Stabat Mater dolorosa
Iuxta crucem lacrimosa
Dum pendebat Filius
The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows comes rightfully after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Not only do we contemplate the sorrow of a mother who had seen her Son suffer and die in the most horrible of deaths; in this feast we are also led to consider the Virgin Mother’s role in the work which her Divine Son accomplished on the Cross. The words of the hymn above (called Stabat Mater for the first words of the hymn) show the deep union that lies between the Son and the Mother, one that isn’t founded by virtue of birth alone. Jesus and Mary share a bond that goes beyond the one formed in the Virgin’s womb: Mary is united with her Son also in the order of grace.
Her being at the foot of the Cross, an ordeal that would be particularly hard for any mother, is the fruit of her “yes” to God, generously given during the Annunciation, and faithfully lived every single moment of her life. Her suffering was foretold by the old Simeon when he said that in union with her Son—a sign if contradiction, the cause of the rise and fall of many—a sword shall pierce her heart. She plays an important part in the history of man’s salvation, since she shared in the sufferings of her Son. “Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary”, the liturgy sings to her, “without dying you won the martyr’s crown beneath the Cross of the Lord.”
There is a scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ that shows Mary wandering through the empty room where the leaders of Israel had just tried Jesus clandestinely and unjustly. Suddenly she stops and presses herself against the cold stone floor. The camera goes down to show Jesus tied in the dungeon beneath the floor, seemingly just below the spot where Mary was. The mother holds her ears to the floor; the son looks up to the ceiling. The mother listens to that which could not be heard; the Son looks towards that which could not be seen. There is a union between the two, which not even the cold stone floor could prevent.
To love means to be where the beloved is, to yearn for the beloved, to desire to live his very life, and to suffer what he suffers. This is what Mary lived in her following of her Son; this is the message of this feast. The union that Mary had with her Son is the one that we should have in our life as followers of the Jesus crucified and forsaken. To live a life of union with God means to possess a heart that remains awake despite of the fact that darkness has fallen; one that knows how to listen to the footsteps of God; only God can grant our hearts the grace to listen to His footsteps, to be aware of His presence.
May the Blessed Virgin, the sorrowful Mother, and the Virgin full of the hope of the Resurrection, intercede and obtain for us this indispensable gift: that of being able to listen with our hearts the voice of the Lord, and listening to it, being able to obey it, in the same way that Mary herself did in her life. AMEN.