Blessed Virgin Mary: September 2009 Archives
Father, as your Son was raised on the cross, his mother Mary stood by him, sharing his sufferings. May your Church be united with Christ in his suffering and death and so come to share in his rising to new life, where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Today's feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary follows yesterday's feast of the Triumph of the Cross. As the liturgical year progresses we see some things change in the liturgical atmosphere as we prepare, believe it or not, for the end of the liturgical year: our focus on the Paschal Mystery of the Lord (i.e., the life, death, resurrection & ascension of the Lord) becomes more present to us.
Liturgically the Church dedicates a day to the spiritual martyrdom of Mary, Jesus' own mother. The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows has not only a spiritual depth but a real human one: it strikes at the core of our heart. What human being goes through life without some sort of pain? Like all mothers, Mary was wounded and pained at various times in her life by the absence of her son and the pain and death he had to suffer. No mother delights in her child's misery, no mother sits by while her child's humanity is in jeopardy. Consider what the mothers of soldiers go through waiting for her son or daughter to return from war. Imagine the terrible, heart wrenching pain that many mothers felt when they were told their child was killed in Iraq. I know of the pain my own paternal grandmother faced when her son was killed in a car accident more than 40 years ago; a pain that never truly healed nor spoken of...
The feast we observe today reminds us of the humanity of not only Mary, but of Jesus. For as we know, Mary always points to her son: the cross brought incredible suffering for Jesus while it saved all of humanity by trampling down sin and death; Careful observing the suffering as Mary did requires our attention, too, because Christ saved us in and through our humanity. This point is driven home countless times a day as I walk past a replica of Michelangelo's Pieta (see the pic above); I am confronted with the sorrowing Mother Mary holding the dead body of her son in her arms, the very arms which cuddled him as an infant.
The Cistercian monks and Servite friars have given the Church an apt liturgical feast to indicate the depth of humanity Mary had in standing by her son, an experience foretold by Simeon. The feast has also be called Our Lady of Compassion, yet another intersection of theology and human reality.
Here are the seven sorrows of Mary:
The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)
Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)
Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)
The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)
Stabat Mater dolorosa
iuxta crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.
The grieving Mother stood
beside the cross weeping
where her Son was hanging.
Cuius animam gementem
contristatam et dolentem
Through her weeping soul,
compassionate and grieving,
a sword passed.
O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta
O how sad and afflicted
was that blessed
Mother of the Only-begotten!
Quae maerebat et dolebat
pia mater cum videbat
nati poenas incliti.
Who mourned and grieved,
the pious Mother, with seeing
the torment of her glorious Son.
Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?
Who is the man who would not weep
if seeing the Mother of Christ
in such agony?
Quis non posset contristari,
piam matrem contemplari
dolentum cum Filio?
Who would not be have compassion
on beholding the devout mother
suffering with her Son?
Pro peccatis suae gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis
et flagellis subditum.
For the sins of His people
she saw Jesus in torment
and subjected to the scourge.
Vidit suum dulcem Natum
cum emisit spiritum.
She saw her sweet Son
while He gave up His spirit.
Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
da per matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriae. Amen.
Christ, when it is henceforth in need to pass away,
grant that through your Mother I may come
to the palm of victory. Amen.
You have been blessed, O Virgin Mary, above all other women on earth by the Lord, the Most High God, for God has so exalted your name that human lips will never cease to praise you.
Lord our God, when Your Son was dying on the altar of the cross, he gave us as our mother the one he had chosen to be His own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our mother, with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in all our needs.
This feast was restored an optional memorial in our sacred Liturgy by the Servant of God Pope John Paul II when he published the 2002 Roman Missal (the translation is due out this century). The Preface of today's Mass is worth adding to our examination of conscience today and I highly recommend using the liturgical texts to assist us here. In part the Preface reads:
"... But by Your loving providence the name of the Virgin Mary also should echo and re-echo on the lips of the faithful people who turn to her with confidence as their star of hope, call on her as their mother in time of danger, and seek her protection in their hour of need."
The sentiments expressed by the Church's Liturgy ought to call to mind the venerable prayer of the Memorare in which we ask Mary in confidence to be at our side at all times. Those who remain close to Mary, the Mother of God are always helped.
A fitting look into a Marian apparition on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary at First Things, "What Happened at Medjugorje?" It's amazing that this "apparition" of the Blessed Virgin is getting a lot of press these days.
In Honor of Our Lady's Nativity
Saint Anselm of Canterbury
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life.
When thou wast born, O most holy Virgin, then was the world made light. Happy is thy stock, holy thy root, and blessed thy fruit, for thou alone as a virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit, didst merit to conceive thy God, as a virgin to bear Thy God, as a virgin to bring Him forth, and after His birth to remain a virgin.
Have mercy therefore upon me a sinner, and give me aid, O Lady, so that just as thy nativity, glorious from the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious from the stock of David, didst announce joy to the entire world, so may it fill me with true joy and cleanse me from every sin.
Pray for me, O Virgin most prudent, that the gladsome joys of thy most helpful nativity may put a cloak over all my sins. O holy Mother of God, flowering as the lily, pray to thy sweet Son for me, a wretched sinner. Amen.
It is the nativity of the glorious Virgin Mary, sprung from the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Juda, of the renowned family of David.
We beseech Thee, O Lord, grant to Thy servants the gift of Thy heavenly grace, that as the childbearing of the Blessed Virgin was the beginning of salvation, so the joyful festival of her nativity may bring us an increase of peace.
Today is one three days on the liturgical calendar that the church celebrates someone's birth; the other two are Jesus and John the Baptist. What we know of the birth of Mary comes from the extra-canonical gospels: The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary and the Proto-evangelium of Saint James. This is one of those feasts that came from Eastern Church, likely in Syria in the 6th century. It gained popularity that in the 7th century it was added to liturgical calendar of the Church of Rome (It was Pope Sergius I who wrote a Litany and organized a procession for the feast.) and the collects are found in various missals. Various dioceses may have some type of observance beginning in the 8th to the 10th centuries. That said, in some parts of the Church where the missals included the collects of the Assumption, this feast of Nativity of Mary is absent.