Oh, Happy Fault!

It is recorded in the lives of the Desert Fathers that one day Abbot Isaac was sitting with Abbot Poemen and saw him in ecstasy. Since there was a great deal of confidence between the two religious, Abbot Isaac prostrated himself before Abbot Poemen and begged him saying, “Tell me where you were.”

Abbot Poemen answered, “My thought was with Holy Mary, the Mother of God, as she wept by the cross of the Savior. I wish I could always weep like that.”

Mourning an only Son

We can better understand the depths of Mary’s sorrow by calling to mind a prophecy recorded in the Book of Zechariah,

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem shall be great. (Zech 12:10-11a)

I dare to say that this prophecy finds a certain fulfillment in Mary, the Daughter of Zion and the New Jerusalem. At the foot of the Cross, Mary, the woman full of grace, was graced with the gift of true tears and compunction of heart. On her was “poured out…the spirit of grace and petition” spoken of by the prophet Zechariah. Looking upon Christ whom we have pierced by our sins, the Mother of Our Lord, who on that day became our Mother as well, in a very special way, mourned. She mourned “as one mourns for an only son” and she grieved “over him as one grieves over a first-born”.

Jesus was her first-born in the flesh; but He was not her only born—as we, Her children, know well. Besides a Son in the flesh, she also has sons and daughters by grace. At the cross, by sharing in His passion, Mary also shared in Jesus’ work of redemption. There at the foot of the cross she became the Mother of the Redeemed.

Mother of the Redeemer and redeemed

As Ven. Fulton Sheen writes,

Mary had brought forth her firstborn without labor, in the cave of Bethlehem; she now brings forth her second-born, John, in the labors of the Cross. At this moment Mary is undergoing the pains of childbirth, not only for her second-born who is John, but also for millions who will be born of her in Christian ages as ‘Children of Mary’.

Now we can understand why Christ was called her firstborn. It was not because she was to have other children by the blood of flesh, but because she was to have other children by the blood of her heart.

And then the Venerable Bishop concludes,

Mary, then, is not only the Mother of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but she is also our Mother, and this not by a title of courtesy, not by legal fiction, not by a mere figure of speech, but by the right of bringing us forth in sorrow at the foot of the Cross.[1]

Born in sorrow

Thus, in calling Mary “mother”, and in calling ourselves “children of Mary”, we should remember the price paid for such titles and such an honor as ours to have her as mother.

Christ first paid the price in offering His life for us on the cross and giving to us His mother before His death.

And Mary paid the price in suffering with Him for the salvation of us all. In a certain sense then we can extend the irony of tonight’s “happy fault”, since it not only won for us “so great a Redeemer”, but also so great a Mother!

Seize the day and make it all Hers!


Fr. Christopher Etheridge, IVE


[1]Fulton J. Sheen, The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: A Fulton Sheen Anthology, ed. Al Smith (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2018), 112.