There are two days
we commemorate the dry martrydom of Our Lady --- September 15 and today.
The Mass in September is devoted more specifically to her 7 Sorrows; the
Mass today focuses on her compassion and what she suffered during the first
Passiontide. To that end, the Sequence read after the Epistle, Gradual, and
Tract consists of the haunting Stabat
Mater, the text of which was written by St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady are:
The Prophecy of
The Flight into Egypt
The Loss of Jesus in the Temple
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross
The Taking Down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross
Jesus laid in the Tomb
In some places,
a "Via Mater," like the "Via Crucis" ("Way of
the Cross") may be found, with seven stations at which one may see artistic
representations of and meditate on each of Mary's sorrows. Such a devotion
can be made in one's Mary Garden or home if
it isn't publicly available.
In many parts of Mexico, it is custom to set up an altar to Our Lady of Sorrows,
with her image, white candles, chamomile flowers, pink flowers, and calla
lilies (there are so many Catholics in Mexico, that the people in neighborhoods
make tours of each others' altars, and fruit drinks are served to visitors.
Public, communal altars are set up, too.) This custom provides a break in
the veiling of images.
Meditation on the Seven
Sorrows of Mary
By Donald Fantz, Angelus Magazine
The First Sorrow: Simeon's
Every life has elements of mixed joy and sorrow. Certainly Mary and Joseph
are filled with joy as they travel the day's journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem
to offer Mary's First-Born to the service of His Father. According to Jewish
custom, they "ransomed" Him back by offering two turtle doves as sacrifices
to Almighty God. The joy of Mary seems to overflow as the aged Simeon receives
her in the Temple and, taking the Child from her arms, looks heavenward with
praise to the Almighty for sparing him until he saw the salvation "prepared
before the faces of all peoples: a light of revelation to the Gentiles and
a glory for Thy people Israel."
From the height of her joy, Mary's heart suddenly sinks, as Simeon glances
first to the Child, then straight into her eyes. "This Child is set for the
rise and the fall of many ... a sign of contradiction . . . thine own soul
a sword shall pierce . . ." Mary knows that her Son is to suffer. She knows
that He will be lifted up. Simeon makes it painfully clear, as he reminds
her of her Son's mission. "She pondered these things in her heart."
O, Mary, help me to understand the purpose of suffering in my life.
Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt
After returning to Bethlehem, the Holy Family is visited by the Magi. Shortly
after their departure, Joseph is warned by an angel to "take the Child and
His Mother and flee into Egypt." Already, jealous Herod's soldiers seek the
Child. Joseph and Mary hurry a few blocks from their temporary home to a
nearby cave, where Mary nurses her Babe in what has since become known to
the local people as the "Milk Grotto." As they continue their journey out
of town and head towards the Egyptian border, the terrible sounds of the
slaughter ring in Mary's ears. Even Rachel mourns from her grave the Innocents
of Bethlehem. Mary wonders: "Is this to be His time, at this age?" The only
alternative is to flee quickly to the unfriendly Egyptians, the former captors
of her people. Is it possible that only the Sphinx looks down in silent approval
as they pass into Pharoah's land? Jeremia the Prophet speaks for Mary: "Bitterly
she weeps at night, tears upon her cheeks, with not one to console her of
all her dear ones; her friends have all betrayed her and become her enemies.
'Look, O Lord, upon my distress: all within me is in ferment, my heart recoils
within me from my monstrous rebellion. In the streets the sword bereaves,
at home death stalks. Give heed to my groaning; there is no one to console
me.' " And yet, through this trial Mary still has Emmanuel with her. She
knows that all will be accomplished in God's time. This gives her the security
of peace in her sorrow. The Scripture will be fulfilled: "I have called My
Son out of Egypt, that salvation may come to Israel."
O, Mary, help me to stay close to your Divine Son when I feel most abandoned.
Third Sorrow: The Loss of Jesus
Again, the joy of traveling, this time for several days, from Nazareth to
the Temple in Jerusalem for the great feast. These were especially happy
times for Mary, reunited with her own people, living with Jesus and Joseph.
The feast ends; the return to Nazareth commences in the early morning. The
caravan of women moves ahead north of the Holy City. The men follow in their
caravan. They sing Psalms praising God, exchange news and laughter, as the
trip progresses. Both groups meet in their encampment at the end of the day.
As night falls, Mary and Joseph find each other and realize with horror that
Christ is not in their company. They search through both camps to no avail.
"Have you seen Him? He is only twelve years old." Each time the reply is
negative. Mary remembers the words of Simeon and the Lamentations of Jeremia
the Prophet: "The Lord has done as He decreed: He has fulfilled the threat
He set forth from days of old; He has destroyed and had no pity, letting
the enemy gloat over you and exalting the horn of your foes. Cry out to the
Lord; moan, O daughter of Sion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and
night; let there be no respite for you, no repose for your eyes." Mary feels
terror and panic. "This must be His hour," she thinks. In His boyhood hurts,
even in the flight to Egypt, Jesus was with her. Now, for the first time,
He is gone. Nonetheless, she knows that the Eternal Father knows all things,
and this gives her peace. Her confidence is rewarded three days later when
she and Joseph find Jesus in the midst of the doctors in the Temple.
O Mary, help me to keep peace of soul, even when searching for Jesus in
Fourth Sorrow: Mary meets Jesus on the Road to Calvary
It is coming soon. She senses that now. The Pharisees have become increasingly
resentful towards Him. She is praying over these things when the knock comes
at the door. "They have taken Him! They have taken Him!" She wraps her veil
tightly around her face and runs into the night with her friend. They reach
Caiphas' house in time to see Jesus pushed up the steps. She overhears Peter:
"I know not the Man!" She meets John, who leads her towards the praetorium
of Pilate. She waits through the night as reports are brought to her of Jesus'
scourging. Once again Simeon's words thrust at her as so many arrows. She
prays the psalm: "My heart has become like wax melting away within my bosom."
The long night passes into gray dawn and still she keeps her vigil. Then
she hears Pilate's words to the crowd from the arch: "Behold the Man!" She
can scarcely recognize Him as the crowd roars for His death. He does not
yet see her. She wants it that way to spare Him the pain. She sees
the rough cross-timber dragged to a point below the arch. She watches the
soldiers laughingly lead her Son to the cross. He can scarcely walk. He stumbles,
He fallsHe opens up more wounds, as if that were possible! She sees
the seamless robe she has woven for Him years ago- now a mass of blood and
flesh, clinging to His Body. His face is misshapen and swollen. She cannot
move. He is pushed forward by the soldiers. He walks a few more feet, and
then He sees her! Mary does not restrain herself. She kisses Him softly through
her tears and reminds Him of her love for Him. "Their looks became as swords,
to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly."
O, Mother of God, teach me to behold Jesus in His sorrows when I am most
tempted to sin.
Fifth Sorrow: Mary Sees Jesus Die on the Cross
"Yes, truly, O Blessed Mother, the sword pierced your soul. Only by passing
through your soul could it penetrate to the body of your Son. When Jesus
your Son had given up His spirit, when the cruel spear which pierced His
side could no longer touch His soul, it transfixed yours. His soul was no
longer there. Yours was. It could not be torn away. We call you more than
martyr because your love, which made you suffer with your Son, brought pain
of soul far more exquisite than any pain of body. "Woman, behold thy
Son"how keenly those words must have pierced your loving soul! Mere
remembrance of them can wring with sorrow our hard, steely hearts. Do not
wonder, my brethren, that Ma-ray is said to be martyred in spirit. Want of
affection was far from Mary's heart. O, may it be equally far from those
of her servants! Christ died in body. Could she not die with Him in her heart?
His death was brought about by a love greater than any man has; hers by a
love no other mortal ever had, except she." (From the Sermon of St. Bernard
on the Twelve Stars.)
Through you, O Virgin Mother, may we draw the waters of salvation out
of the wounds of Christ.
Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives Jesus' Body into Her Arms
"Joseph of Arimathaea requested the body of Jesus, which he took down from
the cross. And His Mother received it into her arms. The sorrowing mother
took her dead Son and laid Him on her knees" (From the Divine Office of the
Feast of the Seven Sorrows).
What a sea of tears and sorrow
Did the soul of Mary toss
To and fro upon its billows.
While she wept her bitter loss,
In her arms her Jesus holding.
Torn so newly from the Cross.
Oh, that mournful Virgin Mother!
See her tears how fast they flow
Down upon His mangled body,
Wounded side, and thorny brow;
While His hands and feet she kisses
Picture of immortal woe.
Oft and oft His arms and bosom
Fondly straining to her own;
Oft her pallid lips imprinting
On each wound of her dear Son;
Till in one last kiss of anguish
All her melting soul is gone.
Gentle Mother, we beseech thee
By thy tears and troubles sore;
By the death of thy dear Offspring,
By the bloody wounds He bore;
Touch our hearts with true sorrow
Which afflicted thee of yore.
(Hymn of the Divine Office of the Feast)
O, Mary, help me to stand
beside the Cross with you, whose soul the sword of sorrow has pierced.
Seventh Sorrow: Mary Places Jesus' Body in the Tomb
They place Jesus' body on a slab and quickly anoint it. From there they carry
it to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. There, once again, Mary arranges the
folds of the winding sheet with her own hands. The tomb is closed and the
mourners leave. "Depart from me, I will weep bitterly; labor not to comfort
me. There is in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, nor appearance
that would attract us to Him. From the sole of the foot to the head, there
is no sound spot in Him." "To what can I liken or compare you, O daughter
of Jerusalem? What example can I show you for your comfort, O Virgin daughter
of Sion? For great as the sea is your downfall." Yet Mary's deep sorrow did
not overshadow her faith in Jesus or her hope in His promise. His death was
her hope of resurrection.
God of mercy, let us run
Where yon fount of sorrow flows;
Pondering sweetly, one by one,
Jesus 's wounds and Mary's woes.
Ah, those tears Our Lady shed,
Enough to drown a world of sin;
Tears that Jesus 's sorrows fed,
Peace and pardon well may win!
His five wounds, a very home,
For our prayers and praises prove;
And Our Lady's woes become
Endless joys in Heaven above.
Jesus, Who for us did die,
All on Thee our love we pour
And in the Holy Trinity
Worship Thee forever more. Amen.
(Hymn from Lauds of the Feast)
O, Virgin Mary, may your
many sorrows make me rejoice in Heaven's Kingdom.