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S.P. 42: "Borromeo" Liturgy of the Hours miniated by Cristoforo de Predis, Cent. XV
Ambrosian Library

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem


V/. Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi.
R/. Quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.

From the Gospel according to Luke. 23:27-31

And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck! Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us. ’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"


On that spring Friday, the path leading to Golgotha was thronged not only with the idle, the curious and those hostile to Jesus. There was also a group of women, perhaps the members of a group devoted to consolation and ritual lamentation for the dying and those condemned to death. Christ, during his earthly life, had overcome convention and prejudice, and had often surrounded himself with women, conversing with them, listening to their troubles, small and great: from the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law to the tragedy of the widow of Nain, from the weeping prostitute to the interior anguish of Mary Magdalen, from the affection of Martha and Mary to the sufferings of the woman afflicted by hemorrages, from the young daughter of Jairus to the crippled elderly woman, from the noble Joanna, the wife of Chuza, to the poor widow and the women in the crowd that followed him.

Jesus, to his final hour, is thus surrounded by a world of mothers, daughters and sisters. Standing at his side we now can also imagine all those women who have been abused and raped, ostracized and submitted to shameful tribal practices, anxious women left to raise their children alone, Jewish and Palestinian mothers, and those from all countries at war, widows and the elderly forgotten by their children… a long line of women who bear witness before an arid and pitiless world to the gift of tenderness and compassion, even as they did for the Son of Mary on that late morning in Jerusalem. They teach us the beauty of emotions: that we should not be ashamed when our heart is moved by compassion, when tears sometimes come to our eyes, when we feel the need of a caress and comforting words.

* * *

Jesus does not disregard the charitable concern shown by those women, just as once he had accepted other gestures of kindness. But paradoxically, he is now the one who is concerned for the sufferings about to befall those “daughters of Jerusalem”: “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” Looming on the horizon is a firestorm about to break upon the people and the holy city, a “dry wood” ready to stir up the blaze.

Jesus’ gaze turns to the divine judgement soon to be visited on the evil, injustice, and hatred that feed that flame. Christ is distressed at the grief that is about to overtake those mothers once God’s just intervention bursts in upon history. But his ominous words are not the seal set upon a hopeless fate, because he speaks with the voice of the prophets, a voice that creates not suffering and death, but conversion and life: “Seek the Lord and live… Then shall the maidens rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow”[32].



Pater noster, qui es in clis:
sanctificetur nomen tuum;
adveniat regnum tuum;
fiat voluntas tua, sicut in clo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne nos inducas in tentationem;
sed libera nos a malo.

Eia mater, fons amoris,
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.

[32] Amos 5:6; Jeremiah 31:13.


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