Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blessed Are You, O Virgin Mary; Without Dying You Won The Martyr's Crown Beneath The Cross Of The Lord.

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Reading I
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies,
they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes,
the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
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Psalm 33
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
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Gospel (option 1)
John 19:25-27
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother
and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
Then he said to the disciple,
"Behold, your mother."
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Gospel (option 2)
Luke 2:33-35
Jesus' father and mother were amazed
at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them
and said to Mary his mother,
"Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
There are two choices for the Gospel reading. The first is from Luke’s account of the Presentation in the Temple. While they were in the Temple, Mary and Joseph met the holy man Simeon, who had been promised that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah. When he meets Mary and Joseph, he recognises the Messiah in the Baby she is holding. He then proceeds to make some prophecies about Jesus and, addressing Mary herself, tells her that a “sword of sorrow” will pierce her heart. He does not specify what that “sword” might be but now we can see that it particularly alludes to the suffering and death of Jesus which she witnessed. However, the “sword” can also be applied to the other painful experiences we remember in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

The alternative Gospel reading is from John’s account of the Crucifixion where he mentions that the “mother of Jesus” was standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son died. With her were two other women, her sister called Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”.

Seeing them there, Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to the care of his Mother, while telling the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ Mother is his also. Some would see in this scene the Mother of Jesus as symbolising the Christian community. There is to be a relationship of mutual support between the community and its dedicated members. The community exists for the well-being of the individual members and each member is committed in turn to the well-being of the community.*
Today’s feast is clearly linked with yesterday when we celebrated the Exaltation of the Cross. Only the gospel of John records that the “mother of Jesus” stood by the cross with her sister, Mary of Clophas, Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”. (In the Synoptic gospels, women are recorded as standing at some distance from the cross but Mary is not mentioned among them.) One can hardly imagine the pain and grief that Mary must have undergone to see her only Son dying in such terrible suffering over a period of several hours. Mary, as the first and greatest disciple of her Son, shared in a very special way in the redeeming death of her Son and Lord.

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows flourished in the Middle Ages. From that time comes the well-known hymn, Stabat Mater, which we still like to recite during the Stations of the Cross:

At the Cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Since the 14th century, these seven sorrows have been linked to Mary:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon, during the Presentation in the Temple, when Simeon foretold that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary’s heart (Luke 2:22-37).

2. The Flight into Egypt, when Mary and Joseph took the new-born Jesus to the safety of Egypt to escape the massacre of the children in Bethlehem (Matthew 3:16-18).

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. When Jesus was 12 years old, he accompanied his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. After being missing for three days, his distraught parents found Jesus in the Temple discussing with the teachers of the Law (Luke 2:41-52)

4. Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary. A traditional scene, familiar from the Stations of the Cross, where Jesus meets his mother as he carries his Cross on the way to his crucifixion on Calvary. (Not mentioned in Scripture)

5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. As the gospel of John tells us, the Mother of Jesus was present at the foot of the Cross and kept vigil with her Son as he died (John 19:25-27).

6. Jesus taken down from the Cross. Again, a traditional scene from the 13th Station of the Cross and also represented in art by the Pieta. (No scriptural reference)

7. Jesus laid in the Tomb. This is recorded in all four gospels. The burial took place close to the place of Crucifixion because of the coming Sabbath day. It must have been a painfully sad moment for the Mother who must have believed this would be the very last time she would lay eyes on her Son (Matthew 28:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-50)

By remembering Mary’s sufferings in this way, we realise how close she was to the redeeming work of her Son. As mentioned, she is his first and closest disciple.

Especially in Mediterranean countries, statues of Our Lady of Sorrows are traditionally carried in processions on the days leading to Good Friday.

No feast in her honour was included in St Pius V’s 1570 Tridentine Calendar. Approval for the celebration of a feast in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows was first granted to the Servite order in 1667. By inserting the feast into the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, Pope Pius VII extended the celebration to the whole of the Latin Church in 1814. It was assigned to the third Sunday in September. In 1913, Pope Pius X moved it to 15 September, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.

Our Lady of Sorrows is traditionally depicted in art dressed in black with seven swords piercing her heart. These seven swords symbolize the chief seven sorrows of her life. Devotion to the Sorrows of Mary inspired the works of art we call the Pieta, the grieving Mother holding her dead Son in her arms, after he has been taken down from the Cross.*

The Irish Jesuits


Sarah in the tent said...

Mary watched her only child being slowly murdered. It was not the first nor the last time that this supreme cruelty was inflicted. It was also the fate of Zedekiah, the last king of David's line - before the reign of Christ. It's strange how the same cruelty that ended the old kingdom of David ushers in the new. Somehow, I think it matters that Mary accepts this sorrow, and that she does so with us, on our behalf, and in union with her son. Is this the necessary addition that Paul says we bring to Christ's suffering? Is this Church teaching?

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Yes, Sarah, the Church's teaching is that by offering up our own suffering "in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world", we participate in the salvific suffering of Our Lord in His Passion and Death. Mother Mary, standing at the foot of the cross, was the first to share in His agony, and by patient endurance, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we too play our small part in the mystical work of redemption.

Sarah in the tent said...

I wonder if Mary had just come up from Nazareth to celebrate Passover when she met her Son on the road. How awful if that was the case. Perhaps this was why John took her in immediately.

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

The four evangelists tell us that Jesus came up from Galilee to Jerusalem with his disciples to celebrate the Passover.

Later, the three synoptic gospel tell us that the women looked from afar: Mark mentions only Mary, mother of Jesus; Matthew, Mary and Magdalene; Luke, that "those of his acquaintance" stood afar off with the women.

The Gospel According to St John says that the mother of Jesus, her sister (also called Mary) and Mary Magdalene stood by the cross with the disciple whom he loved, that is, John himself.

Since Jesus came from Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with his disciples, Mary, the mother of Jesus must certainly have come with them. After the burial of Jesus, as the gospels remind us, the disciples remained in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews, and Mary remained with them. It was likely only after Pentecost that John took her into his home.