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looking beyond Calvary
The Mount Grace Priory in North Yorkshire is one of England’s best-preserved medieval monasteries. For hundreds of years, Carthusian monks lived there in solitude, devoting themselves to prayer. The priory’s ruins are impressive, but a more modern monument caught my attention on a recent visit to the site.
At the center of the priory church stands a sculpture called the Madonna of the Cross. Crafted by Malcolm Brocklesby in 1996, it depicts Jesus’ mother Mary lifting her newborn Son to heaven. There are many striking aspects to the sculpture—like Mary’s posture (determined rather than distraught), and her expression (serene rather than anguished). But perhaps the most striking feature is that she stands in the form of a cross. As Brocklesby notes in an inscription: “The figure of the Madonna is integral with that of the cross, the stark and terrible symbol at the heart of Christianity, which is an inescapable part of her existence.”
Mary knew her calling would be painful. As Simeon told her, “a sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35). That prophecy was fulfilled in John 19. Mary stands looking at her Son—now lifted up on a cross (v.25). He’s suffering. She loves Him beyond words. Even now He’s concerned for her well-being (vv.26-27). The sword has pierced her soul.
But there’s a reason why the sculptor depicts Mary as looking serene. “She is looking beyond Calvary to the resurrection,” he says (see 20:1-18).
As I reflect on today’s verses and Brocklesby’s sculpture, I ask myself: Will I, like Mary, accept the suffering inherent in my own divine calling? And will I look beyond that pain to God’s promised victory? —Sheridan Voysey
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene (v.25).
What does Paul reveal in 2 Timothy 1:8 about our calling in Christ?
How else did Mary suffer for being the mother of Jesus? In what ways might you suffer for Him today?
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