smith

As I waited in pain for him to be born, now I wait in pain for him to die. I cannot take my eyes off of him, for every second that passes takes him farther from me. Where is my bright angel now?

I would be the God-Bearer, the angel said. Well, I did my part. And now here he is, this Child of God, dying in a dismal dusty place.

Anger washes through me, followed by new waves of grief. For days I’ve been like an ocean, wracked by storms of emotion that threaten to drown my soul and kill my faith. This is too much to ask of me, Beloved! I believed your promises. I believed them when I pushed him into the world with only Joseph and the animals as midwives. I believed them when the shepherds and the kings came. I believed them when my angel warned Joseph to take us to Egypt. And I believed them when, at the Temple, he disappeared. I feared You already had taken him from me then, much too soon. We searched for him for three whole days, days like years. When we found him teaching in the Temple, he said he had to be about Your business.

But Joseph and I persuaded him to wait a bit longer. And when the time came, it was still too soon by my heart’s reckoning. But I had vowed to do Your will, and so I helped him any way I could. Many times, that meant stepping aside, occasionally it meant helping others to understand, and nearly always, it meant biting my tongue when I feared he’d gone too far, too fast.

But this! Oh beloved, is this necessary? Must our child suffer so? We are not worthy of such pain. Take him! Take him now, before I go mad with rage and pain.

No, stay! Do not take him yet. This is the body of my body, the blood of my blood. I will devour him with my eyes, eating his body, drinking his blood. I will carry him within me forever.

His soft summons of “Mother” reaches me as if in a dream. I move as close to his feet as the soldiers will permit, John beside me.

“Mother,” my dying son says to me, indicating John. “Behold your son.”

And to John he says, “Behold your mother.”

His voice is almost too faint to hear.

“I am thirsty,” he says. I turn in silent appeal. The young soldier at the foot of the cross hesitates. But he turns and puts a sponge soaked in wine onto his lance and hoists it to Jesus. He wets his lips, and speaks again, his words tearing into my heart like knives.

“It is finished.” Then he cries out to You, Beloved.“Abba, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”

He drops his head and his eyes meet mine. I watch as the light dies.

A period of silence is kept

I hear a scream and wonder who it is, it comes from me. The sky darkens, thunder rumbles, and a great silence falls. My body feels numb. It seems as if the darkness lasts forever. After a time, light returns. Shaken, the soldiers begin taking my child down from the cross. One of them, a centurion I think, motions to them to give me the body.

I sink down on a rock, and with a curious gentleness, the soldiers hand him to me, draping him across my lap. I cradle him, my babe now man. His head lolls against my chest. I gently close his eyes and with my veil wipe the blood off his face.

I have no tears left. My eyes are spent with weeping, my soul is in tumult, my heart is poured out in grief because of the downfall of my people.

John says something to me, and I look up, my eyes blazing.

I say out loud what the prophet said before me, “Do not call me Naomi, which means Pleasant. Call me Mara, which means Bitter, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

John looks shocked, but what do I care? What are all the prophecies to me now? What do I care for all the fine words of men? My child is dead! Agony forces my head back and I scream at the heavens, “My baby! I want my baby back!”

Fourteenth Station read by Kimberly Brumley

I press my son to me, as if I can absorb him once again into my womb. Oh Beloved! Have mercy on me! Pour your tender mercies down upon me and help me! Help me! I have no strength left.

And once again, you send my bright angel. I feel the warmth at my back, the angel’s hand upon my bent head, and hear the familiar voice: “Mary, Blessed of all Women, do not be afraid, for God is pleased with you.”

And I remember the Promise: “All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.”

I allow them to take my son’s body from me: They are telling me it is time to prepare him for burial. Salome has brought spices, and Joseph of Arimathea has gotten permission to bury him in his nearby tomb. And so, I go through the ritual motions. As I once laid his body tenderly in a cradle, I now lay his body tenderly in the tomb. The smell of the sweet herbs fills the air. For one last time, I kiss the mortal face, then gently cover it with the sheet of fine cloth.

But I have no bitterness left. My heart already is looking ahead. We walk outside, and the great stone is pushed over the entrance. I stand looking at the tomb.

How long, oh Beloved, how long? As my dear friends move about me, peace settles on me, I am again one with Your will. Let it happen as You say.

Image by Kristen Wheeler. View more at

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