By night I sought Him whom my soul loveth. I sought Him, and found Him not. I will arise and go about the city: in the streets and broad places I will seek Him whom my soul loveth. I sought Him, and found Him not. The watchmen who kept the city found me: Have you seen Him whom my soul loveth? I found Him whom my soul loveth ; I held Him, and I will not let Him go. —Canticle of Canticles iii. 1-4.
A the age of twelve, Our Blessed Lord was taken by His Parents to Jerusalem to keep the feast of the Passover ; and when they returned to their home Jesus remained in Jerusalem and His parents knew it not. " And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances. And not finding Him, they re turned into Jerusalem, seeking Him."
Is it possible for us to picture the intense suffering and desolation which the Mother of God endured during the three days' loss of her Son in the city of Jerusalem ? We cannot imagine what she must really have suffered in those days of affliction and distress, because we cannot fathom her perfect love for God. The agony of separation is proportionate to the power of love. The more we love our dear ones, the more deep is the sense of loss ; and no human being has ever loved, or could ever love, as Mary did. Jesus was all-in-all to her. He was her Child, her Saviour, and her God. She was His beautiful, sinless Mother. Her love was, therefore, the most beautiful the world has ever known. It was the love of the most perfect Mother on earth for her Child, true God and true Man ; He, perfect of Himself as the Eternal Son of God ; she, perfect because of Him and through Him as the Mother of the Eternal Word.
And yet she must suffer ; suffer because of her great love for Him. Was it not her Son who caused her this sorrow ? " The Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem and His parents knew it not." Was it not His Hand which planted the sword of sorrows in her breast ? This was a sorrow, directly and personally, put upon her by Himself. " He remained in Jerusalem and His parents knew it not." And yet He knew the suffering He would cause His Mother ; knew, as no one else could know, the grief which would encompass her till she beheld Him again. How it must have hurt Him to wound His Mother ; how He must have grieved for her day by day, knowing the measure of her love for Him. But His Mother must suffer as no other human being ever suffered ; as no other has ever been called upon to suffer ; surfer, as the supreme hall-mark of love. In every stage of her Son's life ; in His Infancy, in His Boy hood, in His Manhood, she must suffer on account of Him. He was her Child ; but the time was soon coming when Mary must take her stand before the world as the Mother of the " Man of Sorrow, acquainted with grief " ; and so, in His wisdom and love, He leaves her for three days ; she is to be made desolate and forlorn ; she is to be prepared by the loving hand of God for that unparalleled sorrow when she will lose Him again by His death upon the Cross. " O Lord, in Thy favour, Thou gavest strength to my beauty. Thou turnest away Thy face from me and I became troubled. To Thee, O Lord, will I cry ; I will make supplication to my God" (Psalm xxix. 8-10).
Our Blessed Lady's soul must have been transfixed with grief when she realized that she had lost her Child. It was a totally unexpected sorrow. Since the return from Egypt she had always lived in His Presence ; had watched over Him with wondrous love and devotion ; had seen Him grow up in the beauty of child hood ; had loved Him tenderly as her Child, adored Him as her Maker. He had been her Treasure on earth ; the Spouse of her soul. And now He was gone! What utter desolation must have filled her soul when she understood the loss of her Child. She was so certain her Son was with the party ; but now, when they seek Him at the end of that long day's journey, Mary perceives, with indescribable dismay, that He is not to be seen; cannot be found! "Whither is Thy Beloved gone, O thou most beautiful amongst women ? " With deep anxiety she questions many ; but none can give her any information about her Child. Though both she and St. Joseph are worn out with fatigue and anxiety, the search must be further continued until He is found. " I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids."
Mary's sensitive heart was filled with the most terrible fear during those days of separation. Was it in any way her own fault she had lost Him ? She experienced the pangs of lost happiness in an overwhelming degree ; all that had filled her life was now taken from her ; and without any warning. " He hath stript me of my glory, and hath taken the crown from my head " (Job xix. 9). In piteous grief she prayed to God to find her Child. " All the day I cried to Thee, O Lord ; I stretched out my hands to Thee" (Psalm Ixxxvii. 10). But God seemed very remote, very far away, in those days of poignant sorrow. She was worn out with fatigue, with the wearying journeys to and fro, and with a heart crushed with sorrow. " My tears have been my bread day and night; whilst it is said to me daily, Where is thy God ? " (Psalm xli. 4).
Ah! Where indeed was He ? Separated from her ; lost to her through no fault of her own—she who had never known sin—that we, who are separated from Him by our own sinfulness, may find Him again through her, the " Refuge of Sinners." She brings back to Him the erring children He has redeemed ; and with a mother's love asks Him to have pity on our frailty and weakness—just because we are so weak. She kneels at His Throne and implores Him to pardon our folly and wretched appreciation of His Love. " Thou hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God" (Judith xiii. 25). She is our Advocate with Him ; the dispenser of His Mercies ; our Guide, our way to Christ.
I seek and cannot find Him without thee ; Or worship Him or love Him without thee ; For He is thine and evermore with thee.
But always do I find my Love with thee ; For thou didst bring my dearest Love to me; O bring Him now ; 0 bring thy Son to me. —REV. FATHER RAWES, O.S.C.
" And it came to pass that after three days they found Him." When we lose Our Blessed Lord by our sins, our ingratitude, coldness and neglect, do we seek and find Him, as Mary did ; as Magdalene did ? Is it a source of great grief to us when we are conscious of our loss ? Do we give ourselves any peace or rest until we are brought into intimate union with Him again through the Sacraments of His Church ? Or is our knowledge of Him so slight that we hardly perceive our loss ? Do we take it for granted that somehow —almost independently of ourselves—we shall be brought back again to Him ? Is there anything vigorous in our search ? Or do we erect a barrier between Him and our own souls by our vacillating attitude towards Him ? And if we do seek, do we seek and find Him aright ? Do we cling to Him with our weakness, or with our strength ? Is He the supreme factor of our lives, leading us on to Himself ; or One to whom we turn, with confidence, in times of calamity and distress ? Do we know Him only in the enunciation of His Law, and not in the revelation of His Love ? Do we know Him only as the world's Creator, as the Sun of Righteousness ; and not as the " Friend of Sinners" ?
Oh! if the world to-day would only seek, and find Him aright 1 If it would only pour out its tale of sorrow and misery at His Sacred Feet, it could begin its career again strengthened by His sympathy and love. If it would only listen to His words of pity and forgiveness : "I will not condemn thee ; go, and sin no more " ; it would have no cause to lament and whine that Christianity has failed it in its hour of need. Christianity can never fail, because of its divine origin, its Divine Founder. When Christianity fails, God will fail! Man, separated from God by his sinfulness, his wilfulness and hardness of heart, has failed to understand Christianity aright; to fulfil its obligations and demands ; to interpret its message as Jesus Christ, in the Revelation of His Love, willed it to be received and put into practice. It is in the light of Love— Christianity's gift to the world—that we must examine our conduct towards God and towards our neighbour. " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind ; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (St. Matthew xxii.37, 38).
" If you love Me, keep My commandments " (St. John xiv. 15). "This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you " (St. John xv. 12), and " Keep yourselves in the love of God" (St. Jude i. 21).
" And it came to pass that after three days they found Him seated in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers."
What a wonderful sight must have met Our Lady's eyes when, at the end of the third day, she found her Child seated in the Temple in the midst of the doctors of the law, astonishing all by His wisdom, His insight into things spiritual, His simplicity ; showing them, as they had never been shown before, how wretched and small was their interpretation of God's word ; revealing whole passages pregnant with meaning which had hitherto escaped them. Our Blessed Lady was amazed at the company she found her Son in, and still more at the wonderful revelation of His power, which had hitherto been concealed in Him and which was now shown forth publicly for the first time, shown forth in the Temple of God, " His Father's house." Here was the first manifestation of His power ; that power which, later on, was to characterize all His works ; " He taught as One having power, and not as the Scribes " ; that power which, apparently destroyed by death, was, nevertheless, to rise above it, supreme over it. victor of it, in His glorious Resurrection.
But Mary, whilst thanking God for this marvellous revelation of His Sovereignty, cannot forget all her terrible anguish of the last three days. " Son," she says pathetically, but with quiet dignity, " Son, why hast Thou done so to us ? Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing." And her Child answers her. He sees the marks of suffering on her face, its careworn, anxious expression ; and His Heart goes out to His Mother with tender love and compassion. " How is it," He asks, "that you sought Me?" " Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business ? " " And they understood not the word which He spoke unto them."
They passed out of the Temple away from the wise men; and in lowly obedience and submission to Mary and Joseph, He dwelt in Nazareth with them. The ways of God are unfathomable ; and in this simple Child in His lowly home, the mysteries of God ever deepened and deepened.
From A crown of tribulation: being meditations on the Seven Sorrows of our Blessed Lady Mary (1920)