15 September (Thurs). Our Lady of Sorrows

1st Reading: Hebrews 5:7-9

Even Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Gospel: Luke 2:33-35

Old Simeon prophecies the sword of sorrow that will pierce Mary’s heard

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”


Devotion to our Lady of Sorrows

The title, “Our Lady of Sorrows,” was first given to Our Lady to recall her intense grief during the passion and death of our Lord. Gradually, the scope of this title was not limited to the sacred Passion and was extended to comprise “the seven dolours” or “seven sorrows” of Mary, as foretold by the old prophet Simeon, while the child Jesus was presented in the Jerusalem temple.

This devotion is popular in the Catholic Church, many of whose faithful like to meditate on her Seven Sorrows, and there is a corresponding devotion to the Seven Joys of Mary . In Irish tradition the lamentation “Caoineadh na dtri Muire,” commemorates Mary’s share in the Passion of Jesus. The Seven Sorrows are these:

  • 1. Simeon’s Prophecy about the sword of sorrow (Lk 2:34-35);
  • 2. The Flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus into Egypt (Mt 2:13);
  • 3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:43-45);
  • 4. Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary (Lk 23:26);
  • 5. Jesus Dies on the Cross (John 19:25);
  • 6. Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms (Mt 27:57);
  • 7. The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb (John 19:40).

The liturgical feast of the Our Lady of Sorrows was proclaimed in Cologne (1413) as a response to the Hussites, under the title: Commemoratio angustiae et doloris B. Mariae Virginis . Until the 16th century, the feast was celebrated only in Northern Europe. Earlier, in Tuscany (1233), seven young men founded the Servite Order (OSM or “Order of the Servants of Mary”). Five years later, they named the sorrows of Mary under the Cross as the principal devotion of their order. They developed the two most common devotions to Our Lady’s Sorrows, namely the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows and the Black Scapular of the Seven Dolours of Mary.

A compassionate heart

When someone we love suffers, we suffer along with them. The more we love someone, the more we suffer when they suffer. This is especially true of parents when their children suffer. When a son or daughter is suffering physically or emotionally or mentally, the mother and father is suffering just as much as their child is suffering, and sometimes even more so. You give your heart in love to someone and, invariably, it will be broken. There is no love without suffering. The only way to avoid that kind of suffering is to lock our heart up. The temptation can be to refuse to give our heart to anything or anyone, so that it is kept intact and never gets broken, but to do that is only to be half alive. The only way to live is to love and to accept the suffering that love inevitably brings. This morning we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. She gave her heart to her Son and when her Son’s body was broken, Mary’s heart was broken. Michelangelo’s Pieta captures that very powerfully. Simeon in today’s gospel makes that connection between Jesus’ suffering and that of his mother. Jesus is ‘destined to be a sign that is rejected’ and, as for Mary, ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ When our own heart breaks because of love we can look to Our Lady of Sorrows as our inspiration and our support. [MH]

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