In her meditation on this station, Caryll Houselander asks why Jesus, Who has from the beginning of His life accepted whatever help men have been willing to give Him, seems to reject the compassion of these women. She says:
Is this a refusal, a rebuke or a warning?
In a sense it is none of these, but a showing, a pointing to something which, if these women miss, and if we miss today, they and we will have missed the meaning of Christ's passion. Which if we miss, all our devotion to the person of Jesus Christ in His historical Passion, all our meditations and prayers, will be sterile and will fall short of their object to reach and comfort the heart of Christ. He is pointing to His passion in the souls of each of those women, in the souls of each of their children and their children's children all through time. He is pointing to all those lives to come through all the ages in which His suffering will go on.
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It is in order that we should seek Him and give our compassion to Him, weep for Him in [especially those that suffer alone and ignored], that Christ showed His need for sympathy in His earthly life and on the way of the cross. We must weep for Him in these and in our own souls, in these day, the days of the dry wood: "It is not for me that you should weep . . . you should weep for yourselves and your children. Behold, a time is coming when men will say, It is well for the barren, for the wombs that never bore children, and the breasts that never suckled them. It is then that they will begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. If it goes so hard with the tree that is still green, what will become of the tree that is already dried up?" (Luke xxiii, 28-31).
When CH said, "days of the dry wood" she was speaking of the days during and after World War II in England, where, of course, there was much more suffering than in the United States. I think, however, that we can rightly appropriate those words for the times in which we live, and almost beyond a doubt for those that are to come.
When I was younger, I thought a lot about that passage from Luke which says that it is well for the barren. I wondered what that meant, and supposed that it was because mothers would not be able to provide for their children and that they would have to watch them suffer. Then, I always thought about it in terms of babies or young children, but now I can see that it also applies to mothers of adults.
What never occurred to me in the past was that people would say it was well for the barren because they thought that their lives would be so much better without children. Today, we have seen that phrase that speaks of mothers' selfless love turn into a phrase that denotes a complete selfishness. And I think that one of the things that CH would tell us about this is that Christ is suffering in these women who have made a decision against motherhood, and that we ought to be weeping for Him in them. This, of course, is not our natural inclination, and that is why Lent and devotions like the Way of the Cross, are so important to us. They give us the time and space to look at things from the perspective of Jesus's Passion.
do not let me find consolation
in sensible devotion
to the person of Jesus Christ
while Jesus Christ passes me by
on the Via Crucis
we travel together.
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Do not give me tears
to shed at the feet of the crucifix
while they blind me to Christ crucified,
in the souls of sinners
and in my own sinful soul.