It seems we immediately associate Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, and all other musical versions of the famous text, with church. It is, of course, a contemplation of Mother Mary experiencing the Crucifixion of her son, a defining event of the western world—in many respects, the defining event. But none of the story took place in a church. It took place in the streets of a city that socially, was not really so different from our own.
If we recount the events in plain language, without religious associations, it’s a story that
occurs every day in every city around the world: a mother’s child is brutally, senselessly killed. More often than not, the child is innocent in every way—innocent of any crime and, still young, innocent of the world.
We see images of this repeated without end on the news. A weeping mother holds her dying child and cries out in desperate pain. In this way, the defining event of the western world is repeated every day, everywhere. A mother grieves over the death of her child—the “reason” for the killing pathetically meaningless and insignificant in comparison to the loss. By our inaction, we allow this to continue. And although we're told, “You can’t save everybody,” isn’t that the opposite of what Jesus told us? Isn’t that obviously wrong weighed against the eternal love and devotion of a mother?
Their cries through the ages don’t seem to have been heard. Despite our mannered sympathy, we are as brutal as ever and it strikes me as hopelessly tragic that the defining event of the western world is the brutal killing of a young man. I would be overcome with despair, except for this:
As these images and sounds come from my television, what I see every time is a mother
standing as a pillar of strength, begging, demanding that we uphold the very fundamentals of society: order, harmony, and compassionate understanding.
This ballet honors and marvels at the towering, inexhaustible strength of mothers—mine
In a city, a mother walks
toward her son in a playground.
She sees a man pull a gun.
He fires at someone. Vanishes.
The crowd slowly clears
as mother looks for her son.
He lies dying.
She lovingly cradles him.
He struggles for his last breaths.
He dies in her arms.
She tenderly wipes his face,
neatens his hair,
then gathers her strength
to defy the pain
that would drive her insane.
The on-lookers offer sympathy.
She is lucid,
filled with fire,
but also compassion.
She begs, pleads
that we stop this senseless violence forever.
Everyone leaves in shame.
She watches her son taken away.
She is alone.
Where to go? What to do? How to live?
What for? With him, went her hopes,
her dreams—her life.
Her son returns to inspire her love,
joy, and the strength to live.
His memory begins to fade.
She fights to stay with him,
refuses to let him go.
He shows her he will always be with her.
She watches him vanish
into eternal bliss,
then faces us,
asking us to come to our senses.