Monday, March 26, 2012

Our Lady of Sorrows

For a couple of years now, I have had a devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows.  In fact, my all time favorite statue of Our Lady is one depicting her as such.  It seems her beauty is in full bloom in sorrow.  “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” moves from vow to verb.  There are many ways to pray this devotion, but I have latched on to the simplest (and shortest) which allows me to pray it daily, and linger when possible:

The First Sorrow:  The Presentation at the TempleIt is powerful that this is also one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  There is deep sorrow and deep joy out of walking in God’s will.   Here I pray against the spirit of disappointment.  Mary may have been remembering her own presentation at the Temple by Ss. Anne and Joachim.  She may have hoped Jesus would live a life at the Temple, absolutely absorbed in learning about His Father.   When we allow ourselves to be disappointed, we open ourselves up to bitterness and resentment.  Mary’s perfect acceptance of this first sword in her heart, and the prophecy of a difficult life, opened the Holy Family up to the grace they would need. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Second Sorrow:  The Flight into EgyptEvery Passover Mary would have heard the story of her people’s deliverance from the Egyptians.  Now Joseph learned from an angel that they should seek deliverance from Herod in Egypt?  I pray against fear.  In how many instances does the Lord, through scripture, tell us to, “be not afraid”?  This is not something He suggests; it is a command.  He does not expect us to never feel afraid, but not to set up camp there.  Mary’s faithfulness in this trial would serve her well for the larger trials God was preparing her for. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Third Sorrow:  Losing the Child Jesus in the TempleFor three days Mary and Joseph were without their son.  They were separated from the Lord in the only way these two pure souls could be.  They must have battled terrible feelings of failure and an anxiety unprecedented in the world.  Anxiety:  a most debilitating spirit.   How many great works has God graced His saints to do which were defeated by anxiety?  An ongoing fearful situation can whittle away at the strongest faith and cause us to look to ourselves, to others, to worldly solutions when we should be keeping our eyes on God.  Mary kept her eyes on God.  She felt the anxiety, but overcame it.  She countered the thoughts with the truths of God’s word.  She and Joseph persevered.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Fourth Sorrow:  The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.  Joachim means “God prepares”.  Before Mary was even born God was preparing her for these hours, for these days.  What greater sorrow is there than that of a parent who cannot help their suffering child?  Yet Mary did help.  She defined the word “compassion” in these hours.  Mary suffered with the Redeemer, her Jesus, along the road.  Here I pray that we offer up our pain and that of our loved ones, when it comes. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Fifth Sorrow:  The Crucifixion.  Agony.  And yet she stood; Mary stood. 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Sixth Sorrow:  Mary receives Jesus’ lifeless Body from the Cross.  Michelangelo’s Pieta so perfectly captures the beauty of this moment, done in pure white, though the scene certainly was not.  The word means pity, but I always think of the virtue Piety which is not about devotions and prayers, but doing the right thing out of love for God.  We pray the Rosary out of the overflow of love in our hearts for Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  It is right and just to pray devotions because of Love!  In this most difficult moment, Mary did what was right and just; she cradled her son.  Mary’s willingness to receive Jesus’ lifeless Body, in some mystical way, allows us, her children, to receive His risen Body in Eucharist.  Here all her life’s “yeses” bear the precious fruit of the virtue of acceptance.  Mary accepts this moment.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

The Seventh Sorrow:  The burial and sealing of the Tomb.  Now Mary must leave Him.  She must be separated from Him.  She must watch as the stone is rolled into place, and walk away.   Trust.  The virtue of acceptance, moved into future, is Trust.  Mary trusted that Jesus would rise in three days as He said.  But, she still had to put one foot in front of the other, walk away, and somehow do ordinary things like sleep and eat and wash and breathe, for three days.  Jesus, I trust in You!

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee…

Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

The Promises of this devotion, according to the visions of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373):   Blessed Mother promises to grant seven graces to those who honor her and draw near to her and her Son every day by meditating on her dolors (sorrows) and entering into her grief.

"I will grant peace to their families."

"They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries." 

"I will console them in their pains and will accompany them in their work." 

"I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls." 

"I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives." 

"I will visibly help them at the moment of their death-- they will see the face of their mother." 

"I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy." 

Who could resist that?  I have received many graces and consolations through this devotion.  But, more importantly, I hope I have consoled Mary's Immaculate Heart as she continues to sorrow, in some mystical way, over her children.

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