The Appalling Benefactress


To attempt to understand the reason for the existence of sorrow, of this appalling Benefactress, one must go back to man’s beginnings, to Eden, where Sorrow was born the moment Adam became conscious of sin. She was the first-born of man’s work, and, ever since, she has pursued him upon earth, and, beyond the tomb, even to the very threshold of paradise.

She was the atoning daughter of Disobedience; though baptism wipes out the original stain, Sorrow it is unable to check; to the water of the sacrament she adds the water of tears; she cleanses souls, as best she can, with two substances borrowed from man’s own body, water and blood.

Hateful, and hated by all, she penalized generation after generation; from father to son antiquity handed down hatred and fear of this torturer; paganism, unable to understand her, made of her an evil goddess whom prayers and gifts failed to appease.

For centuries she bore the burden of humanity’s curse, and, weary of seeing her work of reparation provoking only wrath and abuse, she too impatiently awaited the coming of the Messiah who should clear her reputation and remove the hateful stigma that was hers.

She awaited Him as her Redeemer and also as her Betrothed, destined for her since the Fall; and for Him, accordingly, she reserved her passion, until then kept within bounds. For, from the time since her mission began, the tortures she had dealt out were comparatively tolerable. She had to curtail her grievous caresses to suit the proportions of mankind. She did not give free play to herself when dealing with those despairing ones who repulsed and reviled her, when they but felt her hovering near.

Only on the God-Man did she lavish all that was most exquisite in her armory. His capacity for suffering exceeded all that she had known. She crept towards Him on that awful night, when, alone, forsaken in a garden, He took upon Himself the sins of the world, and, having embraced Him, she gained a grandeur that was never hers till then. So terrible was she that at her touch He swooned. His agony was His betrothal to her.

She filled His cup with the sole blandishments that were hers to offer—atrocious and super-human torments—and as a faithful spouse she devoted herself to Him and never left Him again till the end. Mary, and Magdalene, and the holy women, were not able to follow Him The Crucifixion of Christ on the Cross by Fra Angelicoeverywhere, but she accompanied Him to the Pretorium, to Herod, to Pilate. She counted up the thongs of the whips, she made sure that the thorns were prickly, that the gall was bitter, that the lancet and the nails were sharp.

But when the supreme moment had come, when Mary and Magdalene and Saint John stood weeping at the foot of the Cross, and Christ gave up the ghost, and the Church came forth in floods of blood and water from the heart of the Victim, that was the end. Christ, unmoved, escaped forever from the embrace of Sorrow, but Sorrow was rehabilitated, redeemed, cleared forever by His death.

As much decried as had been the Messiah, in Him she was raised. Her mission was ratified and ennobled, and, henceforth, she was comprehensible to Christians. Until the end of time she was to be loved by souls appealing to her for help in the expiation of sin, and loved, too, in memory of the Passion of Christ.

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