THE TWO SAI T MARIES AT THE CROSS. REV. J. M. EALE, D.D.
"There stood by the Cross of Jesus, His Mother and Mary Magdalene."— S. John xix. 25. If I had not read it in the Gospel, I would not have believed it. God dying for the sins of the world, God become a scorn and derision to men, God made a wonder to the Angels ; — whom did He choose to be near Him while He was bearing the burden and heat of the day, — while He was treading the wine-press alone, — while He was engaged in His great and tremendous battle with the devil ? His Blessed Mother, — that is but natural, to speak after the manner of men. She that was pure enough to carry Him in her womb, was pure enough to stand by Him at the Cross. But Mary Magdalene! She, — the woman that was a sinner; she — out of whom He had cast seven devils; she, — whose presence Simon the Pharisee had thought a disgrace to his house ! Think of them, the two together : S. Mary the Mother of God, the purest and holiest of all created beings : S. Mary Magdalene, that had been the slave
68 The Two Saint Maries at the Cross. [Scrm. of Satan, well known to all among the impure and unholy. And learn how mighty is the grace of God : it was the same grace which made the Blessed Virgin what she was, and kept her so, and which raised S. Mary Magdalene from being what she had been, and set her at the foot of the Cross. ow, no doubt, this was a greater honour to her than even that it was she to whom our Lokd first appeared.
We should think it a greater glory, if a king, going out to war, said to us, " Be near me in the battle," than if he were to say, " Be near me in my triumph." Our Lord chose S. Mary Magdalene to be one of the four of His followers upon whom His dying eyes rested. As perfect Man, He felt as man in death. And whom should we wish to stand by our dying beds, to speak the last earthly words that we shall ever hear, to be the last objects that we can look upon and touch? Would it not be those that we had loved most? Could we give any greater proof of our love than this? I think not. Our Lord chose four to be near Ilis death-bed, the hard wood of the Cross : the three Saint Maries and S. John. There were also the two thieves. And notice that, of the six who were nearest to Him in death, two were penitents: the dying thief and S. Mary Magdalene. So great an honour lie puts on repentance, that two out of five of the servants who are witli Him in His last battle should be penitents. This we must also remember. If our Lokd showed the exceeding greatness of His love in permitting that S. Mary Magdalene should be at His feet, she, in turn showed even more love than others in desiring to be there. The Chief Priests and Scribes knew perfectly
XII.] The Two Saint Maries at the Cross. 69 well who and what manner of woman she had been ; and it is easy to imagine how they scoffed at her for thinking to show honour to any one, — how they reminded her that she could only bring disgrace and defilement wherever she went, — how they reviled a King Who could find no better servants than this. And we can imagine also concerning those that had been her companions in sin, but not in repentance, how they also
spoke of, and mocked at, her standing by the Cross. S. Paul tells us of martyrs that had trial of cruel mockings. I doubt whether any one ever could have endured more than S. Mary Magdalene by the Cross. Others, too, might glory in mockings and revilings; that which their enemies scoffed at, they knew to be their greatest honour. She could not. She could only say with the thief, "And we indeed justly." Truly, the Captain of our Salvation, Who knew what was in man, chose for Himself most valiant soldiers to assist at His Death. His Blessed Mother, whose trust never wavered ; the thief, who, next to her, showed greater faith than any other Saint ; S. Mary Magdalene, who so resolutely followed His example in despising the shame. We read of a captain in the Old Testament, who chose out a place where he knew that the valiant men were. Of all such places that the world has ever seen, the greatest was the foot of the Cross. But there were others looking on at that sight besides the Scribes and Pharisees. Satan was beholding, no doubt, that which was done. And what do you think he must have felt, when he saw one of his captives made into such a miracle of grace as this Saint ? One weak woman, standing by the Lord's feet, must have terrified all the powers of hell. If she had thus
70 The Two Saint Maries at the Cross. [Serm. triumphed over them, whom could they ever hope to conquer? If the sin which God hates more than any other — impurity — could not keep her back from Him, what new devices had they to destroy men ? o doubt Satan desired to have S. Mary Magdalene, as much as ever he had desired S. Peter, that he might sift her as wheat: no doubt, also, our Lord prayed for her, that her faith might not fail. She also was made a spectacle
to the world, and to angels, and to men. Here then our Lord invites, as if from His Cross, the whole world : " I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." His true and faithful servants, by the example of S. John, — penitents that long tarried with Him, by the example of S. Mary, — those that are as yet impenitent, by the example of the dying thief. There can be no class, no kind, no station, that He does not call. There can be none for whom there is not virtue in the Cross, to give the courage, the strength, the purity, the love, that they need. I know not why, however, we are only to-day to think of S. Mary Magdalene in her sorrow. " Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Her heaviness endured for two nights : that of Friday and that of Saturday. But, if double sorrow, double joy. It was early, at the rising of the sun, that she saw Jesus standing by the sepulchre, and knew not that it was Jesus; and that she heard that most joyful word from her Lord's own mouth, " Mary." By her He was first seen, by her He was first heard, to her He first spake of His Ascension. " Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God." And this is what love to Christ can do. Her sins,
XII.] The Two Saint Maries at the Cross. 71 which were many, were forgiven, for she loved much. Lazarus was raised from the grave, because she loved much. She was one of the watchers by the Cross, because she loved much ; and she was the first to see our Lord after the Resurrection, because she loved much. What love did for her, it can do for us. If we truly
love, our sins also will be forgiven. If we truly love, our prayers for others will be heard. If we truly love, we shall be found at the foot of the Cross, content to suffer shame and pain with our Lord. And, lastly, if we truly love, we shall see Him with the very same form in which S. Mary Magdalene saw Him, — in the body of His Resurrection. And, if we want to know whether we have this love, S. John will give us a rule for finding it out : — ' ' This is the love of God, that ye keep His Commandments." All comes to that : whatever we are speaking of ends in nothing else : there is no other rule; as the same S. John tells us in another place: — "Little children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous." " There stood by the Cross of Jesus, His mother and Mary Magdalene." We must also be like them. We cannot stand there in the body as they did, but we must go there again and again in thought. It is the only safe place in danger or in temptation. It is the only place that can lead to that glory, where those who stood by Jesus while He suffered, are now with Him while He reigns. Where God vouchsafe to bring us all, for His sake ! To Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory for ever. Amen.
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