In the month of May, we honor motherhood — and the dead of war.
All over the Earth, mothers watch their sons go off to war every day. The baby she once cradled in her arms — lovingly, tenderly keeping him from all of the world’s harms — is a soldier now, battle ready, double-edged sword in hand. Hundreds … thousands … millions of boys become men ground up by the machinery of war; the blood of beloved sons spilled out, saturating field and forest or mingling with the salty tears of fathomless seas. What gain can be had by so great a cost? What treasure could entice a woman to offer as potential sacrifice a child whom she has raised and loved?
On battlefields and disputed fronts, in gunfights, bombings, and hand-to-hand combat, the cries and gory wounds of war march on … for country! And, more deeply, for home … for brothers in arms beside them … and, all the while, mourning mothers kneel upon the mossing graves, clutches of flowers in aging hands that press against the stones.
This Spring, the Earth unfurls her verdant green banners and swells with the peaceful rush of life. This is the time of bright trumpeting daffodils and of violets … and also of forget-me-nots and tulips reaching up from the ground like offered prayers. The lilies of the valley, demurely bowing their heads, white veiled, emit their sweet and heavy fragrance from the quiet of their leafy grottoes. And the robins redbreast are warming their nests of promised chicks within the apple trees thick with blossoms, undeterred by frost or storm, until, one day, in the month of May, the sky-cloaked eggs will open to reveal new life being born.
Not so long ago, in pasturelands of deep country, farming families would gather at the crossroads to pray the Rosary in the cool clarity of a May evening.
They gathered in May to ask for the prayers of the Mother of Our Lord. Our ancestors knew that the Queen of Heaven sits upon her mossy throne bedecked with buttercups and bluets, with wild strawberry blossoms at her feet and purple lilacs at her shoulders. Her head is bowed, white veiled, and her cupped hands, like a chalice of petal-flesh, catch the tears that are spilling from her violet eyes and down her cheeks of new roses.
She, too, has watched her son go off to war, like a lamb sent among wolves.
He laid bare the mighty enemy with the spiritual swiftness of His sword, but His brothers went astray and left Him to the cruelty of men, to be tortured and humiliated. She saw her beloved son put to death before her eyes, and her tears, her agony, could not end the madness, could not save Him from the pain, could not spare Him the grave. But … the stone that had marked the place where His lifeless body was laid to rest did not green over with the coming Spring. The grave did not keep His mortal remains, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, because the life of her son is purely divine — He rose from the dead. And, in rising to eternal life, He raises dead sons and daughters, saving all souls of faith who valued others more than self.
The Mother of God saw her son, meek and humble and strong, go off to war. Though painfully grieved, she did not begrudge the sacrifice, because the treasure won by His blood is the kingdom that has no end — not just for herself and Him, but for every person of hope. His is the Kingdom where love is true armor, love the lance, love the way, love the eternal victory without violence, the eternal glory without gore, the eternal Summer, the eternal Spring. With His sacrifice and hers, every day of firefight and weeping, every day of cold, barren darkness, as well as every day of Renewing Life pushing up tender shoots, flowers yielding to luscious fruits — every day is a memorial.
© 2014 Christina Chase
with edits © 2016, 2020 Christina Chase
Photo credit: © 2014 Dan Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.