Tag Archives: Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows and the Mystery of Christ

“Our Lady of Sorrows”
A reflection on Luke 2:33-35
Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Related post: Our Lady of Sorrows
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:33-35

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Simeon foretold that the Christ Child would be a sign which shall be “spoken against” (antilegomenon). Looking into the face of her tiny son, Mary must have wondered, “Who are you?” The question of Jesus’ identity was put to his disciples, the scribes and Pharisees, the people he healed and taught, the high priests, Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the various foreigners whom he encountered. “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20). The first person who pondered this mystery was Mary, his mother.

“Ima” (pronounced “ee-ma”) is “Mom” in Hebrew/Aramaic. 

Our Lady of Sorrows: September 15

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The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14). It’s also eight days after Mary’s birth (September 7). So this feast, we should remember, recalls Mary’s sorrows, her lifelong sorrows. 

When Jesus was born, the old man Simeon  told Mary a sword would pierce her heart. Today’s readings and prayers recall her final experience of that sword, when she stood beneath the Cross of her Son. But Mary experienced sorrow all her life. She is Our Lady of Sorrows. An earlier feast, the Seven Sorrows of Mary, made her lifelong sorrows more explicit.   

What were Mary’s lifelong sorrows? She was a human being and a believer. She experienced what all human beings experience- we’re contingent beings. An infant cries as it enters this world. “Our life is over like a sigh. Our span is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong. And most of these are emptiness and pain.” (Psalm 90) You hear that complaint often in the psalms. It’s a human complaint.

Faith doesn’t inoculate us against sorrow. We don’t see clearly the promises of God. Mary, like every believer, experienced the sorrow that comes from not knowing. Her life, like ours, was not immune to sorrow.

The sword of sorrow struck Mary most deeply at the death of her Son. Mark’s gospel describes some onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion: There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.” They were looking on from a distance, not emotionally distanced. They were deeply engaged in the sorrow before them.  (Mark 15, 40-41) 

John’s gospel brings some of the women closer.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus stands at the cross itself. “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

Mary stands by the Cross of Jesus, close by, not at a distance. She’s not absorbed in her own suffering, not afraid to see. Her standing by the Cross is significant. She enters the mystery of her Son’s suffering through compassion. 

She stood by him. Compassion doesn’t experience another’s suffering exactly, and it may not lead to taking another’s suffering away. Compassion enters suffering to break the isolation suffering causes. It helps someone bear their burden.  The sword, the spear, the sorrow, pierces both hearts, in different ways.

Our prayer for today’s feast says that when her Son “was lifted high on the Cross” his mother stood by and shared his suffering. “Grant that your Church, participating with the Virgin Mary in the Passion of Christ, may merit a share in his Resurrection.

Where is the Passion of Lord? It’s in the human lives of each one of us. It’s in the poor. It’s in the earth we’re destroying. Sometimes we can do something to relieve that suffering. Like Mary, we’re always called to stand close by as she did, and see. 

For a commentary on John’s Gospel see here.

For a study on Mary on Calvary see here.

For readings for the feast and the Stabat Mater see here.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Andreas Ritzos (1421-1492), Icon of the Mother of God of the Passion (Strastnaia). Web Gallery of Art 19511.

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Luke 2:33-35 

The hearts (kardia) of Jesus and Mary were so closely knit that they beat together as one. When the physical heart of the Virgin’s newborn was about the size of a walnut, the righteous and devout Simeon prophesied by the Holy Spirit that the mother’s soul would be pierced through by a long sword.

“…and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35).

In the Magnificat following her Annunciation, Mary had soared to the very heavens in song: “My soul magnifies the Lord…” (Luke 1:46). Nine months and forty days later, her soul was plunged into a foretaste of the anguish to come as Mother of the Savior. 

In the icon of the Theotokos of the Passion featured above, the Infant Emmanuel clutches his mother’s right hand in fear as he gazes out at two angels carrying the instruments of his Passion. That the messengers are angels is a sign of divine favor: Mother and Son will ultimately defeat the powers of evil, sin, and division by their union of hearts in accepting the Cross. The suffering will be excruciating (out of the cross, from crux), but “love is strong as death” and will destroy it (Song of Solomon 8:6).

The crucifying love of the Passion will uncover and reveal (apokaluptó) the thoughts (dialogismos) of many hearts twisted by millions of sound bites, images, and temptations swirling in inner space. Our Lady of Sorrows, pierced for us, will gather the hearts of her children, Jesus’ brethren, into oneness with their Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.

Jesus’ gift to us in the Eucharist, “This is my body which is given for you,” is also Mary’s gift to us as the Mother of God and our Mother.

-GMC

Poor Haiti

Father Enzo, one of our Passionists in Haiti, went recently to Dame Marie, La Serengue and Jeremie, places devasted by hurricane Matthew, where the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti has schools and clinic.

“The duration of the flight to Dame Marie is one hour by helicopter.  Half way to Jeremie today rain was hitting the windshield of the helicopter, and we started to worry that we had to abort again, but fortunately we were able to go through.  The raindrops on the windshield seemed to me like to many teardrops and while we were flying, I was thinking of how many tears Hurricane Matthew had provoked.

“Just before arriving to Jeremie, the helicopter turned slightly inland to reach Dame Marie, where the eye of the hurricane passed.  I remember visiting previously the past two years, and remember that compared to the rest of the country the province of Grand Anse had very lush vegetation.  What struck me immediately as soon as we turned inland was to see how Hurricane Matthew chopped acres and acres of trees.

“The province of Grand Anse is particularly isolated, and paradoxically one of the most vegetated places that remained in the country, which has otherwise been so heavily deforested.  The hurricane is always a natural disaster, no doubt.  But with our human hands we can increase the disaster by not treating the earth as the common home given to us by God, through deforestation, pollution, poor building construction, lack of urban planning, so often the result of poverty.

“When we arrived to Dame Marie, we saw houses spread throughout the vegetation without their roofs, and rivers grown three times their size. It was heartbreaking.  When we were approaching Dame Marie, it was hard to understand even what we were looking at arriving by helicopter.  From the air we could see the roof of the parish church blown away and so of the houses, but we saw many colors.  Getting closer, we saw that it was clothes hanging everywhere to dry after all those days of rain.

“We landed on the football field.  The pilot was afraid to land, thinking that the people would assault us in search for food, and just wanted to go from one place to another by air.  We are well known in the area, and Nebez is originally from there, so we landed.  The pilot gave us 15 minutes on the ground because of the weather conditions.  As we landed we were surrounded by hundreds of people who began to clap hands, sing and praise God for our arrival.  It was almost like they were visited by God.  More than bringing food, blankets, clothes or water, I think today it was very important to them to know that they were not abandoned, they are not alone and that they belong to a bigger family.

” We visited the community hospital and that’s when I cried as I saw people laying on the floor crying and abandoned. I was impressed while we were walking with the Bishop how people stopped him saying, “praise God that the Lord has visited his people” and asking him with concern how things were in Jeremie. On our way back to the helicopter it was amazing to see women washing clothes, cooking, drying the corn or the rice in the sun, to see the notebooks and books of the children drying in the sun hoping to go back to school as soon as possible.

“Once at the helicopter, it was beautiful to see the children playing on the field doing cartwheels around us. Before we left, the Bishop prayed with the people he said that our houses have been destroyed, our lives have been disrupted, our tress and crops have been chopped off, but we are all alive, and this is already a grace.  All the people began to shout “Amen, hallelujah!” The next few weeks are going to be critical, and we are thinking not only to bring supplies, but also to set up a hospital tent. It is worth mentioning that we were first people to reach Dame Marie after the hurricane.

“While we were flying over Jeremie before landing we saw the cathedral completely open on the top.  The roof had been blown off, and was heartbreaking to see.  But mostly it was heartbreaking to see the people with houses destroyed, built so poorly and with such poor materials to begin with.  When we landed in the football field, the people recognized the Bishop and started to run towards him.  It was beautiful to see.  What came to mind was when Jesus said “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me” (Jn 10:14). But again, I saw more a lamb than a shepherd, who was ready to carry on his shoulders the burden of his people.  We had to leave him quickly, but promised him that we would return to help him and his people.

“I would like here to talk about the resilience of our Haitian brothers and sisters.  They are like a boxer in a boxing ring.  Knocked down, and the count to ten is on, but they are always able to stand up before the final countdown.  Not even the hurricane can knock them out.  It makes me think too of what is now a prophetic image of Our Lady of Sorrows, the patroness of our congregation, that we had painted on the side of our new residence which bears her name that will face the entrance of the new St Luke hospital.

“Our Founder, Paul of the Cross used to compare Our Lady of Sorrows to a rock on which the waves slam but cannot move her.  As I contemplated this, I saw Our Lady holding Christ’s shroud firmly but gently as a mother holds her child.  The wind and the waves batter her as she appeals to God on behalf of the Haitian people.  There is sorrow in her face but confidence too.  Why else would she be on that sharp rock but for her faith!

“On our way to Jeremie the sky was full of rain drops that reminded me of tears. On the way home the sky was clear but my eyes were full of tears. It is an obligation to have been the eyes and ears on behalf of our friends and supporters who are so concerned for those affected by this disaster, and now to be their voice to you on their behalf.  These are people who are already so vulnerable of being invisible to the outside world, and I am humbled today to have had the chance to help share their story.”

 

Fr Enzo Del Brocco

St Luke Foundation and

Passionisti Haiti Mission of Our Lady of Sorrows