For at least the last eight years, I have played the older Mary in our Easter productions at church. Yes, I still have at least another 15-20 years before I am the same age as Mary at the time of the crucifixion, but I have makeup and stage lighting to complete the illusion. I usually end up with this role by default since I can fake the age and I know how to direct on stage without being noticed. The last several times I have played her, Mary has been a monologue speaking role. No matter what the role has entailed, it has forced my view of the events surrounding the crucifixion to be colored by Mary’s view, even the Lord’s Supper that our church observed last week.
Perhaps the monologue has been the most pointed in requiring me to look at Jesus’s death as a mother and to feel the injustice that Mary must have felt. She knew from the first announcement of the angel that this child would be destined for supernatural things, but she probably never imagined that he would be taken from her in such a cruel form of death. Parents never want to consider that they could outlive their children; we think it violates the natural order of life. How painful was it to watch her child be sentenced to death and then crucified? We’ve probably all seen at least a photo of Michelangelo’s Pieta which depicts Mary holding the dead Jesus in her arms just after the crucifixion. It’s a beautiful and moving sculpture. To portray that moment on stage puts you inside the sculpture – inside the intense sadness and agony that Mary must have felt.
Of course she knew that he had predicted his own death, and she would know in a few days that her son had been resurrected from the dead to live forever. But in that moment, it must have felt like the end of her own life and the beginning of something far more terrible than death: any parent who must live on after a child’s death knows that you wish you had died with them so that you wouldn’t have to face the daily pain of living without them. This isn’t suicidal; it is a natural part of grief and a feeling you’ll face until you learn how to cope with the loss. I’m sure that once I move past this stage of loss in my life that I will see still more perspectives of the crucifixion. Right now, I feel that Mary and I have a lot in common, and it colors every part of my Easter experience. It doesn’t change the most important part of Easter: Jesus Christ came to earth as a human, lived a perfect and sinless life, was killed on a cross as a perfect and holy sacrifice for my sins, and then rose from the dead so that I could live in relationship with God forever. That’s the Easter story no matter what perspective I bring to it.