“The Cross is suffering viewed in the supernatural light of faith as an instrument of salvation and sanctification, and therefore, as an instrument of love.”
Today, Friday in Passion Week, April 7, 2017, we commemorate the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which she suffered in union with the Passion of her divine Son.
“Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus, His Mother.” St. John, 19, 35
Father Gabriel reminds us that although Mary’s grief was immeasurable, it was surpassed by her love, “a love so great that it could encompass that vast sea of sorrow.” (Divine Intimacy).
The Seven Sorrows of Mary
Prophecy of Simeon And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him… And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. (Luke 2, 25-35)
From the moment she heard Simeon’s words, she would never again lift the Child’s hands without seeing a shadow of nails on them; every sunset would be a blood-red image of His Passion. Simeon was throwing away the sheath that hid the future from human eyes, and letting the blade of the world’s sorrow flash in front of her eyes. Every pulse that she would feel in the tiny wrist would be like an echo of an oncoming hammer. If He was dedicated to salvation through suffering, so was she. No sooner was this young life launched than Simeon, like an old mariner, talked of shipwreck. No cup of the Father’s bitterness had yet come to the lips of the Babe, and yet a sword was shown to His mother. (Abp. Fulton Sheen, “Life of Christ”, Kindle Edition)
The Flight Into Egypt
…behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the Child and His mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him. Who arose, and took the Child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called My Son. (Matt. 2, 13-15)
Mary and Joseph, following the Angel’s command, fled in the night taking their Divine Child into a strange and evil land, the historic enemy of their people. In this severe trial, trudging in the dark towards an unknown and threatening future, they foreshadow our own strivings to live amidst strangers who despise Our Lord, who only use His name to blaspheme and curse. The Holy Family, through the Providence of the Eternal Father, found safe haven in the most dangerous land of their time, and so also we trust in our Father’s providence and await His will in our exile here.
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him. And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions….And His mother said to Him: ‘Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.’ And He said to them: ‘How is it that you sought Me? did you not know, that I must be about My Father’s business?’ And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them. And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And His mother kept all these words in her heart. (Luke 2, 45-51)
Mary’s separation from Jesus for these three days was a forewarning of her three days of separation from His death until His resurrection. It was a foretaste of the bitter sorrows yet to come. For it pleased God to try her severely at this time. Of this trial, Ven. Mother Agreda tells us, He hid Himself from her interior sight and suspended the tokens of His most sweet affection. The heavenly Lady in the meanwhile knew not the inward cause of this behavior, as the Lord gave Her no explanation.” Her Immaculate Heart was pierced to think of her Beloved Son withdrawn from her.” Our Lady explained the Lesson of this loss of the Child Jesus as follows:
“I was deprived of the bodily presence of my most holy Son; but, although I was in hope of again finding Him, yet, in my great love, the uncertainty as to the cause of His withdrawal gave me no rest until I found Him. In this I wish that thou, my dearest, imitate me, whether thou lose Him through thy own fault or by the disposition of His own will. So great should be thy dread of losing Him through thy fault, that neither tribulation, nor trouble, nor necessity, nor danger, nor persecution, nor the sword, neither height nor depth should ever withhold thee from seeking after thy God; for if thou art faithful as thou shouldst be, and if thou dost not wish to lose Him, neither the angels, nor the principalities, nor the powers, nor any other creature can ever deprive thee of Him. So strong are the bonds of His love and its chains, that no one can burst them, except thy own free will.” (Agreda, “The Mystical City of God”)
Mary Meets Her Son Jesus, Carrying His Cross
“Consider the meeting of the Son and the Mother which took place on this journey (Via Dolorosa). Jesus and Mary looked at each other, and their looks became as so many arrows to wound those Hearts which loved each other so tenderly.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Way of the Cross).
It is Venerable Mother Agreda who guides us in understanding this Sorrow of Our Blessed Mother. As their gazes met, Our Lady spoke to Him within her soul, “My Son and eternal God, light of my eyes and life of my soul, receive, O Lord, the sacrifice of my not being able to relieve Thee of the burden of the Cross and carry it myself, who am a daughter of Adam; for it is I who should die upon it in love of Thee, as Thou now wishest to die in most ardent love of the human race.” In this she teaches us, who would be the children of Mary that in all justice, it is we who should be bearing this awful cross and therefore we bear with love these small crosses each day, loving them because they come from His hands, wounded with love for us.
Jesus acknowledged His Sorrowing Mother and then looked past her at the women who clustered nearby, lamenting His suffering and humiliation. And Mary heard and understood His brief discourse to them. “Weep for yourselves and your children … Behold, the days shall come …, they shall say to the mountains, fall upon us, and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?” In this, He shared with Mary, to whom He bequeathed us from His Cross, the fate of her children in these latter days. For if “in the green wood” her innocent Divine Son must suffer so , how must her children of the “dry wood”, steeped in sin, expect to suffer? And her sorrows increased.
The Crucifixion of Mary’s Son, Jesus our Savior
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother … When Jesus therefore had seen His mother and the disciple standing whom He loved, He saith to His mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, He saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother… (John 19, 25-27)
He had called her “Woman” before, when He reminded her at Cana that her request for a miracle meant that she was willing Him to begin the road which would take them both here, to the place of the Skull. We also recall that Sacred Scripture tells us she “brought forth her firstborn Son”, indicating the other children now to be hers, born in the anguished blood of the Cross. Indeed, the anguish of this birth exceeded by far all the sorrowing pains of the mothers of all times. And her sorrows increased in deepest bitterness, made the more poignant by this Mother’s unfathomable love.
In addressing her as “Woman” her Son alerted the demons who thronged around that this sad woman was indeed, the “Woman” who would vanquish Lucifer and their wrath against her increased many thousand times over. She who knows the thoughts of our hearts perceived all this, and kept it in her Immaculate Heart. And her sorrows increased.
Mary Holds Her Son’s Body at the Foot of the Cross.
Our Lord having expired was taken from the cross by two of His disciples, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who placed Him in the arms of His sorrowful Mother. (The Way of the Cross)
How often she had held His precious body, tended to His child’s needs, held Him close as He slept. And now her Divine Son slept in the mystery of death and once again she held Him in her arms. She marked His gauntness, His tattered skin, the now-dried blood, the dirt and spittle with which His beloved had returned His love. She knew that this was not the end, that as long as time endured there would be no end of His love nor their hatred and mockery. She kissed His eyes, which saw their sins and loved them the more, she kissed His lips which spoke only truth, she kissed His healing hands and lastly, she kissed the Wound which opened His Sacred Heart to shelter repentant sinners in His infinite mercy.
They took Him from her to lay Him in the tomb. And her sorrows increased.
Jesus is Placed in the Tomb
And Joseph buying fine linen, and taking Him down, wrapped Him up in the fine linen, and laid Him in a sepulchre which was hewed out of a rock. And he rolled a stone to the door of the sepulchre. (Mark 15, 46).
Our Sorrowful Mother accompanied the Body of her Savior, her Son as they carried Him to the tomb and laid Him to rest. The others withdrew and she knelt alone and adored Him. We are not privy to this most private of conversations; and so will only kneel in adoration, sharing her deep sorrow and her hope of the Resurrection when we shall rejoice in His glory.
Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange teaches:
“Mary gave birth to Jesus without pain: but she brings the faithful forth in the most cruel suffering. At what price she has bought them! They have cost her her only Son. She can be mother of Christians only by giving her Son to death. O agonizing fruitfulness! It was the will of the Eternal Father that the adoptive sons should be born by the death of the True Son. . . . What man would adopt at this price and give his son for the sake of strangers? But that is what the Eternal Father did. We have Jesus’ word for it: God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son. (John 3:16). (Mary) is the Eve of the New Testament and the mother of all the faithful; but that is to be at the price of her Firstborn. United to the Eternal Father she must offer His Son and hers to death. It is for that purpose that providence has brought her to the foot of the Cross. She is there to immolate her Son that men may have life. . . . She becomes mother of Christians at the cost of an immeasurable grief . . . We should never forget what we have cost Mary. The thought will lead to true contrition for our sins. The regeneration of our souls has cost Jesus and Mary more than we can ever think.“(Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., Reverend Reginald “The Mother of the Saviour: And Our Interior Life” Catholic Way Publishing. Kindle Edition.)
Devotion to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary is a sign of predestination and among the many graces bestowed on those who practice this devotion, are the following:
- True repentance for our sins before death.
- The grace of deeper insight into Christ’s sorrowful passion.
- The grace to become devout children of Mary, close to her in this life and especially in the next.
- It bestows a permanent awareness of the agony of sin felt by Jesus and Mary in His Passion.
- It imprints on our hearts the image of the crucified Christ, giving us strength to endure our own sufferings with holy resignation to the will of God.
- And finally, according to Father Faber, devotion to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary leads us directly into the depths of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with unfailing love.
So, the closer we are to Mary, the closer we are to her Son. But our devotion must be more than superficial, lukewarm practices that leave the passions unchecked, it must be a sincere effort of imitation of Mary’s Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart. Let us live our devotion to Mary, whom Christ Himself gave us for our Mother, by total consecration to her Immaculate Heart, by the brown scapular and above all, by her rosary.
† Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
† St. Joseph, protector of the Church, protect and strengthen our holy priests!
Please, pray the Rosary!
~ by evensong for love of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary and the most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!
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