Jesus had a wonderful, praying mother in Mary. She obviously had proven herself pleasing in God’s eyes with her faith, devotion, and love. So much so, that she was given the ultimate mission, to give birth to the Divine.
I have been enjoying learning more about Mary. Mariology, the study of Mary (that’s a real thing) isn’t very easy. It is really taking different religions and scholars and trying to put together a representation of what it was like for Jewish women in Second Temple Palestine. So I’m reading Biblical sources (which there are few), Jewish sources(also, surprisingly few. Lots of stuff of men but not much about the daily lives and rituals of Jewish women), and the Quran(The Quran has a whole chapter devoted to Mary and the immaculate birth!) Basically, there is a lot of stuff to go through. My goal is to try and put it together in a book/essay/play/collage(joke), in a way is easy for Protestants and other people not familiar with Mary to understand.
The thing that I have discovered that excited me the most is the traditions of mothers praying Psalms. Most Christians remember praying with our own mothers, “now I lay down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul, to keep…” or “Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world…” Jewish mothers also had prayers they said daily, and they were Psalms. One of the popular Psalms for mothers to recite daily with their children is Psalms 22, 23, and 24. I’m blanking on the term, but it in the Jewish tradition you read them all together, sometimes like a song.
So, on Good Friday, we remember that as our Lord hung on that cross, his loving, praying mother, Mary was there with him. In the Bible, the authors say that Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What I have learned, and this is when I start to praise shout, is that statement is not a cry of help, BUT A PRAYER! JESUS WAS PRAYING!!! He was praying the Prayer that he had prayed with his mother his entire childhood. So imagine if you had to watch your child die, slowly, painfully, knowing you were unable to stop it, what would you do? Probably like Mary, start singing and praying comforting songs, like, “Jesus loves the little children.” For Mary and Jesus, that song/prayer was Psalm 22,23, and 24.
I urge you during your private reflection this weekend, to re-read the Psalms and re-image the scene on the cross, through the eyes of Mary, who was praying, singing, and trying to comfort her Son. And imagine how Mary felt when Jesus cried out to his mother, the lyrics to their prayer. The prayer that helped King David, the prayer that helped Queen Ester, and the ultimate, the prayer that contextualizes the crucifixion.
I pray that we are all able to reflect personally on this Holy weekend about the sacrifice of our Lord and the wonderful praying foundation of his mother, Mary.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him — may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him — those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!”
(Psalm 22:1–31 NIV)