Contribution of Professor Courtenay Bartholomew, Trinidad

The Mother of the Sacrificial Lamb

In the fullness of time God sent His ambassador Gabriel to a young woman in Israel, and issued a gilt-edged invitation to her to be the Mother of the Incarnate Word. And when she said “yes,” she immediately became the living Ark of the New covenant. Redemption had begun. No human father was involved. It was another miraculous birth, this time to the daughter of Sarah. But she was already prepared for this invitation. She was the Immaculate Conception, a singular privilege given to her in anticipation of the merits of her divine Son. Mother of God she now was. This was, appropriately, the first Marian dogma, defined in 431 AD.

But that gate through which Infinity entered into time to dwell in the womb of Mary remained closed, for that garden, that paradise, was to be reserved for him alone; for the second Adam. And so, she was the Perpetual ever-Virgin Mary, officially proclaimed as such in 649 AD at the Lateran Council. It was the second Marian dogma.

Nine months later, she gave birth to the true Lamb of God. It was in a stable, for where else should a lamb be born? It was in Bethlehem for, once more, where else would the Bread of Life be born, except in a house of bread. Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”

Thirty years later, it was in Cana that she initiated His first public miracle and His predestined ministry, realizing only too well that by so doing she would be hastening what she feared most in her life, His Calvary, and what was foretold to her by Simeon in the temple, namely, that a sword would pierce her soul. But she certainly knew that, even before she said “yes” to Gabriel. She was not tricked into this marriage to the Holy Spirit. She gave her full consent, knowing full well both Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. But by saving the bride and groom from embarrassment in Cana, she also publicly manifested herself to us for the first time as Mediatrix with the one Mediator and as Advocate for the people.

Three years later, there was another banquet. It was the last before His death. On that occasion, this time He changed wine into His Blood, and bread into His Precious Body. It was unleavened bread. Humble bread! It had not even risen! After supper, when He was agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood, He cried His last prayer to the Father: “Father, not my will be done, but yours.” And we shall imitate this unity—we shall be One Community! As the Lady of All Nations once said in this city.

Now, she was not there when Jesus was seen in all His glory on Mt. Tabor by Peter, James and John. No, that was not her place. She was not there on that Sunday when the crowds waved palms and sang Hosannas to him. That too was not her place. But she was there on that Friday, on the hill. But whereas some two-thousand years previously, God had held back the hand of Abraham who, in his obedience, was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, and thereby spared the life of his son and the anguish of his mother Sarah, that Mother of Nations of the Old Testament … on nearby Calvary, God would accept the offering, sacrifice and the suffering of the Son and of the Mother of Nations of the New Testament, that Ewe, who stood under the Cross for three long hours, helplessly watching the blooding immolation of her first born Lamb. It was the immolation of His Body, the very instrument of redemption, which she had provided for Him. No human father was involved.

But the suffering and killing of the lamb on that first Passover night in Egypt was merciful compared to the suffering of the true Lamb of God on Calvary, a suffering witnessed by the mother of the Lamb, who was suffering with the God-man for mankind and from mankind. I am speaking of the Mother of Mankind, the New Testament’s second Eve and Mother of the Living, the New Testament’s Sarah and Mother of All Nations.

It was a fruit which hung from a tree in the Garden of Eden which brought death to mankind. It was the “fruit of her womb” which hung from a tree on Calvary which restored life to all nations. It was the Redeemer on the Cross and His companion the Coredemptrix and second Eve beneath the Cross. Stabat mater dolorosa, we say. But to be Coredemptrix she had first to be the Immaculate Conception. Pope Pius IX proclaimed that doctrine officially in 1854. It was the third Marian dogma.

But to be Coredemptrix and companion to the suffering Redeemer, she also had to be a Co-sufferer. And how she suffered! In 1573, Lady Julien of Norwich, in her book Revelations of Divine Love, records her privileged visions from God, and said: “I saw part of the life and suffering of Our Lady St. Mary … She and Christ were joined in love that the greatness of their love caused the greatness of her grief …, for the greater and the sweeter the love is, so the greater the grief is for those who love, to see their loved one suffer.”

But how can words, even these words of Lady Julien, measure the anguish of the “Ewe,” standing under the Cross of her lamb? Perhaps women more so than men can appreciate this. At least, they know the pain of childbirth and the ultimate pain of seeing their children die. Yet, if there were a thousand mothers standing at the feet of a thousand crosses bearing their thousand crucified sons, the sum total of their anguish could not in any way measure the pain and suffering of that woman on that hill on that Friday, that some men call “Good.”

But she had to suffer as no woman had ever suffered. She had to suffer as much as, and indeed more than, for example, did Joan of Arc, burnt at the stake for restoring the kingdom of France from her enemies. But Mary’s cooperation was in restoring the kingdom of God on earth from her enemy Satan. It called for a much greater suffering.

You see, it is not appreciated by many lay people that spiritual and mental suffering can be as agonizing as physical pain, at times even more so, and the emotional pain, for example, of the depressive person, the spiritual “dryness of the desert” and the “dark night of the soul” which some people endure, can parallel or even exceed physical pain, albeit measured on completely different scales and parameters of human suffering. There are also many cases of spouses dying within hours of each other, unable to survive the anguish and the unbearable emotional pain of the separation from their loved one. So it would have been with the Mother of Love and the Mother of Sorrows on that Friday, had she not been preserved from death by God.

It was Adam and his companion Eve who sinned in the Garden of Eden and so it had to be the second Adam and his companion, the second Eve, to reverse the situation. Redemption had to come from suffering, and just before a lance was thrust into the heart of her Son and at the moment when the sword pierced even deeper into her own heart, he made his last will and testament and bequeathed his mother to be our mother also, our spiritual mother. “Woman, behold your son … Behold your mother …,” he said to Mary and then to John. It was at that moment that she officially became the Mother of Mankind, the Mother of All Nations.

Now, when she said “yes” to Gabriel, she became the Mother of God. It was the first doctrine, then proclaimed dogma. When He died on the Cross, she was not only the Mother of God but also officially became the Mother of All Nations. It was appropriate therefore that appearing as Mother of All Nations here in Amsterdam, she should ask for the last Marian dogma, which will close and complete the history of the “Greatest Love Story” ever told. The sequence of events has been totally logical.

John on the island of Patmos saw a vision: “And the temple of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it” (Rev. 11-19). This could not be the ancient ark which was lost somewhere in Israel. I had to be the living Ark of the Covenant, Mary, who was bodily assumed into heaven. It was the fourth Marian dogma. But this had to proceed the fifth and final dogma—Coredemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate. From then on, more than ever before, all nations will call me blessed.

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