All under the leaves and the leaves of life
I met with virgins seven
And one of them was Mary mild
Our Lord’s Mother of Heaven
(The Leaves of Life)
This is the first verse of a beautiful carol introduced to me by a devout musician friend in Holy Week. It seemed appropriate to include this with today’s readings not only because of its contrast with Isaiah’s stark prophesy and Psalm 22 but also because it is another version of Jesus as the compassionate High Priest in Hebrews and a continuation of the reading in John 18. It is an imaginatively expanded account of the crucifixion from Mary’s point of view by an anonymous 17th Century poet. What is a brief exchange between mother and son in John 19:25 becomes a moving conversation between Jesus, Mary and John.
‘O peace, Mother, O peace, Mother
Your weeping doth me grieve:
I must suffer this,’ He said.
For Adam and for Eve.
‘O Mother, take you John Evangelist
All for to be your son,
And he will comfort you sometimes,
Mother, as I have done.’
‘O come, thou John Evangelist,
Thou’rt welcome unto me;
But more welcome my own dear Son,
Whom I nursed on my knee.’
The meaning of this conversation and today’s reading is summed up in the last verse of the carol.
Furthermore for our enemies all
Our prayers they should be strong
Amen, good Lord; your charity
Is the ending of my song.