The Pietà

by Christina M. Sorrentino

Anyone who has made their way into St. Patrick’s Cathedral located in the heart of New York City has experienced the awe and wonder of the sheer size of the building itself. I remember as a child holding the hand of my mother while looking upward at the soaring, vaulted, ceiling with eyes wide open and jaw dropped in utter fascination at the spectacle before my little self.

As I approached the front of the Cathedral, I could not help but gaze upon the majestic pillars and the stained-glass windows where the radiance from the sun shone through and lit up the beautiful designs before me. As the golden glowing lamps hung high above my head and massive crowds of people walked up and down the aisles chattering about with flashing cameras snapping to and fro around me, one statue caught my interest.

Anyone who has cast his eyes upon various pieces of art depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary has most often experienced the Mother of God’s smile, tenderness, and joy. But there is one particular artwork that stands out from all the others, the statue of Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is an incredibly powerful piece that illustrates the tremendous pain and sorrow of a grief-stricken mother with indescribable suffering, while at the same time showing upon Our Lady’s face the incredulous love that a mother has for her son.

Suddenly, in the middle of the hustle and bustle in Midtown Manhattan, it was a statue that simply captivated me by bringing an overwhelming sense of peace that radiated from the depth of my soul. I simply knew at that moment that the way the Blessed Mother loved her son, she also loved me; a deep, heartfelt love. As a child I could not understand the suffering depicted in the face of Mary, as it was a suffering that I had not experienced at such a young age, but it showed the deep wound of a mother, the sword that pierced her heart; the type of wound that cannot be seen by the naked eye. The statue portrayed the most profound wound, a wound of love; one that cannot be described in words.

I remember what Jesus said to the apostles the night before his Crucifixion:

Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22)

We are experiencing a time of suffering now in our world the same as the early Christians did at the beginning of the founding days of the Church, and that we have always experienced throughout history. We may not experience a sword cutting through our heart as our Blessed Mother did, but how many of us have experienced this past year a stabbing pain when we watched our loved ones die a slow and agonizing death from the Coronavirus? I am sure as Christ’s mother, she longed to take away His pain as the nails were hammered into his hands and feet as he hung upon the Cross struggling to breathe every last breath. The suffering in this world is a result of the Fall where the devil wanders throughout the earth unchained; where the powers of evil and darkness are such that we cannot escape.

Besides a look of both love and sorrow upon Mary’s face, we also see one of adoration. From the moment she became a Living Tabernacle for God, she adored the precious Fruit of her womb. As she held Jesus in her arms close to her after He was taken down from the Cross we see the Blessed Virgin with eyes downcast in great humility showing adoration as she contemplates the death of Who she holds in her arms. The lifeless body she cradles near her bosom is not only her child, but her God. She is aware that He is far greater than the transgressions that killed Him, and deep in her heart, knows that He came to defeat the power of darkness and that all would come to pass in complete fullness in His time.

Every Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we see in the face of Mary the hope and promise of Christ conquering the power of sin and death. In the present time in the United States and around the globe we are experiencing a dark and tumultuous period in our lives, where for many people it seems that all is lost, and that there is no hope, but the truth is that Christ already won the victory against the evil one. After the death of Christ came the Resurrection on that first Sunday, and the reality is that though there will always be the grief, sorrow, and pain of Good Friday, there will also always be the Resurrection that we will experience over and over again:

Out of darkness is born the light. (St. Catherine of Sienna)

Christina M. Sorrentino is a freelance writer and poet from Staten Island, New York. She is the editor-in-chief of Ignitum Today, and regularly contributes to Radiant Magazine. In addition to those publications, she authored her first book in 2018, and has contributed to various faith-based blogs and websites, including Catholic InsightCatholic Stand, and Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Her own blog is Called to Love – A Listening Heart.

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