The nature of Mary's Compassion (part I)

What do we mean by the word Compassion? All sorrow for our Lord's Passion is compassion with Him. The contemplation of the Saints, their painful ecstasies, the stigmata and thorny crowns, the engraving of the emblems of the Passion on the flesh of their hearts, and the miraculous inward sympathies with the Passion in their souls, are all but so many forms of Compassion, in the theological sense of the word. In like manner, the tears and prayers and devout meditations of common Christians, the penances of Holy Week both among seculars and religious, the frequency of making the Stations or joining in other devotions to the Passion, are also Compassion, in the same strict sense. Hence it would appear that all sorrow of which the Passion is the cause, all sorrow which is the echo of the Passion in our hearts, no matter whether this sorrow takes the form of prayer, of penance, or of merciful deeds to others, is what we mean by Compassion. It is a great part, and truly an indispensable part, of the deep inward life of every believer. The more holy the heart in which it exists, the closer is its union with the life-giving Passion of our Lord. The intimacy and mystical beauty of this union depend on the vigor of the operations of grace, on the intensity of the will in identifying itself with the will of our Saviour, on the absence of all sin and self-seeking to mar the completeness of the union or retard the processes of grace, and finally on the tenderness of heart and the self-oblivion of ecstatic love which accompany it. Now, in all these respects our Lady's Compassion is beyond all comparison with the Compassion of the saints, so far beyond it that we may use the word Compassion of her companionship in the Passion, and use other and commoner words for the union of the Saints with the sufferings of our Lord.

The actual presence of our Lady's Compassion at the time and place of the Passion gives it a union therewith which no other sorrow for our Lord can share. It was part of the living mystery itself. It was not the gradual result of long meditation. It was not a sorrow felt in the calm seclusion of the undistracted cloister, or a pious emotion roused by the marvellous ceremonial of a believing Church. It did not come from literature, or ritual, or history, or private revelation, or mysticism, or art, or poetry, but from the sights and sounds of the very Passion, in which it was immersed, and of which it formed an integral portion. It was part of our Blessed Mother's life. It was a series of events which happened to herself, outward sorrows of her own making these inward wounds. She had distinct rights, by which she was entitled to share in the Passion. I t needed not to be transferred to her by grace, or love, or participation, or the power of faith. It was hers already as a mother. She suffered it in all the rawness and dishonor of its existing reality. She was in the crowd; she was jostled in it, and derided by it; she was distracted by the tumult; her inward tranquility was assailed by the agitation and horror of the senses. All this is true of her Compassion, and of hers only.

Taken from book by Father Frederick William Faber “At the foot of the Cross”

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