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Sorrow's Company (part I)

“Since Our Blessed Lord has set us out on our pilgrimage, it is inevitable that we should feel, all our lives, the discomforts necessarily connected with travel. We have only to watch His life to see that He also suffered in the same way. He left His Father’s side, He came on earth. He lived His own life of pilgrimage. It began in a ruined stable under a rock. It ended, lonely, desolate on a cross. All the while, He, too, was a pilgrim and a stranger here, not like the beasts which have their nests and their holes, of the earth earthy. He, being a pilgrim, had not where to lay His head.

"So, all His life long sorrow went as His companion. There, in the shelter of the rock, when He was only a child, sorrow stood by His side. He was the innocent one of God, and, yet, from the very beginning, He was ushered into the earth with crying children — slaughtered, and mothers crying because of their loss. Thus His very birth was the occasion of dreadful suffering owing to the fear Herod had of what His coming would mean to him. When He was born, then, He was born to sound of cries, and, from that moment until at last His eyes were closed in death, from that moment His unfailing companion was sorrow. She walked always by His side. It was she who went in company with Him. Down into Egypt He went, exiled even from His country, such country as He had, and she went with Him in His company. In His company she came back. She was there in that house of Nazareth, where His boyhood and youth were spent. She was there watching all His toil. She saw Him grow up in His poverty. She saw Him when He was else unnoticed by men. He was royal, with the royalty which was older than the oldest king, He came of a lineage which stretched back and was rooted in God Himself, yet no one paid Him reverence. ‘Do we not know Him? Is not His father the carpenter?’ That was the way of His fortunes through the wandering pilgrimage of His life.

"So, too, again, it was sorrow that went with Him when He left His home and began His work of preaching, journeying up and down through the provinces of Palestine, Galilee, Samaria and Judea. Sorrow went with Him always. Whoever failed Him, she never failed. Some might walk no more with Him and leave Him, not she. Some might desert Him in His hour of need. She never left Him. He was a pilgrim. Those who go on pilgrimage have sorrow always by their side and discomfort and the burden of traveling, never really having what they desire. So, she went with Him in the days when He took His place among His people, even when He worked His miracles. Was there a miracle that He worked that had not its ill effects on the crowd? On the Pharisees? On somebody? They said He had done all things well, but what did He do that did not meet with challenge? Everything He did was mistaken by those who watched Him or even at times by those on whom He lavished gifts. No act of that compassionate heart was done but someone was troubled. The Magdalene was at His feet in sorrow, but the Pharisee that was His host was scandalized at her repentance and return. He but laid His healing hand on someone, and at once His enemies were aroused. Had He not broken some law? Some Sabbath? In all He did there was always something not apparently as it should be.

"So, when it came to the end, those days of which Holy Week is the everlasting memorial, sorrow still went by His side. Palms there were, acclamations, shoutings there were, the echo of the hosanna, the beast carrying Him in triumph, the children triumphing, and, yet, there were some who disapproved. ‘All the world has gone out to Him,’ said the Pharisees. ‘Yes,’ answered Caiphas, ‘but, remember, one must die for the people.’ Sorrow never left Him; even when He rode in triumph into the city of His love, she rode invisibly by His side. Sorrow sat by Him when He was with the twelve in the upper place. It was a family gathering, that should have had a mellow happiness but over it the inevitable shadow was cast. ‘What thou hast to do, do quickly.’ Sorrow listened, sorrow understood. Out he went, that other, into the darkness. Still there was sorrow that stayed behind. He spoke and they would not understand. He took them with Him out into the garden. He went to meet His suffering, and they slept. They left Him. She never left Him. She was with Him still. He went out by Himself, and knelt in the darkness, and yet sorrow still held hands with Him. At last the angel came to bring Him comfort and now you would think sorrow would leave Him. But at once they heard the sound of men marching, and watched the advancing shadows cast by the swinging lanterns, and one there was who stepped out of the trees into the open and betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss.

"This was the beginning of newer depths of sorrow. Now was He led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was denied. There was hardly one who stood faithful to Him out of all those who had followed Him — hardly one; and even those who stood by Him and were faithful had slept. Of the others He had to watch their sorrow. This could not lessen His own. The mother was faithful, but He had the more sorrowfully to watch the mother in her pain. He who knew everything knew the dreadful sorrow she was undergoing. He carried her sorrows as well as the sorrows of all the world, as well as His own. What was her pain but His pain? What was His pain but hers? Sorrow went with Him. When His arms were held she still went with Him; lifted against the skyline she stood by Him. She was also lifted up to His embrace. Though He was desolate of the Father, forsaken, sorrow, though she made Him desolate, did not forsake Him even then. He was a pilgrim, and He faced, one by one, the difficulties of all pilgrims. He was a wanderer. To be a wanderer was why He came. He lived His life of pilgrimage, and He ended it, as pilgrimages have a habit of ending on a hill. There, at last, sorrow left Him, but only when He died.” (Fr. Bede Jarrett, O.P., No Abiding City, ch. 12)

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