Wednesday, September 15, 1999
First Reading: 1 Timothy 3: 14-16
Psalms: Psalm 111: 1-6
Gospel Reading: John 19: 25-27 or Luke 7: 33-35
FEAST OF OUR LADY OF SORROWS
This feast commemorates the seven sorrows (Seven Dolors) of the Blessed Mother of God which are documented in Sacred Scripture beginning with the prophecy of Simeon (cf. Luke 2:34), the flight into Egypt (cf. Matthew 2:13), losing the child Jesus in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 2: 46), meeting her Divine Son on the way to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Pieta, and laying Jesus in the Sepulchre (cf. Luke 23: 49-56). This feast was first introduced by Saint Anselm and various Benedictines in the 11th Century which took on steam in the following century but did not get promoted universally until the 14th and 15th centuries when the Cistercians and Servites emphasized its importance and relevance in Church liturgy and in devotion to Mary's role in the Church. In 1482 Pope Sixtus IV, who also instituted the feast of Mary's spouse Saint Joseph on March 19, established it in the Roman Missal as the feast of Our Lady of Compassion. In 1727 Pope Benedict XIII declared it as the feast of the Seven Dolors of Mary to be celebrated on the Friday prior to Palm Sunday, though the Servites had been celebrating it on the Sunday after the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross in September since 1668. In 1814 Pope Pius VII made it a universal feast in the Roman Calendar and Pope Saint Pius X established the date in 1913 as the fixed date, giving it the title of "Our Lady of Sorrows." It was fitting this holy saint set the date for this feast where he did because it further emphasized Mary's importance and vital role in co-redemption as well as reminding Catholics everywhere of Mary's suffering during the Passion and Death of her Divine Son whose cross is venerated the day before. Two icons bring home this fact, first the magnificent Pieta sculptured by the master Michelangelo and which resides behind glass at the back right side of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the moving hymn "Stabat Mater" employed during Lent and during the Stations of the Cross to reflect Our Lady's grief and tribulations. She is often depicted with seven swords piercing her Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart as described by Simeon in Luke 2: 34, "And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." The Marian Saint Bernard wrote "Truly...He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known; she died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His." The Preface for this feast sums it up best: "On Calvary, the cruel sword of suffering pierced the heart of the Virgin Mary while the Savior of the world, nailed to the cross, freed the sons of Adam from the ancient condemnation and by His Precious Blood He opened the gates of the Kingdom. In suffering death for our sins, Christ willed especially to associate His Mother with the redemptive passion so that she could obtain for her children more copious fruits of that sacrifice."