Good Friday Meditation: The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother.
By Nancy B. Claflin Good Friday (March 29, 2002)
After three hours on the Cross, Our Lord has died…died a painful, humiliating, yet courageous death. His scourged, limp, lifeless body has been placed in the arms of Mary His mother. She is tearful; her heart is breaking; she is all alone. Everyone has left the scene. Certainly the hecklers and executioners are gone. Even those closest to her are gone. Perhaps they sensed her need for privacy; perhaps they thought she wanted to be alone; or maybe, they felt extremely uncomfortable with her tears and didn’t know what to say or do. But no, rather than quietly and prayerfully staying by her side, to offer care, comfort, and compassion, these “friends” left her all alone. What kind of friend would do such a thing?
As she lovingly and tearfully cradles the body of Jesus in her arms, holding Him close to her breasts, what thoughts are going through her mind? Perhaps she recalls the many miracles He performed during His earthly life: the healing of the leper; the restoration of sight to the blind; enabling the lame to walk; the changing of water into wine; the feeding of the multitude; the raising from the dead His good friend Lazarus. Perhaps Mary recalls thirty-three years earlier when she carried Jesus in her womb. The womb- a place of safety, nourishment, and protection.
Another womb if you will, is that of St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City, a mere stones throw from Ground Zero. This “womb” is also a place of safety, nourishment, and protection. For it is in St. Paul’s Chapel where rescue workers come to be fed and to rest their sore, wearied bodies. I felt honored and blest to have been one of the fourteen people from St. Anne’s that ministered in St. Paul’s from 8:00 PM Sunday March 10th until 8:00 AM Monday March 11th. Throughout the night, rescue workers continued to come and go. There were firefighters, police officers, utility workers, and medical examiners. Only those persons in uniform or those persons wearing proper “World Trade Center” identification were permitted to enter. St. Paul’s Chapel was not and is not a place where spectators can stare, gloat, and interview. I personally was aware of and respected the feelings of all that were gathered within the four walls of the Chapel. If I sensed that a rescue worker wanted to talk, then and only then, would I engage myself in a conversation.
It was about 1:00 AM, the wee hours of Monday morning, March 11th.
While pouring a cup of coffee for one of the firefighters, he kept staring at me with a glassy look in his eyes and said: “I can’t believe what I just saw”.
I simply said: “would you like to talk about it?” With tears in his eyes, firefighter McNamara shared with me that they had just found nine whole bodies, in a small crevice, eight stories beneath the surface of the ground. I immediately offered a silent prayer to God, giving thanks that nine families can finally have some closure. However, I can’t help but wonder how many people had an argument with their loved ones on the morning of 9/11? How many people exchanged unkind words? How many people went storming out of their house without first saying: “I am sorry; I was wrong; Please forgive me; And, I love you”? How many people, husbands/wives, sons/daughters, brothers/sisters, yearn to hold their loved ones in their arms just one more time?
While ministering to and talking with firefighter McNamara, I told him about our Memorial Garden here at St. Anne’s. I explained that at the beginning of this year’s Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night, we are going to gather in the garden. I also shared with him that one of the lessons the people will be hearing is “The Valley of Dry Bones” which I will be sharing. My friends, I then took a huge leap of faith and asked him if at all possible, would I be able to obtain some soil/ash from Ground Zero for Fr. Hastings to inter in our Memorial Garden back home. Immediately, he filled up with tears and said: “Nancy…I would be honored and more than happy to do that for you”. He then left and went back to work.
At 5:00 AM, I saw firefighter McNamara enter the front door of St. Paul’s Chapel. He walked directly over to me, opened his coat pocket, and pulled out a mangled, weather-beaten, almost soggy cardboard box of soil. As he placed it in my cupped hands, he shared with me that it is from the site of the South Tower. I began to cry. It was one of the most, if not the most breathtaking experiences I have ever had. It was Powerful; it was Sacred; it was Holy. I couldn’t speak, so I simply mouthed the words “thank you”. With his left hand, firefighter McNamara simply squeezed my right shoulder and said: “No-thank you Nancy.”
My friends, this soil is presently downstairs in the chapel where it will remain until this Saturday evening. If you have not already done so, please go down to the Altar of Repose and spend some time in prayerful meditation in the Presence of our Lord and this soil. As you do so, think about…pray about…all those persons, living or dead, whom you would like to hold in your arms.
Thanks be to God for the Mary’s in our lives that are there to hold us, comfort us, care for us, and dry our tears.
Nancy B. Claflin Good Friday (March 29, 2002)