At the time of the crucifixion, standing near the Cross, was John, the beloved disciple and the three women: Mary “his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” I believe it is safe to say that they did not leave him until he was placed in the tomb, so they were also present at the Descent from the Cross or the Deposition of Christ, that is, when Joseph of Arimathea and the others removed Jesus’ body from the cross. The scene is not described for us in Holy Scripture, but the imagination of many artists has captured it and perhaps the most moving of these is when the body of our Lord is held in the arms of his mother, Mary, which is most often referred to as the pietá. The word pietá means pity or compassion and is meant to describe the face of Mary as she gazes upon her son. Of all the pietás created, the most famous is the one by Michelangelo.
The statue was originally commissioned by a French Cardinal who wanted it to adorn his tomb, but when the magnificence of the creation was revealed, it was ‘acquired’ by the Vatican.
At Christmas, we always hear that wonderful passage from Isaiah that begins:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
A few verses later:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given.
For us a child is born and for us a son is given. This great event is when God the Father gave his Son to the world and it will be later that the Son will give himself for us. He gave himself on the Cross, but he continues to give himself in the Eucharist, for we hear his words: “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
The Son of God: given to us for our salvation and the nourishment of our souls. The Son of God placed into our hands, just as he was placed into the hands of his mother when he was lowered from the Cross. In the receiving of the Bread of Heaven, the Body of Christ at the Eucharist, we become the Pietá. We become the ones who hold him in our hands and gaze upon his sacrifice. Not even Michelangelo could capture the beauty and love expressed to us by God in that moment.
We can not be indifferent when the bread is placed in our hands, for it is the Son… given for us.
Let us pray: O Holy Mother of God and Blessed Virgin, as you held the body of your Son, Our Lord, at his birth and at his death, may we be found worthy to draw near to you and hold him in our hands at the Eucharist. May the source of your sorrow, that pierced your soul like a sword, bring us a perfect end and life eternal. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.