Saturday, September 15, 2012

Feast of The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

Today, September 15, is the Feast Day of our Lady of Sorrows.  This day is to commemorate the sorrows that our Blessed Mother experienced during her life.  It is traditionally taught that there are seven sorrows of Mary, pictured by the seven swords piercing her heart:

1. The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of King Herod.

2. Simeon's prophecy at the presentation of Jesus at the temple, that a sword would pierce Mary's heart as well. 

3. The Child Jesus is lost for three days until he is found in the temple.

4. Mary and Jesus meet on the way to Calvary when He is carrying his cross.

5. The Crucifixion of our Lord when Mary stood at the foot of the cross.

6. Jesus is taken down from the Cross and placed in his blessed mother's arms. 

7. Jesus is placed in the tomb.

With the exception of her Divine Son, no one has ever suffered more than our Lady did.  As St. Alphonsus de Liguori wrote:
In this valley of tears every man is born to weep, and all must suffer, by enduring the evils which are of daily occurrence. But how much greater would the misery of life be, did we also know the future evils which await us! ‘Unfortunate, indeed, would his lot be,’ says Seneca, ‘who, knowing the future, would have to suffer all by anticipation
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials which await us, that, whatever they may be, we may endure them but once. He did not show Mary this compassion; for she, whom God willed to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like His Son, had to see always before her eyes and continually to suffer all the torments that awaited her; and these were the sufferings of the Passion and death of her beloved Jesus; for in the temple Saint Simeon, having received the Divine Child in his arms, foretold to her that that Son would be a mark for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. “Behold, this Child is set… for a sign which shall be contradicted.” And therefore, that a sword of sorrow should pierce her soul: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.”

The Blessed Virgin herself told Saint Matilda, that, on this announcement of Saint Simeon, ‘all her joy was changed into sorrow.’ 
The Presentation and Circumcision of our Lord
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We have just passed the 11th commemoration of 9/11, when so many innocent people, who had done nothing more sinister than go to work, were brutally murdered right here in New York City.  They all woke up that morning thinking it was like any other day, having no idea that they would be dead in just a few hours.  When they left for work that day, their families had no idea they would never see them again. What if all these people had had to live their entire lives knowing this would be their fate?  This is, in effect, what our Lord and his Mother had to live with.  These were the two most innocent and perfect people who had ever lived.  Yet there was never a moment of their lives when they did not have the great sorrow of the Cross hanging like an ominous cloud over their heads.  And it was all done out of love for us, the very ones responsible for our Lord's death, so that we could be rescued from sin and spend eternity in blissful happiness with them.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave a beautiful sermon on the suffering of Mary, why it was necessary and what it accomplished.  Here are a few excerpts:
Not only did our Blessed Mother beget a Son, but the Son also begot her. This is the connection between Bethlehem and Calvary. She gave Him Sonship, but He also gave her Motherhood. At the crib ... His Mother; at the Cross she was called the "Woman." No Son in the world but Christ could ever make His Mother the mother of all men, because the flesh is possessive and exclusive. Making her the Woman or the Universal Mother was like a new creative word. He made her twice: once for Himself, and once for us in His Mystical Body. She made Him as the new Adam; He now installs her as the new Eve, the Mother of mankind.
John and Mary at the foot of the Cross
when Mary was given to us as our Blessed Mother
This transfer of His Mother to men was, appropriately, at the moment He redeemed them. That word "Woman" from the Cross was the second Annunciation, and John was the second Nativity. What joy went with her mothering Him! What anguish went with His Mothering her! Mary's mind was filled with the thought of Divinity in the stable; but at Golgotha it is sinners that are uppermost in her mind, and she now begins their mothering. The curse of Eve hangs heavily on Mary: "Thou shalt bring forth children in sorrow." When we contrast the great difference between her Divine Son and us, her sorrow, from our point of view, must have been not only "How can I live without Him?" but also "How can I live with them?" This was the miracle of substitution, for how can one be satisfied with straggling rays when one has been with the sun? The humility of which she sang at the Magnificat was not only a confession of unworthiness to be the Mother of God, but also the admission now of her readiness to be the Mother of man. It was a grief not to die with Him; it was a greater grief to live on with us.
Tradition indicates that Mary was pierced seven times with swords of sorrow and that these constitute her Seven Dolors. The position we will take is not that there were seven swords, but seven thrusts of the one sword, and the sword that pierced her soul was Christ Himself. This Sword has a double edge: one edge ran into His Own Sacred Heart, the other into her Immaculate Heart. . . .There were not seven swords but only one, and it plunged into two hearts. The Seven Dolors are as seven thrusts of the Sword Christ, one edge for Him as Redeemer, the other edge for her as the Mother of the Redeemer. Christ is the Sword of His Own Passion; He is the Sword of her compassion. Pius XII says that she, as the true Queen of Martyrs, more than any of the faithful, filled up for His Body the Church the sufferings that were wanting to the Passion of Christ! This was the first reason why God permitted her Dolors, that she might be the first after the Redeemer Himself to continue His Passion and death in His Mystical Body.
An unsuffering Christ Who ignored sin would be reduced to the level of an ethical reformer, like Buddha or Confucius. An unsuffering Madonna to the suffering Christ would be a loveless Madonna. Who is there who loves, who does not want to share the sorrows of the beloved? Since Christ loved mankind so much as to want to die to expiate their guilt, then He should also will that His Mother, who lived only to do His will, should also be wrapped in the swaddling bands of His griefs.
But she also had to suffer for our sakes as well as for His. As Our Lord learned obedience by which He suffered, so Mary had to learn motherhood, not by appointment but by experience with the burdens of the human heart. The rich cannot console the poor unless they become less rich for the sake of the poor; Mary cannot wipe away human tears unless she herself has been their fountain. The title "Mother of the Afflicted" had to be earned in the school of affliction. She does not expiate for sins; she does not redeem; she is not a savior — but by His will and by her own, she is so much bound up with Him that His Passion would have been entirely different had there not been her compassion.

He also plunged the sword into her own soul in the sense that He called her to be a cooperator with Him, as the new Eve, in the regeneration of humanity. When the mother of James and John asked political preferment for her sons, they were asked if they could drink of His chalice. That was the condition of being in His Kingdom. What draining of the chalice, then, shall be the condition of being the Mother of the Crucified! St. Paul tells us that we cannot be partakers of His glory unless we partake also of His crucifixion. If, then, the sons of Mary are not exempt from the law of sacrifice, certainly Mary herself, who is the Mother of God, shall be less exempt.
If you wish to read the entire magnificent sermon by Venerable Fulton Sheen, go here

Venerable Fulton Sheen concludes his sermon with this:
As she became the Refuge of Sinners by knowing what it is to lose God and then find Him, so He became the Redeemer of sinners by knowing the deliberateness, the willfulness, the resoluteness of those who wound the ones they love! She felt the creature losing the Creator; He felt the Creator losing the creature. Mary lost Jesus only in mystical darkness of the soul, not in the moral blackness of an evil heart. Her loss was a veiling of His face, not a flight. But she does teach us that, when we lose God, we must not wait for Him to come back. We must go out in search of Him; and, to the joy of every sinner, she knows where He can be found!
* * * 
There is no pain, no heartache that is foreign to our Blessed Mother.  Her understanding and compassion of the sorrows we experience on this earth is beyond our ability to comprehend.   She suffered intimately with our Lord.  Their hearts were pierced together for our salvation.  She is, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen said, the Refuge of Sinners. 

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