On the day after we celebrate the Exaltation of the Cross, we turn to Mary and her Sorrows. The two are inseparable. The cross, the instrument of our salvation is exalted on one day. On the next day we see the sorrows of a mother’s love for her son. Our own lives here in this world are filled with so many times of exaltation and so many times of sorrow. We experience many joys, many triumphs, many difficulties and many sorrows. It is just what human living is all about. It does help us to know that our God, in the form of Jesus, knows through personal experience what rejection, difficulties, pain and even death is. It also helps us to know that we have a mother who can really understand our times of sorrow, because she too has experienced them.
One of the most precious gifts that God has given us is the gift of His mother (John 19:26). Just as she has experienced sorrow in seeing Jesus rejected and tortured and killed, she also experiences sorrow when she sees the difficulties and sorrows that we experience. As a loving mother, she is there with us to help us in our difficulties and sorrows. When we celebrate Our Lady of Sorrows, we celebrate with our mother a love that encompasses all things, especially the difficulties of our lives. She, and her Son, are always there to comfort us and assist us. Her love for us as her children is poured out in all of the good that we experience and in all of the bad. Jesus blessed us so much in sharing His mother with us.
Traditionally there are seven sorrows, or dolors, that are attributed to Mary. These are all based on various scripture accounts. I would like to list out these seven sorrows and give a brief reflection on each one. I would suggest that you read the scripture and then the reflection questions and then pray asking Mary for help and guidance and peace.
1 – The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus (Luke 2:34): How often do we receive news that seems to indicate some kind of impending difficulty that we just don’t quite understand? Don’t we usually fret and worry about it? How often do we carry it with us for years just waiting for something bad to happen? Mary must have experienced that with the words of Simeon.
2 – The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family (Matthew 2:13): How many people in the world have to leave the comfort of their homes heading to some unknown place? The number of refugees in the world due to war and famine and natural disasters is unbelievable. Mary knew what it was like to leave home to escape a tyrants rage. How often do you feel like you just are not at home?
3 – The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days (Luke 2:43): When Jesus was missing for three days, how difficult that must have been for Mary? Many people have lost their children due to runaways, drug and alcohol addiction and psychological disorders and often just to a lack of communication.. The pain and sorrow a parent feels due to this is crushing. Ask Mary to help. She understands.
4 – The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:26): Have you ever seen your child in pain? This could be medical, emotional or depressive pain. Have you seen your child mistreated, or bullied or just picked upon? This causes so much sorrow to a parent. Mary knows all about this. Turn to her.
5 – The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross (John 19:25): Have you had to watch your child slowly die. Unfortunately many parents have. Sometimes it isn’t even physical death. Sometimes it is depression or even a lack of ambition. Mary feels your pain and can help you with it. Turn to her.
6 – The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57): So many parents have held their child in their arms when they died. Sometimes this is from a still born birth, or sickness or accident. How many parents have had their child die in a foreign war and wished that they could have held them for one last time? The pain is excruciating. Mary understands.
7 – The Burial of Jesus (John 19:40): Probably the worst thing that a parent can do is to bury their child. To see their child enter the grave and to know that you won’t be able to hug them and laugh with them or talk to them is so painful. Mary knows how this feels. She can bring help when we turn to her.
It is important for us to realize that Mary faced all of these difficulties because of her faith and because she trusted that God could work through all things. Our Lady of Sorrows is also Our Lady of Hope. We too are called to face our difficulties with faith that God works out all things. Even in the midst of our sorrows, we are called to be filled with hope.
From the Our Lady of Hope Novena:
But above all I pray, O dearest Mother, that through your most powerful intercession my heart may be filled with Holy Hope, so that in life’s darkest hour I may never fail to trust in God my Savior, but by walking in the way of His commandments I may merit to be united with Him, and with you in the eternal joys of Heaven. Amen.
Mary, our Hope, have pity on us.
Hope of the Hopeless, pray for us.