Starting with my usual prayer time this morning, I saw in the Daily Mass Readings that today (September 15th) was the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Not surprisingly, it follows yesterday’s Exaltation of the Holy Cross or Roodmas as it was called in middle English centuries ago.
I went through the First Reading of Paul’s letter to Timothy in Ephesus (1Tm3: 14-16) which talked about the Church being the pillar and foundation of truth and the Responsorial Psalm after it. Then, I was surprised to see a Sequence in the text with a powerful and moving prayer of lamentation for Mary’s suffering and grief at the foot of the cross. This brought me quickly into the agony she was experiencing at the time. This was followed by the Alleluia which, even though it was only four lines long, was equally piercing. I include these two pieces first now.
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.
O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.
Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.
Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.
Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.
Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.
Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.
Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.
Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the Martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Gospel reading was from Jn 19: 25-27 where Jesus gives His mother to the Apostle John’s care. I always look for the connections in the daily Mass readings and realized as I wrote this piece, that the Church which is our pillar and foundation of truth gives us powerful readings as these for the daily Mass helping us to realize and feel what our Blessed Mother experienced and endured for us.
The insightful Daily Meditation in Word Among Us for this day is included below.
DAILY MEDITATION: JOHN 19:25-27
Behold, your mother. (John 19:27)
If you enter St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican through the doors on the right, you won’t go far before you pass by one of the most beautiful, moving sculptures in Western art: Michelangelo’s Pietà. The sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary looking down at the dead body of her son as he is draped over her lap. Her expression is a mixture of sorrow and contemplation, of mourning and acceptance. She isn’t weeping; she is gazing intently, as if she were waiting for something to happen.
This combination of sadness and anticipation is a perfect way to understand today’s memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. By the time we come to this scene in the Gospels, Mary has become intimately familiar with suffering and loss. For a time, she wondered whether Joseph might leave her to raise her child on her own. Then she had to give birth in a cave. Then she and her new family became refugees in the land of Egypt. She also endured a three-day search for her missing son, became a widow at a young age, and had to learn to live alone after Jesus began his public ministry.
So Mary was no stranger to sorrow when she received the lifeless body of her son on Good Friday, and Michelangelo’s sculpture captures this familiarity beautifully. For Mary had learned the secret to sorrow and grief—that it is not permanent. Her near divorce ended with Joseph deeply committed to her and her son. In the cave, she was surrounded by shepherds telling of angelic choirs. When Jesus left to preach and teach, she found a new role in a large family made up of everyone who “does the will of God” (Mark 3:35).
Somehow Mary knew—she believed—that her son’s death on the cross was not the end. So even as she grieved all that he had endured, even as she felt each of his pains as if it were her own, she trusted that God would not leave her and that her grief would eventually turn to joy.
So will yours. And as you wait, you can lean on Mary as your own tender, compassionate Mother.
“Holy Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!”
1 Timothy 3:14-16