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The Sorrowful Mother at the Cross – Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

September 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Liturgy of the Hours, Mary, Memorial

The Sorrowful Mother at the Cross*
Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

detail2absambauernhofbachgasse4detail for post on "Our Lady of Sorrows"

The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted [Luke 2:34]. He went on to say to Mary: And your own heart will be pierced by a sword [Luke 2:35].

Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus—who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours—gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly, it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.

Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son [John 19:26], not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.

Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.


* This reflection is from a sermon by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, is the Second Reading for Liturgy of the Hours’ Office of Readings for today, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.


Art for this post on Our Lady of Sorrows: Partially restored detail of Farm (Plant) [Building] in Einhof, Germany, artist unknown, photographed by Jürgele, 13 October 2012, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Stewart Davies

    According to 19th. century French Benedictine Abbot Prosper Gueranger, “Such were the sufferings of Mary as she stood beneath the Cross that, were they to be shared equally among all creatures capable of suffering, they would be sufficient to cause all to die instantly.” The magnitude of the burden of suffering, which Mary desired for herself so as to share to the fullest extent possible for a creature in the passion of her Divine Son, is utterly beyond the grasp of any intellect but the Divine. But we may form just a vague idea if we presume that by “all creatures capable of suffering, Dom Gueranger includes all of humanity, from Adam to the last one to be born.
    Surely herein lies the reason why the Most Blessed Trinity saw fit to confer upon Mary the role of Mediatrix of All Grace. The One who is “All Grace” is, of course, Jesus, and through her perfect conformity with the Divine Will, and her full sharing in His Passion as she stood beneath the Cross, her Immaculate Heart became the depository and dispensary of all the graces which the Sacred Heart of Jesus desires to lavish upon humanity.
    Surely this is central to the Message of Fatima, and it is the key to the Era of Peace which we have been promised. Little wonder, then, that in 1914, Jesus told Belgian mystic Berthe Petit; “Recourse to My Mother under the title I wish for her universally, [Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary], is the last help that I shall give before the end of time.”

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  • marybernadette

    ‘Of course, the Church in Her Genius, celebrates the “Exaltation of the Cross’ and ‘Our Lady of Sorrows’ (the day after). Our Lady, the Queen of Martyrs suffered the most after our Dear Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I have a picture of the Vision Sister Lucia was given of Our Lady of Fatima, holding her Immaculate Heart in her hand while standing before the ‘Blessed Trinity’ ‘The Father with outstretched arms, holding the Lord on the Cross, with His Blood pouring into a Chalice and the Holy Spirit. Of course, Our Lady told the three shepherd children that God wanted to establish Devotion to Her Immaculate Heart, to save sinners.

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