Fr Billy Swan
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated the day after the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. This is no co-incidence for it places side-by-side the suffering of Christ and his Blessed Mother. She participated him his suffering. His suffering was hers.
If you love someone and they suffer, then you suffer too. This is the experience of life and of us all. To love is to suffer. They cannot be separated. It was also the experience of Mary. She loved her Son with a love beyond all telling. But because she did, she suffered immensely as he suffered before her eyes. She suffered with him. His agony was hers.
From the cross, Jesus entrusted Mary to all his disciples - ‘Son/daughter behold your mother’. He also entrusted us to her – ‘Mother behold your son/daughter’. For all of those who suffer, it means that Mary suffers too. She suffers because she loves us and because this is true, she suffers when we do. As she was there with her Son from beginning to end, so she is with us at every step of life’s journey. With her gentle care she is with us now, gently mothering us to keep going beyond the darkness and towards the light of resurrection.
The ancient hymn ‘Stabat Mater’ is associated with the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The first stanza goes like this: ‘Stabat mater dolorósa, juxta Crucem lacrimósa, dum pendébat Fílius…At the Cross her station keeping, Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last’. What always strikes me from these words is Mary’s resilience in the face of suffering – Stabat Mater – as mother she stood her ground and did not walk away. And why did she not flee? To remain close to Jesus to the last. No matter how much it would cost her, she would not leave his side. This is what love demanded.
As she did not leave the side of her suffering Son, she does not leave our side either as mother of his mystical body that is the Church. Above is the famous sculpture by Michelangelo where Mary cradles the dead body of her Son. She looks at us with eyes of sorrow but she is also the mother who directs us to light and hope.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!