Tuesday, September 15, 2009


“Pietà” by El Greco, 1575


The Gospel for this memorial is proper.

Additional Information about Our Lady of Sorrows[1]

Readings for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Readings and Commentary:

Hebrews 5:7-9

In the days when Christ was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Commentary on
Heb 5:7-9

This is an important passage from the standpoint of understanding the call to ministry, especially the Priesthood. In an extended form, it is frequently used at ordinations and provides an understanding of what it means to be called to a vocation. This selection continues with Christ’s own call. The author does an excellent job of capturing Christ’s humanity in this description.

CCC: Heb 5:1-10 1564; Heb 5:7-9 609, 2606; Heb 5:7-8 612, 1009; Heb 5:7 2741; Heb 5:8 2825; Heb 5:9 617
Psalm 31:2 and 3b, 3cd-4, 5-6,15-16, 20

R. (17) Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.

In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me,
make haste to deliver me!
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.

Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.

You will free me from the snare they set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.

But my trust is in you, O LORD,
I say, "You are my God."
In your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.

How great is your goodness, O LORD,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of the children of men.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
Commentary on
Ps 31:2 and 3b, 3cd-4, 5-6,15-16, 20

The psalmist gives us a song of faith very appropriate for the one who is put to the test for their faith. It is a prayer for rescue and a submission of will to God's saving power.

The sequence Stabat Mater may follow.

Stabat Mater

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.
Amen. (Alleluia)

First Option
John 19:25-27

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
Then he said to the disciple,
"Behold, your mother."
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Commentary on
Jn 19:25-27

Here is Jesus’ last address to his mother. Although the address sounds unnecessarily formal ("Woman, behold, your son.") this would have been considered a polite address in biblical times. The reference, “Woman,” is possibly to Genesis 3:15 which describes the mother of the Messiah as the “woman” whose offspring conquers the devil (CCC 726, 2618)[3]. The Lord, nearing the end of his life, commends the care of his mother to the disciple whom he loved. It is presumed this is done because Jesus has no brothers or sisters, and his adoptive father, Joseph, has already died.

In this instance, while it can be assumed that the disciple referred to is St. John, the author of the Gospel, the tender consignment of the care of the Lord’s mother is seen as iconic. That is, she is given into the care of all of the disciples, whom Jesus loves. Seeing her Son dying upon the cross is one of the seven sorrows the Blessed Mother endured in faith.
CCC: Jn 19:25-27 726, 2618; Jn 19:25 495; Jn 19:26-27 501, 964, 2605; Jn 19:27 2677, 2679
Second Option
Luke 2:33-35

Jesus' 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."
Commentary on Lk 2:33-35

In this passage we hear Simeon’s prediction, a man, we are told earlier, who “was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel”. Simeon was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not pass away until he had seen the Messiah. He has declared that this promise has been fulfilled and then turns to Mary and makes the prediction about the nature of Christ’s ministry and the nature of the sorrow she will endure, “and you yourself a sword will pierce” The sword indicates that Mary will have a share in her Son’s sufferings; hers will be an unspeakable pain which pierces her soul. Our Lord suffered on the cross for our sins, and it is those sins which forge the sword of Mary’s pain. [4]
CCC: Lk 2:32 713; Lk 2:34 575, 587; Lk 2:35 149, 618

The strains of Sabat Matar capture a shadow of the pain and sorrow of the passing of the Jesus, the Son of Mary, from true man to true God. With all of our joy at the resurrection and the hope that flows from that salvific event we sometimes forget the real human drama that overtook the young mother of Jesus who was first in faith, first in love of him who came to save us.

The Blessed Mother has long been the icon of what it means to love unconditionally, without any reservation. She demonstrated that ability from our first scriptural encounter with her as she accepted, without hesitation, the honor that would belong to the vessel of God and the sorrow promised by Simeon at the great passion of her son.

While tradition holds up for us the seven sorrows of the Lord, any mother who has loved a child knows the constant anxiety that goes with watching a child grow to adulthood and beyond. St. Mary was no different, in fact she is the exemplar for all mothers; the icon of love itself. So great was her love that it continues to transform the world. From the very earliest of her apparitions to the children of God to the present, he love for Christ and her love for all of God’s creation bleeds into our consciousness in her miraculous appearances. She is a constant reminder of God’s great love that sacrifices a son, the Son of God and Son of Mary, for our salvation.

Today we carry on that long tradition, recalling the great sorrow born by the Mother of Jesus the Christ. We lift up our own sufferings and when we offer them for her intercession, our pain feels that much lifted. Thank you Jesus, for choosing so great a mother for us.


[1] The picture is “Pietà” by El Greco, 1575
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[3] Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, © 2010, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, CA. pp. 198
[4] The Navarre Bible, Gospels and Acts, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp.363

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