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 – 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 faraway home… for brothers in arms beside them… and mourning mothers kneel upon the mossing graves, a clutch of flowers in aging hands pressed 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 in appletrees thick with blooms, undeterred by frost or storm… until, one day, in the month of May, the sky cloaked eggs will open and 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, clear of a May evening.
In May, for 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 out 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, for the life of her son is purely divine – and he did rise. And in rising to eternal life he raises dead sons and daughters, saving all with 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 and, though painfully grieved, did not begrudge the sacrifice – for 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. The Kingdom where love is true armor, love the lance, love the way, love the victory without violence, the glory without gore, the eternal summer, the eternal spring. And, now, every day of firefight and weeping, every day of cold, barren darkness, every day of Renewing Life pushing up tender shoots, of flowers yielding to luscious fruits – every day is a memorial.
© 2014 Christina Chase
with edits © 2016 Christina Chase
Photo credit: © 2014 Dan Chase