Mary’s Long Day

mary, jesus, cross, marian, altar

This is more of an invitation than an article; an invitation to think about, and perhaps share, thoughts on what the Blessed Virgin Mary did from the time that the stone was rolled in front of the tomb around dusk on Good Friday until Jesus rose from the dead on the morning of Easter Sunday. There is no  single “right answer” for this.

There is, relatively speaking, little in Holy Scripture about Mary and very few of her actual words. We know she is at the foot of the Cross as her Son suffers and dies.  We know that she is in the upper room in Jerusalem when the apostles return there from the Ascension of Jesus to pray; and she is there at Pentecost. Holy Scripture is, however, silent about what Mary did for the day and a half or so after the death of Jesus and before His Resurrection.

It must be admitted that perhaps we do not know about what Mary did simply because it is not important; or at least  God in His wisdom, in inspiring the New Testament writers, decided that what Mary did for that time period would not be included. Some Protestant thinkers say that this silence about Mary makes good theological sense since all one need do for salvation is have faith in Jesus.

Based on what we do know about Mary, some of this listed here,  there are some concluding thoughts below, which are at best opinions and at worst bad guesses, about what Mary may have done in that time after Jesus’s death. Any other things about Mary that are pertinent or important to forming an opinion about what she did after Good Friday can be added [please] in the Comments below.

About Mary 
Holy Scripture

Full of Grace (Annunciation; Lk 1:28)

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Jesus found after being lost; Lk 2:19)

Do whatever He tells you. (Wedding at Cana; Jn 2:5-8)

Doctrine & Teaching

“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854).

“The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as “free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature”. By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 493).

“The mere name, Theotokos,  the Mother of God, contains the entire mystery of salvation” (John of Damasus, The Orthodox Faith 3:12).

“Since the Virgin Mary’s role in the mystery of Christ and the Spirit has been treated, it is fitting now to consider her place in the mystery of the Church. “The Virgin Mary . . . is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. . . . She is ‘clearly the mother of the members of Christ’ . . . since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” “Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church 963, quoting Pope Paul VI, Discourse, November 21, 1964).

“Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason, she is a mother to us in the order of grace” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church 968).

Tradition & History

  1. Ambrose and several others write about the early church tradition that Jesus appeared to His mother Mary first after He resurrected from the dead. Although it is not in Holy Scripture, this seems to make perfect sense. Mary was not one of the unbelieving women who went to the tomb to anoint a dead body. She was not one of the frightened men (at the time the only ordained priests on earth)  hiding out from the temple guards and the Roman soldiers. She alone not only believes but knows as no one else did or could, that His Resurrection was a certainty. So of course, [in the humble opinion of this writer] the loving, divine Son comes first to His mom. And it also seems like perfectly sensible theology that they hugged and kissed and laughed a lot.
  2. “Respecting the creation of images of Christ and Mary, painters should remember that throughout antiquity one thing was believed and transmitted by the Fathers: the face of the Savior was admired for its perfect resemblance to that of Mary; thus anyone looking at the mother or the Son might easily recognize the Son from the Mother and the Mother from the Son.” (Cardinal Federico Borromeo, Milan, 1577; quoted in The Mother Of God: Art Celebrates Mary, Amato et al, 2001)
  3. Mary is the Theotokos, the God-bearer, full of grace, the mother of a divine Son, the mother of a Son whom she laid in a manger in Bethlehem and then nursed as a babe, found in the temple as a young boy, introduced to the world at Cana, embraced on the way to Calvary as He was covered in blood, watched as they stripped Him and nailed Him to the Cross, heard Him invite the good thief to paradise, heard Him ask His Father to forgive those who had done this to Him, and died hanging and gasping for breath  before Her. No soldier, no member of the Sanhedrin, no Jewish priest would dare tell this courageous woman to leave her station beneath the cross.
Final Thoughts

Some who have expressed an opinion about Mary’s actions after the crucifixion has said she may have begun a prayerful vigil for her Son’s coming on Easter morn, maybe in isolation. This is a sensible thought and may indeed be what happened. When thinking only in terms of the possible, of course, Mary may have slept until Easter Sunday morning.

Another possibility is that she was not alone and continued to interact with those around her. Perhaps those with her, believing she was grieving, upset, weary or anxious, tried to comfort her.

It is a certainty that, if she was not in isolation, or asleep, she continued to do what she had always done. What she had always done was to never sin; and, because she was God’s sin-free creature, all of her sinless actions involving or directed to other persons were selfless acts of virtue and of love, even after being there for the horrific torture, passion, crucifixion and death of her Son.

In your humble writer’s opinion, Jesus did not leave us alone and He did not leave His mother Mary childless. She would continue to bear God to everyone following Jesus’s death, and do so during the time before the Resurrection.

Finally, she must have [discussion of the theological correctness of this ‘must’ is welcomed] understood what her Son had told her from the Cross – that John the young apostle, and, through him, all of us were now her children. She had birthed, protected, raised, nourished and loved her Son. From dusk after Good Friday, she, now in the care of all of us, has mothered us as only she can. It must [again, please discuss or discredit this ‘must’ if it is in error] have been the same with those with her before that glorious Easter morning. She was their mother.

That just about sums it up – she was their mother and she is our mother. Perhaps it was not such a long day for her after all.



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5 thoughts on “Mary’s Long Day”

  1. Great topic for meditation! For a many years, I have taken time on Holy Saturday to think, pray and imagine what the first Holy Saturday was like for Jesus’ followers, known and unknown (latter allows more freedom with the imagination). The comments are also great nuggets for thought! Thank you.

  2. BB, BJ, and AP, Many thanks for reading and commenting. BB, great facts etc. You should be writing, not me. BJ-I think you are spot on with your “prayerfully” and “reality” insights. AP-I dont think Mary was left alone, at least I hope not. And I envision her as the one buoying up everyone’s spirits and radiating hope. Alone or with others, she was never “in hiding,” – if the Jewish priests, Pontius Pilate, or the Roman soliders wanted to do anything to her, they would have done it on Calvary. God bless y’all. Guy

  3. I love the idea that Christ appeared first to his mother. I do have one question, however: inasmuch as John took her into his house the day of the Crucifixion, why did he leave her, his precious charge, alone and possibly vulnerable, to go huddle in hiding with the rest of the disciples?

  4. I think of Mary coming away from the cross in, not just grief, but in pondering His entire life. Then remembering and meditating on each nuance and its significance. She then prayerfully advances the hope for all mankind into reality in her mind. This gives her great comfort, even as her earthly heart feels broken for the loss.

  5. One of my least favorite gospels is Cana because the public Church uses sense for sense English translating of what Christ said to Mary and it always comes out as the self involved Christ treating his mom badly and no one in the liturgy stratosphere does a thing about it. Go to the New Vulgate or the Old Vulgate or to Young’s Literal Translation and Christ said literally…not sense for sense…”what to me and to thee, woman, my hour has not yet come.” He was saying really…my hour to suffer has not yet come. “Woman” “Gynai” Christ also uses toward Mary Magdalene when she is weeping in searching for his body….gynai was gentle in connotation to Christ.

    Now go to any of those three above translations and go to 2 Kings 3:13 where Eliseus says to the king of Samaria…” what to me and to thee”. Same rare idiom used by Christ to his mom. Now stay four more minutes with Eliseus because he is about to miraculously produce tons of water that looks like red blood to the distant Moabites and that delusion leads to their defeat.
    Christ must have gone over 2 Kings 3 with Mary very near but earlier to Cana and it’s wedding. They talked scripture.
    Rare idiom “ what to me and to thee?”
    Followed in both cases by water becoming red as blood.
    Hold that thought. Go to the Biblical scholar Fr. Manuel Miguens in “ Mary, Servant of the Lord” ( 1978/Daughters of St. Paul ) who noted that John’s gospel uses “hour” only for Christ’s suffering and that scholar said that is how Christ is using it to Mary.
    He is not telling Mary that He does not have to do a miracle yet…He is telling Mary He won’t suffer arrest and suffer the Passion this early…ie …a miracle is fine with Him.

    OK…stay with me…Mary is conscience bound to ask for a miracle for the couple but unlike us, she does not know how soon Christ will be arrested after He goes public. She fears that this miracle for all she knows can lead to Christ getting arrested and suffering his passion “ hour”.
    But she walks toward Him with that worry in her face as she asks for the miracle.
    Christ sees her worry and hears it in her voice tremor and therefore Christ signals her…to the effect that they had recently went over Eliseus and the water that looked like blood….” what to me and to thee”…in other words: don’t worry mom, my suffering ( my hour of passion is not yet) is not this soon after going public with a miracle.
    You just saw folks why Mary heard an immediate yes from Christ. And “Woman”…may sound harsh to you due to difference of language and idiom but Christ in John 20:15 uses it to console Mary Magdalene…who is crying as she looks for Him…” Woman..gynai…why do you cry?”

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