Franz von Stuck, "Pieta"

The following is a few lines from a character in Charles Péguy’s play, The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc. The character describes the cry of dereliction from the cross, and (in part) what it was like for Mary to hear – and why it is that Jesus cried out.


Cry still ringing in all humanity;
Cry that made the Church militant totter;
In which the suffering Church too recognized its own fear;
Through which the Church triumphant experienced its triumph;
Cry ringing at the heart of all Christendom;
O culminating cry, everlastingly valid.

The Just One alone uttered the everlasting cry.

But why? What was the matter with him?

He was a good son to his father and mother.
He was a good son to his mother Mary.
And his father and mother thought everything was all right.
His mother Mary thought it was all right.
She was happy, she was proud of having such a son.
Of being the mother of a son like hers.
Of such a son.

But for the last three days she wept.
She wept and wept.
As no other woman has ever wept.
No woman.
That is what he had brought in to his mother.
No boy had ever cost his mother so many tears.
No boy had ever made his mother weep so much.
That is what he had brought in to his mother.
Since he had begun his mission.

For the last three days she wept.
For the last three days, she wandered, she followed.
She followed the procession.
She followed the events.
She followed as you follow a funeral.
But it was a living man’s funeral.

She wept, she melted. Her heart melted.
Her body melted.
She melted with kindness.
With charity.

She who in the old days would have defended her boy against wild animals.
When he was small.

Today she abandoned him to that crowd.
She let him go.
She let everything sink.
What can a woman do in a crowd.
I ask you.
She no longer knew herself.
She had changed a lot.
She was going to hear the cry.
The cry that never will be quenched in any night of any time.

And he felt his human death rising up towards him,
Out of his sight was his tearful and sorrowing mother,
Standing below, erect at the foot of the cross, out of his sight John and Magdalen.
And dying Jesus wept over the death of Judas.
Dying his death, only our human death, he wept over that eternal death.

He knew about the money and the potter’s field.
The thirty pieces of silver.
As he was the Son of God, Jesus knew all.
And the Saviour knew that, even though he gave himself up completely,
He was not saving that Judas, whom he loves.

And it was then he knew infinite suffering,
It was then he knew, it was then he learned,
It was then he felt the infinite agony,
And cried out like a madman in his horrifying anguish,
With a cry that caused Mary, who yet stood, to stagger.

– abbreviated excerpts, The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc, Charles Péguy