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We Cannot Have Christ Crucified
without Our Lady

Hugh O'Reilly
In these poetical stanzas, inserted into the Passion Week readings of a 6th century Horae, we have a vivid example of how the early Church understood the role of Our Lady. Placed before the Cross bearing the crucified Christ and Our Lady at its foot, the two should be seen as one.

no christ without Our Lady

Our Lady inseparable from the Fruit of the Tree of Life, Christ Crucified

"He who chooses one must have the other," warns the anonymous author. "For when he comes to the Cross, he will find there the Mother standing."

We are seeking the tree of life, the Sequence begins, we who have lost life by eating the forbidden fruit. And where are the two loci (places) where that fruit of life is to be sought and found? One is "the child-bearing Virgin"; the other is "the salubrious Cross" upon which hangs Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Virgin and the Cross – both are life-giving. Placed between the two, our anonymous author is not sure which to choose. In an imaginary debate on the question, he compares the two and establishes beautiful analogies: The Cross is humble as the hyssop, but the Virgin is as noble as the cedar. The Christ Child in her arms cries out in manifold ways; Christ from the Cross cries out to all. The Cross nourishes us with its refreshing fruit; but the Mother suckled the Fruit that feeds us.

What should he do in the "sweet perplexity" that arises facing the question: The Cross or Our Lady?

The solution comes to him without delay: "This then is my decision: We cannot have the one without the other."

Christ Crucified

At the foot of the Cross Our Lady is always found sharing his suffering

The one who finds this Tree of Life is the one who recognizes the Branch upon which the Fruit is fixed – which is Our Lady. The two are inseparable, to be sought after and found together.

The pious author anticipates the role of Co-Redemtrix that Our Lady plays in the Passion, a title that Pontiffs will affirm in the centuries to come. Although not officially declared dogma, Mary as Co-Redeemer is a doctrine already infallibly taught by the Church through the continuity of one same teaching through the ages. This early writer shows his understanding of this teaching in the poignant and heartfelt exclamation: "O Jesus! Crucified Son of a crucified Mother! Look upon us from the Cross!"

Our Lady suffered so keenly in the Passion of Her Son, following Him every step of the way, that indeed we can call her crucified. It is a magnificent proof of how the Church – already in the 6th century – understood Our Lady was Co-Redeemer in the Passion and Death of Our Lord. For this reason, God assigned to her the role of Universal Mediatrix of all graces.

The Cross with Christ – the Fruit of life – cannot be separated from His Mother, who bore that Fruit in her womb. The Virgin Mother and the saving Cross – both are mystic trees and life-giving. The Mother participated with Christ in His suffering so as to be crucified herself.

These expressive lines make a strong and firm response to the protests and lies of Protestants, who deny her role in the Church founded by Christ her Son. They also refute the recent denials by Pope Francis of Our Lady's role as Co-Redeemer and Universal Mediatrix .

Lignum Vitae Quaerimus
Sequence from the Horae, (6th century)

IlluminationIlluminationIlluminationIllumination
IlluminationIlluminationIlluminationIllumination
We seek the tree of life,
We who lost life,
By eating the fruit of the forbidden tree.

He alone has found this Tree
Who sees the branch
Upon which the Fruit is fixed.

The Fruit which gives life
Hangs, as we believe,
Upon the Virgin's breast.

The Fruit hangs on the Cross
Between two thieves,
Pierced with five wounds.

Here, the child-bearing Virgin;
There, the saving Cross.
Both are mystic trees.

Here, a humble hyssop,
There, a noble cedar.
And both are life-giving.

Placed between the two,
I know not to which to turn.
O sweet perplexity!
O sweet comparison!

Here in her embrace
He cries in manifold ways;
There, His arms outstretched,
He calls out to all.

Here, tis a burden sweet
To a Mother's love
There, tis Love itself
That shows itself.

Here, clinging to her bosom
He is fed at her breast;
There, affixed to the tree
He feeds us from His wounds.

The Cross gives us food,
Refreshing us with its fruit;
The Mother has gone before,
Suckling the Fruit itself for us.

This, then, is my final decision:
We cannot have the one
Without the other.

He that chooses the Cross,
Must have the Mother;
For when he comes to the Cross,
He finds the Mother standing there.

He that chooses the Mother,
Meets the Cross as well,
For, while standing at the Cross,
The Mother's heart was pierced.

Crucified Son of a crucified Mother!
Look upon us from Thy Cross.

O living Fruit!
O Fruit of the Tree of Life!
Refresh us by uniting us with Thyself. Amen (1)


  1. Emily Hickey, "Lignum Vitae Quaerimus," The Irish Monthly, Vol. 44, No. 514 (Apr., 1916), pp. 225-226.

    Latin: Lignum vitae quaerimus, Qui vitam amisimus, Fructu ligni vetiti.
    Nec inventum noverit, Qui fructum non viderit, Adhserentem stipiti.
    Fructus per quern vivitur, Pendet, sicut creditur, Virginis ad ubera.
    Et ad Crucem iterum, Inter viros scelerum, Passus quinque vulnera.
    Hic Virgo puerpera, Hic Crux salutifera: Ambae ligna mystica.
    Haec hysopus humilis, Illa cedrus nobilis: Utraque vivifica.
    Positus in medio, quo me vertam nescio; In hoc dulci dubio, Dulcis est collatio.
    Hic complexus brachiis, modis vagit variis; Hic extendit brachia, Complexurus omnia.
    Charum Mater tenere novit hic tenere; Charitas sub latere, nescit hic latere.
    Hic adhaerens pectori, pascitur ab ubere; Hic affixus arbori, pascit nos ex vulnere.
    Crux ministrat pabula, fructu nos reficiens; Mater est praeambula, fructum nobis nutriens.
    Tandem ad hoc trahitur finalis sententia; Quod nemo consequitur unam sine alia.
    Qui Crucem elegerit, nec sic Matrem deserit: Cum ad Crucem venerit, Matrem ibi poterit stantem invenire.
    Nec qui Matrem elegit, Crucem proraus abigit, Si modum intelligit, quo per Matrem contigit gladium transire.
    Fili Matris unice, Matris crucifixae, Nos de Cruce respice, Fili crucifixe.
    Fructus o vivifice, Fructus ligni vitae, Nos teipso refice, nobis da frui te. Amen.
Posted on April 16, 2021