Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Today we celebreate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. This devotion has been practised since at least the middle of the 14th century and commemorates the following sorrowful events in the life of Our Lady and Christ:
1. The prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:34-35);
2. The Flight into Egypt (Mt 2:13-21);
3. The Loss of Jesus for Three Days (Lk 2:41-50);
4. The Ascent to Calvary (Jn 19:17);
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (Jn 19:18-30);
6. Jesus Taken Down from the Cross (Jn 19:39-40);
7. Jesus Laid in the Tomb (Jn 19:39-42).
"In the first rank is the Virgin Mary, full of grace, the Mother of the Savior. She, accepting the announcement from on high, the Servant of the Lord, Spouse of the Spirit and Mother of the Eternal Son, manifests her joy before her cousin Elizabeth who celebrates her faith: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...henceforth all generations will call me blessed." She has grasped, better than all other creatures, that God accomplishes wonderful things: His name is holy, He shows His mercy, He raises up the humble, He is faithful to His promises. Not that the apparent course of her life in any way departs from the ordinary, but she meditates on the least signs of God, pondering them in her heart. Not that she is in any way spared sufferings: she stands, the mother of sorrows, at the foot of the cross, associated in an eminent way with the sacrifice of the innocent Servant. But she is also open in an unlimited degree to the joy of the resurrection; and she is also taken up, body and soul, into the glory of heaven. The first of the redeemed, immaculate from the moment of her conception, the incomparable dwelling-place of the Spirit, the pure abode of the Redeemer of mankind, she is at the same time the beloved Daughter of God and, in Christ, the Mother of all. She is the perfect model of the Church both on earth and in glory. What a marvelous echo the prophetic words about the new Jerusalem find in her wonderful existence as the Virgin of Israel: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."(48) With Christ, she sums up in herself all joys; she lives the perfect joy promised to the Church: Mater plena sanctae laetitiae. And it is with good reason that her children on earth, turning to her who is the mother of hope and of grace, invoke her as the cause of their joy: Causa nostrae laetitiae."
-- Gaudete in Domino by Pope Paul VI
"[On] the feast of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, I thought it was a little like your own feast, my dear little Mama, so I prayed for you with fervor! You did feel that, didn't you? I placed your soul in that of Our Lady of Sorrows and asked her to console you. At the back of the cloister we have a statue of the Mater Dolorosa, to whom I have a great devotion. Every night I go to speak to her of you; tonight I said my little word to her before coming up to write you. I love those tears of the Virgin so much, I unite them to those my poor Mama sheds when thinking of her Elisabeth. Oh, you see, if you could read my soul, if you saw all the happiness I enjoy in Carmel, happiness so profound that I understand better each day, happiness that God alone knows! Ah! what a beautiful part He has given to His poor little one! If for one instant you could see all that, oh! my little Mama, you would have to rejoice. Since I had to have your 'fiat' to enter this corner of Heaven, thank you again for having pronounced it so courageously. If you knew how God loves you! and how your daughter cherishes you more than ever!"
-- I Have Found God: Complete Works [of] Elizabeth of the Trinity, vol 2
"Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus - who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours - gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.
Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son, not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!
Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.
Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his."
-- From a sermon by St Bernard of Clairvaux