Tag Archives: Stabat Mater

Our Lady of Sorrows

detail of sorrowful motherScripture reveals that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, stood by the cross as her son died. This was foretold by Simeon in the Temple when Jesus was presented there. Hence, this feast acknowledges Mary as a martyr because of the intense pain of the sword piercing her heart. As you would expect, how could a mother not be with her son as he died? Her humanity was closely united to that of his.

Your lectio may lead you to pray with the following: Mark 15:22; John 19:18, 25-27; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46

Grasping the seriousness of this event gave way to the incredible composition of the sequence of Stabat Mater. Most parishes don’t sing this poetic text any longer but it used to be sung on this feast day and on Good Friday. Sometimes you’d hear it at the Stations of the Cross.

If you are not familiar with the rosary devotion of Seven Sorrows of Mary you will want to visit this site. This devotion has its roots in the 12th century and was made extraordinarily popular in the 13th. People like Saints Anselm and Bernard advocated this form of the rosary; the Benedictines, Cistercians and then the Servite friars took up the devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows was placed on the Roman Calendar by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727 and observed on the Friday prior to Palm Sunday; at the revision of the liturgical calendar the feast moved to this date. But the feast does have a variety of observances in other parts of the Church.

This is yet another truly Benedictine feast as it draws us to the foot of the cross. Given yesterday’s feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, today gives us the perspective of the mother. Mary’s sorrows have become our own sorrows; this is a reasonable feast that recognizes as concrete the place of sorrow in our experience. But sorrow is not the final chapter in this life: sorrow gives way to peace and joy. I am thinking of the mothers who have lost a child to all sorts of circumstances (sudden death, miscarriage, addictions, murder, war, abortion). Saint Benedict and his sons and daughters help to point the way to salvation in Christ through the cross.

The great Cistercian abbot Saint Bernard directs our thoughts and prayer in the following homily.

The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted. He went on to say to Mary: And your own heart will be pierced by a sword.

Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus – who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours – gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.

Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son, not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.

Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.

Our Lady of Sorrows

OL Sorrows AIsenbrant.jpg

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
   pertransivit gladius.

Through her weeping soul,

compassionate and grieving,
   a sword passed.

O quam tristis et afflicta

fuit illa benedicta
   mater Unigeniti!

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

morientem, desolatum,
cum emisit spiritum.

She saw her sweet Son

dying, forsaken,
   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.

The Virgin Mother’s seven sorrows

OL Seven Sorrows.jpgToday’s memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows helps us to know that Mary is not a detached mother. The Church shows us a side of Mary that is relevant to the human experience, to the reality that many people find themselves in.  For example, the loss of a child through kidnapping or even death. How often do we think sympathetically when a child dies before a parent? Our heart and mind says that it is out of normal order of things that a child dies before the parent. The sorrows of Mary concern the points in her life where either she’s pondering the prediction of Jesus’ death, dealing with the move to Egypt, the loss of the child at the Temple, or the events surrounding the Cross. Turning to Our Lady of Sorrows gives perspective and reminds us that we are not alone in the tragic events of our life. The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows is a devotion that recalls seven sorrowful events in the life of the Mary, Mother of God. A significat piece of this devotion helps to recall Mary’s profound solitude on the day between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. The practice of praying the seven sorrows originates with the Servite Order (Servants of Mary) bettween 1233 and 1239! Time tested for sure.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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