Sunday, August 30, 2009

September 15th: The Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother

From a post written (by me) September, 2007:

 The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady are such a good meditation, though maybe a difficult one, especially considering how different Our Blessed Mother's sorrow must have been from sorrow as we understand it -- as flawed human beings. All the experiences of Mary's life were colored by her complete, unquestioning surrender to the Will of God. She was not affected by any of the vices of thought or deed that we're prone to due to original sin.  Her knowlege and understanding were (are) far keener than ours. The sorrows she felt in her life on earth were100% unselfish.
I don't consider myself an authority in any way on the Bible, or the life of Our Blessed Mother, or theology, or much, in fact, except maybe diaper changing and laundry. What follows are just some of my random thoughts and impressions on the Seven Sorrows, and what lessons I found in thinking about them today.
The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother:

1) The Prophesy of Simeon, in which he foretold to Our Blessed Mother that her child was "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..."

As a mother, this immediately brings to mind for me the terror and worry I would have for the future if someone said those same words to me. I'd be a nervous wreck! But, we know for a certainty that Jesus' Mother didn't worry. At most she "wondered at those things which were spoken concerning Him." If we can learn to place our complete trust in God like Our Lady did, we won't have worry for our future either.   but this is way easier said than done. But Our Blessed Mother,  is always there to help.  She understands sorrow better than anyone and knows each of us well enough to our best consolation and help.  God is so good to us to give us the help of all our Heavenly family, and especially His Mother, Our Mother, who has such a tender love for us.

Learn not to worry!

2) The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt

 Imagine your husband wakes you up in the morning and says, "Pack up, dear. We're going to Egypt." You have a new baby, and your bank account is not just low, it's nonexistent. You don't know a soul in Egypt, and you will have to walk or ride a donkey across a desert to get there. But, you go. Mary went. I doubt she even asked any questions of St. Joseph, but started packing their meager belongings immediately. This not only teaches us abandonment, once again, to the Will of God, but obedience to our husbands!

In the God-given roles of husband and wife, the Bible makes it very clear what is expected of each of us. We're a team because our skills and roles were designed to complement one another. My job, as a wife and mother is to tend to the details of the family and to love and honor my husband; my husband's job is take care of the big decisions and to cherish his wife and family. Do we consult one another on these things? Of course we do, or it'd be a miserable existence for both of us. But the final word on where my husband takes a job, for instance, belongs to my husband, while what we have for dinner and how the children are dressed are things I take care of. This is an arrangement I am blessed to be able to comply with, as I have a Godly husband. For this I need to be grateful. And to be content to obey.
The Mother of God is our best example for fulfilling and obeying the demands of our stations in life.

3) The Losing of the Child Jesus in the Temple

This sorrow (which accompanies the the 4th Joyful Mystery) always gives me comfort in a way. Picture the scenario: You're traveling with a large group of family members and friends, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a very large and unfamiliar city. On the way home, you're sure you'd seen your twelve year old son in the group at departure, so aren't worried when you don't spot him again throughout the day. You assume he's with friends in the company. But, at the end of the day you can't find him. You go all the way back to Jerusalem to look for him. You're frantic. How could you have left him behind? Finally, you go back to the Temple, and there He is, surrounded by a group of church scholars, deep in conversation.

Didn't He know that you had to be concerned for Him? How could He not have known that you were looking for Him?? When you ask Him, His answer is strange and somewhat vague: Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know I had to be about my Father's business?

Alllrighty then! How do you answer that one? I think that Our Blessed Mother and holy St. Joseph knew better than to be terribly upset; this was no ordinary boy they were raising. But, here's the comfort for me... If Our Lady and St. Joseph had trouble with their adolescent, who am I to be surprised when my teenagers give me pains? And who better for me to call upon in my distress over them?
Our Blessed Mother is our best counselor on child rearing!

4. The Blessed Mother meets her Son on the Way to Mount Calvary

This scene, as it plays in my mind, is heartbreaking. How can we, as mothers, even imagine the horror? Our dearest child is suffering unimaginably, and we can't do anything to help! We can only watch helplessly. Or is that all that His Mother did? Sometimes we're faced with situations in our lives over which we truly have no control. Our loved ones suffer, we suffer, and though we may not be able to change the earthly situation, we can affect the landscape of our own souls by prayer. When Our Blessed Mother followed Our Lord up the hill to Calvary, I believe she filled all the sorrow of that time with some of the Earth's most fervent prayer. Prayer, I bet, mostly that God's Will be done. We can affect change through prayer. Prayers left in Our Lady's hands will always be perfectly handled and distributed.
When all else fails, pray!

5) The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord on the Cross

When I meditate on Our Lord's three hours on the cross, I'm always glad that His Mother was not alone there. How her mother's heart must have been breaking! And, though the mystics tell us she was constantly surrounded by angels, how comforting it must have been, in a human way, to have the arm of St. John around her shoulders in that awful time. How good it must have been that the other women were there at the foot of the cross, mourning with her. I know she was aware of their sorrow, and that they had ultimate concern for her at that time as well. The company of our friends in the Faith should never be taken for granted. Though we have the ever-ready help of the heavenly court, it's important to remember that oftentimes, God answers our prayers through concrete comfort and help.
God often sends His help through the hands of His friends here on earth!

6) The Body of Our Lord is Taken Down from the Cross and Laid in the Arms of His Mother

How bittersweet these moments must have been. Our Lady's heart must have been drowning in sorrow; she must have already begun  to miss Jesus' earthly presence near her. But, she knew, too, that His suffering was over and that He was now with His Heavenly Father, His mortal mission on Earth completed. It is always so touching and deeply meaningful to me to see how God gives Christ to us through His Mother. She bore Him, through the Holy Ghost, and brought Him into the world. After His sacrifice on Calvary, the Body of Christ was laid in her arms. I like to think that His Mother must be present, too, in a way, at every Holy Communion.
Who can better help us prepare for the Sacrament of His Body and Blood than His Holy Mother?

7) The Burial of Jesus

In another example of Christian charity and practical solicitude, it appears the friends of Mary took chief responsibility for the preparation of Our Lord's body for death. Perhaps Our Lady looked on as the holy women gathered together spices and someone located fine linen in which to wrap Jesus' precious body. I imagine she was grateful, but not surprised, when Joseph of Arimethea eagerly contributed his own new tomb. Everything had to be taken care of quickly because the Sabbath was fast approaching, but everything was done as carefully and perfectly as possible. Do I prepare myself with as much care when I approach the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? Do I take the time and trouble to fast appropriately? Do I really try my hardest to understand the great privilege of this sacrament? How can I complain to myself that it's too difficult to focus on my prayers when I'm hungry and the children are acting up and I'm in a bad mood... relative to the scene on that Friday?
We should carefully prepare ourselves body, mind and soul both to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and to meet Him someday at the end of our lives.

More on the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother
Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows
By St. Bridget
O Blessed Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mother of God, who didst endure a martyrdom of love and grief, beholding the sufferings and sorrows of Jesus! Thou didst co-operate in the benefit of my redemption by thy innumerable afflictions and by offering to the Eternal Father His only-begotten Son as a holocaust and victim of propitiation for my sins. I thank thee for the unspeakable love which led thee to deprive thyself of the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus, true God and true Man, to save me, a sinner. Oh! make use of the unfailing intercession of thy sorrows with the Father and the Son. that I may steadfastly amend my life and never again crucify my loving Redeemer by new sins; arid that, persevering till death in His grace, I may obtain eternal life through the merits of His Cross and Passion. Amen.
Mother of love, of sorrow, and of mercy, pray for us.
The Seven Sorrows
First Sorrow: The Presentation
Second Sorrow: the Flight into Egypt
Third Sorrow: The Loss of Jesus in Jerusalem
Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus on the Via Dolorosa
Fifth Sorrow: Mary at the Foot of the Cross
Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives Jesus' body a it is Taken From the Cross
Seventh Sorrow: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

The devotions and promises for those who meditate on the Sorrows of Our Lady can be found here. And here are the details of the Chaplet of the Sorrowful Mother. Our boys singing the Stabat Mater last Lent right here.
Mother of Sorrows, pray for us in this vail of tears!