Q- I am reading a book. One of the interesting ideas he has got me thinking about is this ‘alienation of affection’ between Jesus and Mary. As I understand it, it seems to talk about the spiritual development that Mary went through by way of the seven sorrows. I was wondering if you had insights on this.
A- First we need to understand that Mary’s spiritual development is quite different from ours, even if in recent decades (from Vat II) her human journey was strongly underlined, showing that she too is well journeyed in her Faith.
There is a huge difference between underlining her “merits”, i.e. her human effort, by the grace of God, to correspond to the will of God, and saying that she is strictly like us. Of course she is not. She is born immaculate, by the merits of Jesus on the Cross. This doesn’t at all cancel out her participation, her efforts, her merits, but it places her on a different level. The Grâce of God in her (the Holy Spirit) never found an obstacle in her for his action. So the “spiritual development” in her existed, but the starting point is already very high. She is already pure, transformed, incandescent and united to God when she starts. She doesn’t need purification, but can still grow, because God is infinite and therefore one can still grow and grow spiritually.
Speaking about an “alienation” might be understood as a purification, or as a necessary action, or step, to be taken or undergone. It would mean that she wasn’t pure, detached. She had human feelings, nothing wrong with that, but they were in good order in the sense that they gave the first place always to God. She wasn’t attached egoistically to her Son.. She knew he is God, he is the Saviour, and that he had a mission.
Does this go without suffering? Well suffering existed but, in order to be more faithful to the spirit of the Fathers of the Church, I would say that the Saviour would have never made her suffer directly. Never. He is not the cause of suffering. All the suffering comes from the ugliness and darkness of sin, our sin, our sins.
Q- Did Mary have to suffer? – What was the purpose of Mary’s suffering? – How did this relate to Our Lord?
A- What is the cause of suffering? Our sins. Suffering is an alteration/change in our body (the senses) and/or the soul (feelings, emotions). The cause of suffering for a pure person is sin, darkness, lies, hatred,… the mystery of Evil in all its forms and its consequences in us.
Per se she didn’t have to suffer, but since she accepted to be involved in the life and mission of the Saviour, she gets her share of it. Salvation puts – out of Love – The Pure face to face with the darkness and ugliness of the sinner.
Q- What does this mean for us? Do we need to suffer to develop interiorly?
A- The causes of suffering for us are different. We suffer because that ugliness that became ingrained in us has to go, we need to be detached from it. Sin made our spirit have the shape of the Creatures. (When you “love” something, you spiritually acquire the shape of what you love, and this is a deformation of the “Likeness” of God in our spirit. Our baser, fallen nature, which becomes deformed when no heed is taken of our spiritual/conscience side, that which ennobles us.) Mary is a “creature” like us, but with ordered affections. (She is not a fallen human being, so her body obeys to her emotions her emotions obey to her soul and her soul to her spirit and her spirit is united to God and moved by Him.) Purification, sanctification, makes us progress, transforms us into Jesus. As a consequence, by the action of the Holy Spirit our spirit leaves that shape/form (resemblance with creatures), and takes, the form and shape of God himself: finding again the likeness with God that we lost. This process is painful. Painful not because it has to be painful. Pain is not a goal in itself. Trans-formation is the goal. Suffering is just a consequence.
This journey of transformation is necessary. We need courage in order not to focus on pain but on the real transformation that is occurring in us by the action of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise it is unfair and breaks the momentum of our transformation. Again: we need to focus our attention totally on the core of what is happening. Even if the pain is strong and perceived it is not the main event.
Being with God (in the process of transformation) or not (not corresponding to the action of the Holy Spirit), we do suffer as well because of the ugliness of sin and its consequences in daily life. This is not caused by God, but by us humans. We harm each other. Ignorance, sins, cause suffering. The person far from God will suffer more. The person with Jesus has the opportunity to unite his/her suffering to His Cross and therefore “use” the suffering as a powerful trampoline to push us ahead miles and miles… to accelerate. Suffering in itself is nothing, but when suffering occurs, if united to the Lord on the Cross, it becomes a very powerful tool of sanctification and transformation. This is why, sometimes when we read stories of saints we get the impression they loved suffering, or advised it. Their experience of uniting the suffering that occurred to them with Jesus’ Power of Redemption on the Cross is so powerful that they seem to give us the advice that we need to suffer and we need to seek it,…
So again: everybody suffers: live on earth is not perfect and there are plenty or causes for suffering. If suffering is united with Jesus, it is different. Even if people differ on how all kinds of suffering that we see in the world could be united to Jesus’ redemptive suffering on the Cross. Suffering far from Jesus, not knowing Him and therefore not uniting our suffering with him on the Cross could be tougher and bring less results (sanctification wise).
This is why Jesus during the Passion turned to the women and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”” (Luke 23:28-31)
Here He alludes to himself: the suffering inflicted on the “green” the spiritual, God. The dry, is the person disconnected from him, and is still suffering. Much tougher.