In his consideration of these last two Stations (in which Jesus is taken down from the Cross and laid in the tomb), St. Alphonsus’ love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary becomes most evident. And this should be no surprise to us; he is, after all, the “Marian Doctor.”
Having already discussed all of the previous Stations of St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross, here, here, here, here, and here; we now turn to our sixth and final post on the Via Dolorosa. This article on the 13th and 14th Stations will conclude our series.
The 13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the Cross
Consider that, our Lord having expired, two of His disciples, Joseph and Nicodemus, took Him down from the cross, and placed Him in the arms of His afflicted Mother, who received Him with unutterable tenderness, and pressed Him to her bosom.
Once again, for the first time since the fourth Station, we return to our Lord’s most Sorrowful Mother. Separated from Christ by the crowd and the soldiers, she is at last re-united to her son.
Here, the words which Archbishop Fulton Sheen addresses to our Lady are quite moving: “Bethlehem is Jesus, as you, his sinless mother, gave him to the world; Calvary is Jesus, as the sinful world gave him back to you. Something intervened between your giving at the manger and your receiving at the Cross, and that which intervened is my sins. Mary, this is not your hour; it is my hour – my hour of wickedness and sin. If I had not sinned, death would not now hover on its black wings about his crimsoned body […] Mary, it is I who stand between his birth and his redemptive death.” (taken from The Seven Last Words)
O Mother of Sorrow, for the love of this Son, accept me for thy servant and pray to Him for me. And Thou, my Redeemer, since Thou hast died for me, permit me to love Thee; for I wish but Thee, my Jesus, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
For the second and final time, St. Alphonsus addresses the Blessed Virgin directly. He calls her the “Mother of Sorrow,” and indeed she is. According to a moral interpretation, St. Alphonsus implores our Lady to receive him just as she received the dead Jesus, holding him in her arms and pressing him to her bosom.
Only through his prior consideration of the “unutterable tenderness” of the Mother and the “love unutterable” of her Son, can St. Alphonsus dare to ask this great favor. Trusting not in our own merits, but in the love and mercy of almighty God which is communicated to us through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we beg the Good Lord’s pardon and make some small act of love in return.
The 14th Station: Jesus is laid in his tomb
Consider that the disciples carried the body of Jesus to bury it, accompanied by His holy Mother, who arranged it in the sepulchre with her own hands. They then closed the tomb and all withdrew.
While the Gospel accounts relate that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared the body of Jesus for burial and laid it in the tomb, St. Alphonsus recalls the venerable tradition that the Blessed Mary was central to this activity as well. Indeed, it is most reasonable to suppose this: How could a mother stand by as her own beloved son is buried?
Recalling, in this final Station, the significant role which Mary played in Christ’s life, the Marian Doctor brings us to consider her tender actions in burying her son and her Savior: “[She] arranged [his body] in the sepulcher with her own hands.” Those hand which first wrapped the Christ in swaddling clothes, now wrap him in burial bands.
“Is there one who would not weep, whelmed in miseries so deep? Christ’s dear mother to behold.” (from the Stabat Mater)
Oh, my buried Jesus, I kiss the stone that encloses Thee. But Thou didst rise again the third day. I beseech Thee, by Thy resurrection, make me rise glorious with Thee at the last day, to be always united with Thee in heaven, to praise Thee and love Thee forever. I love Thee, and I repent of ever having offended Thee. Never permit me to offend Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee; and then do with me what Thou wilt.
St. Alphonsus invokes the dead body of Jesus directly, “Oh, my buried Jesus.” Indeed, he is right to do so, since the divine person of the Eternal Word remained united to the lifeless body which was laid in the tomb. Just as we may rightly plead the mercy of the blood and water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus (in the chaplet Divine Mercy), so too we may pray to the entombed body of our Savior. Though his soul is no longer present, the person of Jesus, which is the Eternal Word himself, lay dead (i.e. personally united to a corpse) within the tomb.
And, although the practice of adding a 15th Station for the Resurrection is to be ignored and, when possible, rooted out; the Doctor of Morals cannot help but call to mind our faith in Jesus’ Resurrection. It is the bodily Resurrection of our Savior which is the efficient cause of our own glorification in the general resurrection on the Last Day. Thus, the Teacher of Prayer leaves us looking toward Heaven, toward the great hope to be fulfilled in Life Everlasting.