I am afraid I have already made retreats from my Lenten battlefield.
I am trying hard not to be despondent but It is difficult to overcome the shame of a defeated soldier. Perhaps that is what our first Pope felt like.
St Peter, with his fiery devotion to Our Lord, denied Him three times when danger of death came to him. He actually told Our Lord that he would follow him to whatever ends, be it prison or death. That must have made him doubly sorrowful for his "perceived" lack of devotion. The following painting is "St Peter weeping before the Virgin" by Guercino.
Quite refreshing, is it not? Our Lady looks barely 20 and St Peter, already bald and with grey hair, is weeping like a child. It must have been Her Immaculate Conception; She just does not age, does she? (Although I do think She would have aged in real life, very gracefully.) And Our Lady sitting by him listening to him carefully. She does not take any physical gestures except with Her hands joined and a plaintive expression on Her countenance. But her gaze down on St Peter is not that of "You denied my Son.". The way I saw it was Our Lady pitying St Peter for his sorrow. The slight wrinkling on her forehead, I think it was because of Her Sorrow to witness someone born in Original Sin (that includes all of us, too!) and what pain and wrongdoings one brings to himself because of that inheritance. Perhaps a slight lamenting on the power of Sin over us conceived in Sin (Psalm 50: 7). Just like Our Lord had the same, almost anger, for the effect of Sin on us (And Jesus having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand; and touching him, saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean. Mark 1:41* Compassion here, some interpret it as quasi-"anger") As mother of all Apostles, She chooses not to rebuke them but to have pity on them and pray for them that they may remain strong and true to their job. (Yes, that is right, their job.)
St Peter is indeed forgiven in St John's Gospel but only after having confessed and reaffirmed his love to Our Lord. He is restored to the status of Vicar of Christ after such confession and is given the role of a shepherd.
Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)
Actually, according to Church tradition, St Peter actually denies Our Lord yet again in Rome, when persecution reached a peak and everybody was worrying about St Peter's safety. One might argue that St Peter's "moment" was not when Our Lord was to be glorified in His Passion but this time?! The picture on the left is named "Domine, quo vadis?" by Carracci. Our Lord says "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." Now of course, theologically, Our Lord's Passion on Golgotha was once for ever sufficient as the Sacrifice of Agnus Dei. I guess it was just...
A Divine bluff? lol Anyway, St Peter then realises that it was God's will that he were to be martyred in Rome and goes back. He says "I do not deserve to be martyred the way My God was; crucify me upside down." So whenever people ask "Why do you have upside down crosses in your Churches? Is that not something demonic?!", just tell them, "Actually, that is the Cross of our first Pope, because he felt unworthy to die the way Our Lord died."
Anyway, going back to Guercino's "St Peter weeping before the Virgin", I guess that is Our Lady's role. Maybe that is why Guercino deliberately painted Her without any explicit gesture; He knew full well that it was NOT Our Lady's job to forgive sins and did not want to cause any confusion. But Her loving eyes, if only I could see them, too!
Her soothing gaze upon our sinful selves, the most eloquent expression of Our Lady only despising Our sins and so plentiful in mercy towards Her Sons. Her most benevolent gaze on Her sons!
When we argue and sort of... sulk(?), my mum and I do not quite ignore each other but sort of pull that face where "Humph!" might be the best expression for it. But I guess my mum had a hint of that gaze of Our Lady, too. I firmly believe she wants whatever is best for me and whenever we make it up to each other, we merrily go about as though nothing happened. She does not tell me much of her prayers but I do feel my mum's prayers in work very often. She prayed with St Monica when I was going through a difficult time and as a result I obtained help from a guy called Augustine. That sort of stuff. Maybe my mum has a prayer frequency different to mine? Sometimes I find it a bit too much when my mum skypes me incessantly but as a Lenten promise, I have decided to set aside at least 15 minutes a day to skype her. She said "So after Lent you are going to go back to your little cave?" jokingly but I think she already knows I will.lol Only joking! (She is my friend on Facebook and she might see this and get annoyed. Although her English is not perfect, she understands far better than she speaks. Another Marian trait, perhaps?)
May Our Lady take pity on THIS defeated soldier and pray for my victory over my concupiscence, that I may continue to fight a good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) and one day gloriously bear witness to the Love, which moves the sun and the other starts, that demands my soul, my life, my all.
A parting gift for today, I found a wonderful recording of Passion according to St John by Bach, conducted by Sir Gardiner. Listen to 0:05-3:44 and you will be amazed at Bach's insight into St Peter's bitter anguish over his shortfalls.