I recall an acquaintance once insisting to me that there is as much evidence the Buddha was born of a virgin as was Christ.
First, this is perfect nonsense as the Buddha's story of being born of a virgin was first espoused only many centuries after the fact. If the Buddha was indeed born of a virgin, it's odd that no one mentioned it earlier. It seems rather a big deal.
Second, Christ's virginal birth was announced 800 years before His Incarnation (Isaiah 7:14). It's intellectually dishonest to suggest differently. No such prophecy exits for the Buddha.
Third, Mara, the Buddha's mother was already married for many years to King Śuddhodana, Siddhartha’s father. It’s odd that he married her only to sexually ignore her the entire time they were married. That doesn’t sound like any of the kinds of kings with whom I’m familiar. In fact, Śuddhodana was a great hedonist and continually filled his son’s life with every kind of pleasure so that his son wouldn’t be attempted to the aesthetic life. It’s odd that he chose to remain celibate with Mara.
But, these obvious flaws aside, the truth is, had any woman been a virgin when she divinely gave birth after having been notified thusly through several angelic visions, it stands to reason that that woman would have had an inordinately close relationship with her son. That is, she probably wouldn't have left his side. Virgins don’t simply give birth and then shrug off the product of that birth. Mara, didn't even give him so much as fare-thee-well when Siddhartha left the confines of his cushy, posh life in the palace while searching for "enlightenment."
Holy Saturday is also known as the Feast of Our Lady of Solitude, for it was upon this day, for the first time in her life, Mary was separated from her Son and Savior. From the moment of His conception in her womb to His last dying breath on Calvary, (Matthew 27:32-56, John 19:25) Mary was always there. She was there at the death of her spouse Joseph. She was there for Christ’s first miracle at Cana (John 2:1-11) Mary was committed to her son throughout her life. (Luke 1:26–38: 26) Mary is so intimately tied to Christ’s life and ministry that she is the second most quoted person in the Gospels―after her son.
But though Mary was physically separated from Christ on Holy Saturday by the stone that covered His tomb, she treasured the intimate knowledge she had of her son and “pondered them in her heart." (Lk 2:19, Lk 2:49-51) She was so intimate with Him, that her knowledge of Him knew no interruption and required no increase and could suffer no decrease as she already knew the details of His divine plan. How could she not? Her son's birth was announced by an archangel. That would be difficult to forget―the only person to announce my conception was my mother’s obstetrician.
Holy Saturday is the one single day in her son’s 33 earthly years, which points to Mary’s quiet sorrow at being separated from her son and Savior. Consider any mother's reaction to any pain her children experience. Mary saw her son brutalized, humiliated and tortured to death. No one has had or will ever have, greater access to Christ's Passion as does the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary suffered the most at contemplating Christ's death Who died in front of her. It must have truly felt as Simeon has prophesized, a sword piercing her heart. (Lk 2:35)
Consider the first 33 years of Jesus' life in which He and Mary and Joseph worked side-by-side in the family business. They ate three meals a day together, traveled together and celebrated family celebrations together. She taught Him and He taught her. Consider all of the lost conversations, intimacies, moments of love, exchanges of confidences, and, indeed, Divine instructions that passed from one to the other. Indeed, Mary is the most blessed of all creatures because she had God all to herself for 33 years (Luke 1:48). Why wouldn't she be blessed considering she learned at the feet of the Master Himself? (Lk 1:28-30,1:42)
And throughout it all, as Paul reminds us, Mary, like any Christian, had Christ living in her (Galatians 2: 20).
But for this one day, on Holy Saturday, Mary stands alone separated by the veil of death from the Source of Life Who is Love and the Logos―Logic and Wisdom Itself Who brought the Universe and all within it into existence:
In the beginning was the Word, and that Word was with God, and that Word was God. This same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
And this Incredible, Universal, Almighty Power was with the Blessed Virgin Mary every day since her assent to God’s request at the Annunciation. What was the depth of her sense of loss when He died? What was the power of the Holy Spirit in her which sustained her throughout this period? Fr. James Spencer Northcote, a 19th-century Anglican convert to Catholicism, discussed Mary's intimate relationship with Christ saying He raised her to a “higher sphere of the supernatural order, a region of clear unshaken faith and mystical vision of God, alone worthy of her close relationship to Him.”
We can be both amazed and envious of the Virgin who was sustained on this, the most sorrowful of days. Our Lady of Solitude stands as the perfect symbol of the Lenten season because she waits for Her Son with eager but subdued expectancy like the Ten Wise Virgins of whom Christ speaks. (Matthew 25:1-13) A perfect symbol of hope for us as we too wait for His Resurrection.
This article originally appeared in the Register on March 31, 2018.