Mary is the model Christian. She gave herself totally to God, assenting to His will despite not knowing what lay ahead. She simply and always said, “Yes” to God.
Far too many Christians believe that if they are indeed Christians, they will somehow be insulated from sorrow and heartache. After all, they are good people and God rewards good people, right? Mary’s life is an excellent argument against that type of thinking.
Imagine a young mother, bringing her infant to the Temple, the holiest place on earth for Jews, in order that He might be presented and dedicated to God. On this momentous and happy occasion, an elderly man, well-known for his holiness and gift of prophecy, tells her, “Your heart will be pierced by a sword. You will know sorrow.” Can you imagine? Mary must have clutched that Baby a bit tighter, and wondered and worried what it all meant. There is no mother in the world who does not know sorrow and fear and trials and distress over her child or children; Mary is the model for all mothers who come to know that motherhood is not all about the delight of a baby’s gurgle, a first step or the light of understanding in a child’s eyes.
Today, the Church recognizes Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. It is the remembrance of a mother’s love for her Son and her willingness to allow God to take her wherever His will dictates, even to the foot of the Cross. Fr. William Saunders:
St. Bernard (d. 1153) wrote, Truly, O Blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart…. He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His.
Focusing on the compassion of our Blessed Mother … Pope John Paul II, reminded the faithful, Mary Most Holy goes on being the loving consoler of those touched by the many physical and moral sorrows which afflict and torment humanity. She knows our sorrows and our pains, because she too suffered, from Bethlehem to Calvary. ‘And they soul too a sword shall pierce.’ Mary is our Spiritual Mother, and the mother always understands her children and consoles them in their troubles. Then, she has that specific mission to love us, received from Jesus on the Cross, to love us only and always, so as to save us! Mary consoles us above all by pointing out the Crucified One and Paradise to us!
There are several prayers and traditions that focus on Our Lady of Sorrows. There is a litany, attributed to Pope Pius VII. There is also a chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. (A chaplet is much like a typical rosary: a string of beads on which to count prayers while one meditates on a deeper mystery.) The Seven Sorrows of Mary are:
1) The Prophecy of Simeon
2) The Flight into Egypt
3) The Loss of Jesus in Jerusalem for Three Days
4) Mary meets Jesus carrying His Cross on the way to Calvary
5) Mary standing at the foot of the Cross as Jesus Dies
6) Mary receives the dead Body of Jesus as He is removed from the Cross
7) The Burial of Jesus
You can learn how to pray the chaplet here.
Today’s memorial reminds us as Christians that our life will not be free of pain and loss. Jesus tells us we must pick up our crosses and follow Him. That directive alone informs us that the life of a Christian will not be easy. No one knew that better than Mary, and yet she still always chose the cross. She always said yes to God, despite the hardships and sorrows that entailed. Meditating on her sorrows can only lead us deeper and deeper into the mystery that is our Lord Jesus Christ.
O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of grief pierced through the most sweet soul of Thy glorious Blessed Virgin Mother Mary: grant that we, who celebrate the memory of her Seven Sorrows, may obtain the happy effect of Thy Passion, Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.