A Mother's Love that Knows No Bounds|
The VerbumQUO for today is "Stabat Mater" meaning "The Mother stood" or "The Mother was standing" and is the well-known 13th century Gregorian Chant Hymn, taken from today's Sequence Stabat Mater for the first of two feasts in the liturgical year for Our Lady of Sorrows; today being the greater double Feast of the Seven Dolors. It is the appropriate portal to the liturgy from here to Good Friday for Mary leads the way on the path that must wind up Calvary to reach the Door of Redemption. To His Blessed and Sorrowful Mother, Christ has given the key to open that Portal. Let Mary lead us and show us the combination that unlocks the door, possible only by the ultimate Sacrifice of the Cross.
Editor, The Daily Catholic
Editor's Note: This is a new series the editor has launched in highlighting one word from the Proper of the day's Mass. Taking the Latin Verbum and Quotidianum, which mean respectively "Word" and "Daily", we have coined the word "Verbumquo" by contracting quotidianum to quo and running it together as VerbumQUO for this feature series, thus "The Daily Word," as in the sum of the message, the 'quotient', if you will. It is also our hope that in choosing the Latin word with its meaning and etymology more will be attuned to hearing the word read at the altar and better comprehend the beauty of the Mother tongue. Hopefully in this Time of Passiontide we can gain a higher appreciation and contemplation on how the Daily Proper of the Holy Mass applies in our lives in alignment with the will of Christ and His Blessed Immaculate Mother and His Mystical Bride, His Holy Roman Catholic Church.
Michael Cain, editor, The Daily Catholic
The VerbumQUO for today's Proper of the greater double Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary is, "Stabat Mater" taken from the Sequence of today's Holy Mass. This beautiful Sequence sets the mood for all that will follow until Easter. We are now in a somber, sorrowful, penitential mode and, to best profit from the graces of Passiontide and Holy Week, intensify our penance, prayer and own suffering so that we can better be one with Christ in His Passion and Death and unite with Mary in expiation for our own sins and those of others. Though it is long, we include here the beautiful prose of the Sequence Stabat Mater which follows the Tract from John 19: 25 and Lamentations 1: 12:
Stabat Mater dolorosa, Juxta crucem lacrimosa, Dum pendebat Filius.
2. Cujus animam gemendtem, Constristatam et dolentem, Pertransivit gladius.
3. O quam tristis et afflicta Fuit illa benedicta Mater Unigeniti!
4. Quae maerebat, et dolebat, Pia Mater dum videbat Nati poenas inclyti.
5. Quis est homo; qui non fieret, Matrem Christi si videret In tanto supplicio?
6. Quis non posset contristari, Christi Matrem contemplari Dolentem cum Filio?
7. Pro peccatis suae gentis Vidit Jesum in tormentis Et flagellis subditum.
8. Vidit suum dulcem natum Moriendo desolatum, Dum emfsit spiritum.
9. Eia Mater, fons amoris, Me sentire vim doloris Fac, ut tecum lugeam.
10. Fac ut ardeat cor meum In amando Christum Deum, Ut sibi complaceam.
11. Sancta Mater, istud agas, Crucifixi fige plagas Cordi meo valide.
12. Tui nati vulnerati, Tam dignati pro me pati, Poenas mecum divide.
13. Fac me tecum pie flere, Crucifixo condolere, Donec ego vixero.
14. Juxta crucem tecum stare, Et me tibi sociare In planctu desidero.
15. Virgo Virginum praeclara, Mihi jam non sis amara: Fac me tecum plangere.
16. Fac ut portem Christi mortem, Passionis fac consortem, Et plagas recolere.
17. Fac me plagis vulnerary Fac me cruce inebriari, Et cruore Filii.
18. Flammis ne urar succensus. Per te, Virgo, sim defenses, In die jucidii.
19. Christe, cum sit hinc exire, Da per Matrem me venire Ad palmam victoriae.
20. Quando corpus morietur, Fac ut animae donetur Paradisi gloria. Amen.
1. At the cross her station keeping, Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing, All his bitter anguish bearing, Now at length the sword had pass'd.
Oh, how sad and sore distress'd Was that Mother, highly blest Of the sole-begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs; She beneath beholds the pangs of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep Whelmi'd in miseries so deep Christ's dear Mother to behold.
Can the human heart refrain From partaking in her pain, in that Mother's pain untold?
Bruis'd, derided, curs'd, defil'd, She beheld her tender child: All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of His own nation, Saw Him hang in desolation, Till His spirit forth He sent.
O thou Mother! Font of love! Touch my spirit from above; Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou hast felt; Make my soul to glow and melt With the love of Christ our Lord.
Holy Mother! Pierce me through; In my heart each wound renew Of my Savior crucified.
Let me share with thee His pain, Who for all my sins was slain, Who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with thee, Mourning Him who mounr'd for me, All the days that I may live.
By the cross with thee to stay, There with thee to weep and pray, Is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgin of all virgins best, Listen to my fond request: Let me share thy grief divine.
Let me, to my latest breath, in my body bear the death Of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with His every wound, steep my soul till it hath swoon'd In His very blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh, Lest in flames I burn and die, In His awful Judgment day.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence, Be Thy Mother my defense, Be Thy cross my victory.
While my body here decays, May my soul Thy goodness praise, Safe in Paradise with Thee. Amen.
Verses of this soulful hymn are sung before and between each Station of the Cross as well for it tells the story of the Passion in vivid form. The root of the verb stabat is stare "to stand" with stabat being the past participle singular person. We also have in today's Proper Stabant juxta crucem. Stare here is used as the past participle plural for "they stood" as in today's Opening Introit from John 19: 25:
Stabant juxta crucem Jesu Mater Ejus, et soror Matris Ejus Maria Cleophae, et Salome, et Maria Magdalene. (John 19: 26-27) Mulier, ecce filius tuus: dixit Jesus; ad discipulum autem: Ecce Mater tua.
REPEAT: Stabant juxta crucem...
There stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother, and His mother's sister Mary of Cleophas, and Salome, and Mary Magdalen. (John 19: 26-27) Woman, behold thy son, said Jesus; and to the disciple, Behold thy Mother.
This is carried throughout today's Gradual as well, which prefaces the Tract and Sequence:
Dolorosa et lacrimabilis es, Virgo Maria, stans juxta crucem Domini Jesu Fili tui Redemptoris. V. Virgo Dei Genitrix, quem totus non capit orbis, hoc cruces fert supplicum, auctor vitae factus homo.
V. Stabat sancta Maria, caeli Regina, et mundi Domina, juxta crucem Domini nostri Jesu Christi dolorosa.
Thou art sorrowful and tearful, O Virgin Mary, standing by the cross of the Lord Jesus, thy Son, our Redeemer. V. O Virgin Mother of God, He Whom the whole world doth not contain, beareth this punishment of the cross; He the author of life made man.
V. Holy Mary, the queen of Heaven and mistress of the world, stood by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, full of grief.
As you can see today, we have combined Stabat and Mater for they go together just as Christ and His Mother go together, which is the central theme of today's VerbumQUO. Therefore, we have two words today whose etymology is derived from the Latin. Let us first of all, look at Mater - pronounced MAH-TARE - which translates to 'Mother' and the pronunciation of that comes from the Anglo Saxon noun modor, a vulgarization, if you will, of 'mater', but from which is derived the English "maternal" and "maternity", so let's look at Webster's definition:
Then we have Stabat which, as we mentioned earlier, comes from the verb stare to stand, and from which several English words originate from this such as "stair" as well as "stable", "stabilize" and "stability" as standing firm. Again, let's look at Webster's definition of a few:
"Stable" noun [From Latin stabilis, akin to stare to stand.] 1. A building for beasts to lodge and feed in; especially , a building having stalls, as for horses. 2. Racing Slang. The horses of a certain racing stable collectively; also, all the persons concerned with the management of a certain stable collectively. 3. Ecclesial. The place where Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem where livestock were lodged. - v.t. & i: stabled. To put, keep, or lodge in or as in a stable. - stableman, noun." "Stable, adjective 1. Firmly established; fixed; steadfast. 2. Steady in purpose; constant. 3. Durable; enduring. 4. So placed as to resist forces tending to cause motion or distortion. 5. Chem. Not decomposing readily Syn. See LASTING. - stableness, noun; stability 1. State or quality of being stable, or firm. 2. Steadiness or firmness of character, resolution, or purpose; constancy."
We can see, from these definitions, that it is the perfect description of our Lady in expressing the Latin words: Stabat Mater for she embodied the very stability of one who never wavered in her purpose, character and endurance - all the way to the summit of Golgotha. How ironic and fitting that the word stable comes back here for it began in a stable and now at the crescendo of all the sorrows Mary would suffer, it climaxes here and she remains ever stable. From the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, the properties remain stable as well. At the cross her divine Son Jesus officially gives His Blessed Mother to us through the beloved disciple Saint John as our Mother, the Mother of His Church. The venerable Benedictine Abbot Dom Prosper Gueranger in volume 6 of The Liturgical Year for this feast emphasizes the magnitude of this moment:
"Mary then stands at the foot of the cross, there to witness the death of her Son. He is soon to be separated from her. In three hours' time, all that will be left of her of this beloved Jesus will be a lifeless Body, wounded from head to foot. Our words are too cold for such a scene as this: let us listen to those of St. Bernard, which the Church has inserted in her Matins of this feast. 'O blessed Mother! a sword of sorrow pierced thy soul, and we may well call thee more than martyr, for the intensity of thy compassion surpassed all that a bodily passion could produce. Could any sword have made thee smart so much as that word which pierced thy heart, reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit: "Woman! behold thy Son!" What an exchange! John for Jesus! the servant, for the Lord! the disciple for the Master! the son of Zebedee, for the Son of God! a mere man, for the very God! How must thy most loving heart have been pierced with the sound of those words, when even ours, that are hard as stone and steel, break down as we think of them! Ah! my brethren, be not surprised when you are told that Mary was a martyr in her soul. Let him alone be surprised, who has forgotten that St. Paul counts it as one of the greatest sins of the Gentiles, that they were without affection. Who could say that of Mary? God forbid it be said of us, the servants of Mary! (Sermon on the twelve stars)."
Could anyone else have stood so strong? Mary had been through it all with her divine Son. As she stands there she must be hearkening back to that first instance when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her. If she knew then, what she knows now, would she have still given her Fiat? Without question Mary would give an emphatic 'yes!' Her memories must have wafted back to that cold night in Bethlehem where she and her dear, chaste spouse Joseph humbly accepted the offer of a stable and a wood manger of straw feed where she placed her newborn Son, the tiny king, upon the lumbered trough; where mighty kings journeyed from afar to worship this infant in swaddling clothes; the shepherds dropping in daily and befriending the Holy Family throughout their stay in Bethlehem; the animals extending their affection through gentle nudges and sounds that assured the child and family were safe. Forty days from that joyous Nativity she and Joseph present two turtle doves for her purification - something the Immaculate one would have no need of, but in compliance with Jewish Law, humbly submitted. Ah, that humility. And then the dear Simeon and Anna, and his words to her that seem to come back all the stronger as she stands near the base of the rough lumber rising into the sky where at the cross-beam hangs her precious Son, so miraculously given to her to care for. Do you think doubt might have cropped up in a mother's heart: 'Did I do enough?' 'Could I have prevented this?' even the human element of 'Why does my Son have to be submitted to such cruelty?' It is only natural, and yet Mary recalls Simeon's words - "A sword shall pierce thy heart." She can feel the pangs and the thrust with every moan of her Jesus, barely audible above her, the sweat and blood dripping, and saturating the wood where victim and the means of death are almost indistinguishable. It is a Catholic symbol that can never be erased. A plain cross deprives us of thepure Victim, a holy Victim, a spotless Victim - hostiam puram, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam. It is incomplete without the emaciated Corpse of the Man-God to remind us of the great price He paid for us. A cross without the crucifix is a cop-out.
The image is incomplete, however, without the figure of the sorrowful Mother standing by and with her Son. She will not cower, not out of pride, but as an ideal that she encourages in us. Turn the sorrows into joy for hope is on the horizon. Mary, intuitively knows, remembers all He conveyed to the multitudes. She can see the blueprint so clearly explained, and yet so few truly comprehend. That is what causes her even more sorrow. He was in their midst and they knew Him not. Her sorrows intensify because she knows the Jewish people will remain in their stubbornness and in this denial of her Son as the Messias, will be fated to wander aimlessly down through the millenniums. Oh, why can't they see? It must hurt her to the quick to see the Roman soldiers making sport of the precious garment she herself sewed with her own hands - the seamless cloak which they cannot tear evenly; and so, they leave it intact, a relic for the ages as will be the slivers from the wood.
Mary cannot see into the future to the time, nearly 300 years ahead, when a certain holy Helena, mother of a Roman Emperor who will cause the course of history to turn in favor of the Church of Mary's divine Son, will stand at the base of this very wood in triumph, cherishing every fiber of this tree and dividing it between this fated city of Jerusalem and the new city - the Eternal city of seven hills to replicate her seven sorrows - a city that will foster and nurture the very faith her divine Son established on the weak, but sincere Peter; a city from which very human and fallible men will go forth to conquer the world with the Word of the Incarnate Word.
She knows the apostles, her sorrow goes out as a mother of n'er do-wells and misfits. She might very well have asked several times of her Son, 'why did you pick those men?' To see this moment of Mary standing at the foot of the Cross, only one of the twelve present, one would have to pipe in with the same question. Only she, John and a past sinner of reprehensible reputation, who has proven her repentance, stand here. Where are the others? The natural emotion would swell up in most of resentment, but not Mary. She realizes they need help, whatever help she can provide she is only too willing...if it is the will of God. If it is His will, cruel as it may seem, that her Son die here on this wood in such ignominy, then Mary will accept it, not joyfully, but sorrowfully. She cannot betray her heart. She understands better than John the meaning of her Son's final seven words, especially "Woman, behold thy son. Son, behold thy Mother." It is necessary for the growth of her Son's Church. The apostles and disciples will need her steady guidance to be reassured, to be encouraged and grow in zeal. She knows her Son will not leave her or them alone; she knows intuitively of the Holy Ghost for He is her divine Spouse and He will return when her Son has returned to His heavenly Father. For Mary this is not the end, but the beginning. She will be called upon not by the angel from henceforth, but by man in pleading for her intercession with her divine Son. She knows, as does Jesus, that He can never say no to His Mother. She remembers briefly the wedding feast of Cana. She didn't mean to put Him on the spot, but her motherly heart went out to the newlyweds. Despite His initial objection, He didn't say no and He will not say no to any soul who goes to Jesus through Mary. She is truly the Co-Redemptrix, Advocate and Mediatrix of all graces.
Let us return to Dom Gueranger's insight and his sharing of St. Bernard's holy words:
"Mary cannot leave the cross; love brought her thither; love keeps her there, whatever may happen! A soldier advances near that hallowed spot; she sees him lift up his spear, and thrust it through the breast of the sacred Corpse. 'Ah,' cries out St. Bernard, 'that thrust is through thy soul, O blessed Mother! It could but open His side, but it pierced thy very soul. His Soul was not there; thine was, and could not but be so' (Sermon on the twelve stars). The undaunted Mother keeps close to the Body of her Son. She watches them as they take it down from the cross; and when, at last, the friends of Jesus, with all the respect due to both Mother and Son, enable her to embrace it, she raises it upon her lap, and He that once lay upon her knees receiving the homage of the eastern kings, now lies there cold, mangled, bleeding, dead! And as she looks upon the wounds of the divine Victim, she gives them the highest honor in the power of creatures: she kisses them, she bathes them with her tears, she adores them, but oh! with what intensity of grief!"
She, the Mother, has stood through it all. Now it would seem all is finished, but Mary's Faith will overcome this dirge, this requiem for she recalls vividly the promise of her divine Son. She realizes the essence of the Act of Faith before it is composed. He cannot deceive nor be deceived. And neither will she be deceived. She believes while all others around her either congratulate themselves that it is over and done with, and the few mourners at her side commiserate with her. The Abbot adds this gem to his meditation on this feast:
"And what is her attitude at the foot of His cross? Does her matchless grief overpower her? Does she swoon? or fall? No: the Evangelist says: 'There stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother' (St. John 19: 25). The sacrificing priest stands, when offering at the altar; Mary stood for such a sacrifice as hers was to be. St Ambrose, whose affectionate heart and profound appreciation of the mysteries of religion have revealed to us so many precious traits of Mary's character, thus speaks of her position at the foot of the cross: 'She stood opposite the cross, gazing with maternal love on the wounds of her Son; and thus she stood, not waiting for her Jesus to die, but for the world to be saved (In Lucam cap. 23). Thus this Mother of sorrows, when standing on Calvary, blessed us who deserved but maledictions; she loved us; she sacrificed her Son for our salvation. In spite of all the feelings of her maternal
heart, she gave back to the eternal Father the divine treasure He had entrusted to her keeping. The sword pierced through and through her soul, but we were saved; and she, though a mere creature, cooperated with her Son in the work of our salvation. Can we wonder, after this, that Jesus chose this moment for making her the Mother of men, in the person of John the evangelist, who represented us? Never had Mary's heart loved us as she did then; from that time forward, therefore, let this second Eve be the true Mother of the living! (Genesis 3: 20) The sword, by piercing her immaculate heart, has given us admission there. For time and eternity, Mary will extend to us the love she has borne for her Son, for she has just heard Him saying to her that we are her children. He is our Lord, for He has redeemed us; she is our Lady, for she generously cooperated in our redemption. Animated by this confidence, O Mother of sorrows! we come before thee, on this feast of thy dolors, to offer thee our filial love."
Mary, who trailed nearby the entire way of the Cross, remembers the words Jesus said to the women of Jerusalem shortly following that one intimate moment with His Mother, forever emblazoned on our hearts as the fourth Station of the Cross; Weep not for Him but for those left behind. Their struggle will be monumental as will her duty to comfort those searching for answers. With the help of the Holy Ghost, she will endeavor to provide those answers in lieu of her divine Son's physical absence. But Mary knows in her heart He is still here and will always be with His children. She knows too, from the charge just given her from the cross, of her new mission - one that will last throughout her heavenly time that her mission will continue.
Did she know then that her mission would intensify, her sorrows increase in these very times we live? We don't know for sure, but we do know that Mary knows now and it must pain her all the more how so many of His shepherds have become mercenaries and worse, abandoning the precious flocks to whom her matronly heart aches so because they are so lost in the world, the flesh and the devil. She has been given the charge from God Himself that her Immaculate Heart will triumph, that she shall crush the evil serpent's head, but as a loving Mother whose sorrowful heart reflects this love for all her children: a Mother's love that knows no bounds.