When she held Jesus on her knee and he reached his arm around her neck, Mary felt flooded with melancholy she could not account for, a profound foreknowledge of sorrow for which she had no empirical evidence. She saw that what she’d given her son by giving him her body was suffering. And she grieved not only for herself, her son and husband, but for all of creation, the cat outside, the cucumbers sliced in the bowl, the great fish in the sea, vulture and crow, for every person, for lovers, for every child born and yet to come. Grieved for the entire world in all its soiled history and crippled future because suffering was an inalienable element of the world’s order and because it was incurable.
From that day on, she resolved to pray hourly for all of creation, the reptiles and insects, the flowers and birds, for those she loved and for those she did not love.
In time a startling vision came to her that was unlike anything she’d ever seen with her eyes. Two hands very near each other. Hers and her son’s. And she could not reach him.
The vision came often so she began to pray for those who would hurt her son and for the enemies of truth. Eventually she was able to pray that her son’s enemies, sure that he would have them, would also be preserved and be shown mercy.
She prepared herself, and she would also prepare him.
“What is the price of salvation?” she asked Jesus as he grew, until one day he answered, “Death.”
And she said, “Yes.”
Our Lady of Vladimir (12th century), the holy protectress of Russia, now in the Tretyakov Gallery. is in the the public domain.