ECCE AGNUS DEI
Behold, a man stands on the desert gravel, looking at the ugly fence that he just crossed. Now he is a criminal; not for any harmful action against person or property, but simply because he stands there, beyond the stream. Ecce homo. The nation declares that he may not stand there. Others may stand there, but not him. His crime is his location. Concerned citizens cry out against the injustice! A crime they say, is something evil done; it is not the place you stand. Nearby, a mother and child are stopped, also criminals by location. The baby must be taken because criminal adults are not kept with children. Both the mother and the child weep bitterly, and concerned citizens cry out again. Stabat mater dolorosa.
Many also cross the stream unnoticed, and quietly start a new life in the new land. Maria has done this. Her English is deficient, and she has no legal credentials, so she can only find low paid work cleaning houses. She feels relatively secure attending a Catholic Church with many members of similar heritage. She still fears apprehension by the authorities, however, so she avoids making the official record of parish membership. Maria’s employers like her diligent work ethic, and they are happy for her to continue in this status. Ave Maria.
In the city, a surgeon dismembers and decapitates a baby not yet born. This baby has no rights because she is still within her mother’s womb. Her young mother is fearful for her status with friends and family. All of her plans are now changed. She is skillfully counseled that she should not burden her own life. She is taught the strangely familiar refrain: It is my body. The odd proclamation seems incomplete, an unfinished thought. Hoc est enim Corpus meum…quod pro vobis tradetur. Once again, a person’s rights are determined by location. The baby had never seen the north or the south bank of any stream, it was only by crossing through the birth canal that she would have gained legal status. Millions cry out against their government because of this atrocity.
A boy named Jesse is a sixth grader at the parish school. His family has befriended Maria, but some of his classmates told him that she is a criminal. They are quite sure, because their parents told them so. Jesse can’t believe what they tell him, and he goes home to talk to his father. He often talks to his father, who helps him to sort out his complicated world. His father tells him that many people don’t treat Maria or others from across the river with the respect that they deserve. He tells Jesse that he must be prepared to risk his own well-being to stand up for the needs of others like her. Jesse ponders his young life, and he assures his father that he will always do what his father has told him. Pater Noster, fiat voluntas tua.
He smiles to himself, reassured as he walks out of the room. Then he stops, the old man seemed to whisper something else as he walked away. Pasce agnos meos…
Michael Arth, Southlake, TX
Notes: The Latin inserts are known, or easily discernible, by many people; but I translate them here because we are rapidly losing our Latin roots.
Ecce agnus Dei – Behold the lamb of God. (Jn 1:29)
Ecce homo – Behold the man (Jn 19:5). Words spoken by Pontius Pilate when Jesus was presented in purple robe and crown of thorns.
Stabat mater dolorosa – The mother stood in sadness. This musical refrain follows the Blessed Mother through the liturgical contemplation of her accompaniment of Jesus’ suffering.
Ave Maria – Greetings Mary (Hail Mary) (cf Lk 1 :28)
Hoc est Enim Corpus meum… quod pro vobis tradetur – This is my body, which is given for you (Lk 22:19)
Pater noster, fiat voluntary tua – Our Father, thy will be done. (Mt 6:9-10)
Pasce agnos meos – Feed my lambs (Jn 21:17)