Our Lady of Sorrows
15th September


Origins and significance

This title directs our minds and hearts to the spiritual martyrdom of Our Lady in the life, passion and death of her Divine Son and her singular participation in the work of our salvation. By the fourteenth century Mary's 'dolours' or sorrows had been enumerated as seven:

1. The Presentation in the Temple

2. The Flight into Egypt

3. Loss of Jesus For Three Days in Jerusalem

4. Her meeting with Him on the road to Calvary (the 'via dolorosa)

5. The Crucifixion

6. The Descent from the Cross

7. The Burial of Jesus

 A moving and beautiful harmony emerges in the Church's liturgical tradition which so enlivens the worship of God.
 This feast follows that of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (now the Triumph of the Cross') on September 14th. The exalted cross, the sign of our reconciliation prefigured in Moses' raising the serpent-staff in the desert, is glorified as the instrument of Christ's victory over death. We move naturally to consider His Mother's contribution to that vic­tory. Having exercised her maternal influence at the Wedding feast at Cana, she adopted only a supportive role in her Son's ministry until she stands at the foot of the cross.
 What solace she offers us in our own grief and suffer­ings, temporal, futile and unlooked for though they may appear. Members of Christ's Mystical Body, with her we share in His sufferings as we anticipate the glory to come already enjoyed by this Mother of Sorrows.

Pope Paul VI has described the feast as a fitting occasion for reliving "a decisive moment in the history of salvation and for venerat­ing, together with her Son lifted up on the Cross, His suffer­ing Mother".

Christian devotion has inspired touching depictions of the
Mother holding her Son's body, the most famous being Michelangelo's 'Pieta'.

Writings and Reflections

So often, the inspiration of the liturgy, its hymns and prayers issuing from the collective wisdom and holiness of the Communion of Saints moves as we reflect.

"Holy Mother, pierce me through,

in my heart each wound renew

of my Saviour crucified.

Let me share with you His pain,

Who for all my sins was slain,

Who for me in torment died.

Can the human heart refrain

from partaking in her pain,

in that Mother's pain untold.

(From the Sequence of the Feast)

"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 sufferings and death and so come to share in His rising to new life."

(Opening Prayer of the Feast)

"The martyrdom of the Virgin Mary, implicit in Simeon's prophecy, is put before us in the story of Our Lord's passion. That venerated old man, Simeon, said of the Infant Jesus: This Child is set for a sign that will be contradicted'; and to Mary: 'A sword will pierce your soul.' Blessed Mother, the cruel lance which opened His side and would not spare Him in death though it could do Him no injury, could not touch His soul. But it pierced your Son. His soul was no longer there but yours could not be freed and it was pierced by a sword of sorrow. We rightly speak of you as more than a martyr, for the anguish of mind you suffered exceeded all bodily pain.

'Mother behold your son.' John was given to you in place of Jesus, a disciple in place of the master, a son of Zebedee in place of the Son of God, a mere man in place of the true God. These words must have pierced your lov­ing soul since just to recall them our hearts, hard and stony though they be."

(From the sermons of St Bernard, 1090-1153);

"Consider the meeting of the Son and the Mother which took place on this journey (when Christ carries His Cross to Calvary). Their looks became like so many arrows, to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly. My sweet Jesus, by the sorrow Thou didst expe­rience in this meeting, grant me the grace of a truly devoted love for The most holy Mother. And thou my Queen, who wast overwhelmed with sorrow, obtain for me by thy intercession, a continued and tender remem­brance of the Passion of thy Son.

Consider how Our Lord had expired, was taken down from the cross by Joseph and Nicodemus who placed Him in the arms of His afflicted Mother who received Him with unutterable tenderness and pressed Him to her bosom.

O Mother of Sorrow, for the love of this thy Son,

accept me for thy servant and pray for me."

(4th and 13th Stations of the Cross, St. Alphonsus 1696-1787).


Stabat mater dolorosa


Stabat mater dolorosa 
iuxta crucem lacrimosa 
dum pendebat filius 

cuius animam gementem
contristantem et dolentem
pertransivit gladius

quam tristis et afflicta fuit
illa benedicta mater unigenti
quae maerebat et dolebat et tremebat dum videbat
nati poenas incliti

Quis est homo qui no fleret 
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio
Quis non posset contristari
piam matrem contemplari
dolentem cum filio

Pro peccatis suae gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis
et flagellis subditum
vidit suum dulcem natum
morientem desolatum
dum emisit spiritum

Eia mater fons amoris 

Me sentire vim doloris 
fac ut tecum lugeam 
Fac ut ardeat cor meum 
in amando Christum Deum 
ut sibi complaceam 

Sancta mater istud agas 
crucifixi fige plagas 
cordi meo valide 
tui nati vulnerati 
tam dignati pro me pati 
poenas mecum divide 
Fac me vere tecum flere 
crucifixo condolere 
donec ego vixero 
iuxta crucem tecum stare 
meque tibi sociare 
in planctu desidero 

Virgo virginium praeclara 
mihi iam non sis amara 
fac me tecum plangere 
fac ut portem Christi mortem 
passionis fac consortem 
et plagas recolere 
Fac me plagis vulnerari 
cruce had inebriari 
et cruore filii 

per te Virgo sim defensus 
inflamatus et accensum 
in die iudicii 

Fac me cruce custodiri 
morte Christi praemuniri 
confoveri gratia 

Quando corpus morietur 
fac ut animae donetur 
paradisi gloria 

At the Cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus at the last.

Though her soul, of joy bereaved,
Bowed with anguish, deeply grieved,
Now at length the sword hath passed.

Oh how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother, highly blest,
Of the sole begotten One!
Oh that silent, ceaseless mourning,
Oh those dim eyes, never turning
From that wondrous, suffering Son!

Who on Christ's dear Mother gazing,
In her trouble so amazing,
Born of woman would not weep?
Who on Christ's dear Mother thinking,
Such a cup of sorrow drinking,
Would not share her sorrow deep? 

For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His Spirit forth He sent;
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

O, thou Mother, fount of love!

Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou hast 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 thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torment died.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest,
Listen to my fond request;
Let me share thy grief divine.
Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath 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 Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defense,
Be Thy Cross my victory.

While my body here decays
May my soul Thy goodness praise
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

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