Saturday, 31 March 2018

Holy Saturday: Mary and The Widow of Nain

Jesus Raises the Son of the Widow in the City of Nain

The events of Holy Saturday are shrouded in mystery. This is in similitude to the body of Jesus on this day: limp and lifeless, silent in the darkness of a silent tomb, and clothed in a shroud. The Gospels are almost completely silent about what took place on this day, and the Scriptures speak explicitly about it, only briefly. Tradition elucidates the core facts of what happened on this day, yet this is far from being a narrative.

There are two main stages where the scenes of Holy Saturday take place. One is on earth, the other is in the underworld.

The latter involves Jesus’ awesome descent into the underworld, where He brought release to the souls of the just who died before Him. These were waiting there since the time of the first man and woman, in a place called ‘the limbo of the fathers,’ or ‘of the righteous’. Jesus’ mission didn’t end at His death, but even in death He carried out His mission in visiting these souls so that they might enter heaven by means of the payment of His Blood. By the time His resurrection had come, Jesus had emptied this region.

Yet the focus of this brief article is what happened on the stage of earth. The experience of Jesus, who experienced this day while He was on earth even before this day happened, and the experience of Mary—how she spent this day.

In Luke’s Gospel there appears the story of the widow of Nain. Jesus is walking into the city with His disciples when suddenly He comes across a funeral procession. He saw

a man who had died [who] was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. (7:12-15).

We mustn’t forget that Jesus although man, remains the all-knowing God. He knows when He is going die, how He is going to die, and He knows how painful it will be for His blessed mother to suffer the agonies of His passing.

Yet when Jesus does die, His soul will be in the limbo of the fathers, and He will not be able to experience the grief of His Mother in a tangible way. He will not have, what philosophers and theologians call, experimental knowledge of His Mother’s sufferings post-crucifixion and pre-resurrection. This is where in the Providence of God’s Plan, Jesus encounters the widow and her deceased son. It is here in this event that Jesus in His humanity sacramentally experiences the grief of his Mother on Holy Saturday.

After all, here we have a widow, as indeed Mary was at the time of Jesus’ death, and we also have “the only son of his mother,” which indeed Jesus was. When Jesus “saw her” and “had compassion on her” he also saw Mary and preveniently “had compassion on” Mary.

In this story the Holy Spirit is also showing us a glimpse of how Mary spent that Saturday—that Sabbath following the crucifixion. She was all tears, even more than the widow of Nain. She bore the loss of a Son who was more than man, but God as well. The widow of Nain did not know that her son would be raised to life, but Mary did.

Thus comingled with Mary’s relentless and heart-boring grief was her overwhelming anticipation over the resurrection of Her Son. An anticipation that was sure and confident, but which ate her soul up with waiting. Foreshadowed some years before when she lost sight of Jesus for three days when he was a child. A loss and suffering which caused her to say to Jesus in all seriousness, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” (Lk 2:48).

Three days later—according to the Jewish sense in which even part of a day, after sunrise and before sunset is counted—Mary would find her beloved Son risen and glorified from the tomb, just as she had found him after three days of anxiety in the temple at Jerusalem (Lk 2:46). This beautiful reunion was already experienced by Jesus in type when “he gave him,” the only son who he had just raised from the dead “to his mother” who would have been beside herself with inexpressible joy.

On Holy Saturday Mary was yet awaiting this glorious reunion in the flesh with her one and only Son. The Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta shares the experience of Mary in this time:

Even though the eyes of my soul followed my Son and I never lost sight of Him, at the same time, during those three days in which He was buried, I felt such yearnings to see Him risen, that in my ardor of love I kept repeating: ‘Rise, my Glory! Rise, my Life!’[1]

On this Holy Saturday let us unite ourselves with Mary, and join in Her yearning for the resurrection of the Lord that has already occurred in the past, which is occurring in the present in our souls, and which we pray will continue to occur in our own souls and in the souls of others risen to life from the tomb of sin and faithlessness.

So let us whisper on this say, with the lips of our Holy Mother: "Rise my Glory, Rise my Life!"

[1] The Virgin Mary in the Kingdom, Day 28.

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