The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today is Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church twice commemorates the sorrows of its heavenly Mother. The Friday of Passion week, since the 15th century, has also been dedicated by the universal Church to her Compassion. Why is this so? To understand this double liturgy, we must know that Mary is also the Mother of the Mystical Body.
In 1668 the feast in honour of the Seven Dolorous was set for the Sunday after September 14, the Feast of the Holy Cross. The present feast was instituted by Pius VII after his return from his captivity and exile, which lasted from 1809 to 1814. The feast was inserted into the Roman calendar in 1814, and Pope Pius X fixed the permanent date of September 15 for the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The essence of the feast
“O all ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow.” Abbot Gueranger says in the Liturgical year “The Saviour to come is not only the reason of Mary’s existance, He is also her exemplar in all things. It is as his Mother that the Blessed Virgin came, and therefore as the ‘Mother of Sorrows’; for the God whose future birth was the very cause of her own birth, is to be in this world ‘a Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity.’” Christ is the reason for Mary’s birth and existence. Jesus and Mary suffered together for the whole world. Mary suffered so much from watching her Son suffer. All throughout Our Lord’s life swords were piercing the heart of His Mother, starting with the prophesy of Simeon all the way to His death and burial. A total of Seven swords were to pierce her motherly heart. Saint Bernard says: “the sword would not have reached Jesus if it had not pierced Mary’s heart.” Mary’s sorrow is unlike any sorrow that anyone could ever know. And she suffered it all with her Son for souls, for us, that we may see the truth and be able to live happily with her and her Son forever in Heaven.
Christ no longer suffers, and for Our Lady also, all suffering as we understand it has ceased. Nonetheless, the prophet Jeremias in his Lamentations, asks: To whom shall You be compared, O Virgin? Your affliction is like the ocean. A mother who is happy in her home weeps just the same over the sorrows of her children. The statues and pictures of Mary all over Europe wept before the Revolution in France, and Her statues weep again today, in many places. The Passion of Christ continues in His elect, in particular in His Vicar on earth, from whom He does not separate Himself, and against whom the force of hell is deployed unceasingly. The mysterious compassion of the Mother is forever acquired for the Mystical Body of her Son, which must reproduce the divine death in its human nature, elevated above its natural condition by the superhuman power of grace.
Mary's great sorrows began at the prediction of Simeon that a sword would transpierce her heart. Soon afterwards, she was obliged to flee with the newborn Infant, already object of a fatal search. She lost Him in the temple for three inexpressibly painful days; she met Him on the road to Calvary, and the sight indeed pierced Her heart. She saw Him die, heard His final cry, and witnessed the opening of His side with the effusion of His last drops of blood, mingled with water; She received in her arms the inert body of the most beautiful of the sons of men. Finally, she was obliged to depose Him in a tomb, leave Him there and return with Her adopted son, John, to a deicidal Jerusalem.
The Queen of Martyrs has never ceased to encourage Her children on earth to bear their own crosses, which complement the Passion of Christ. He suffered first the ordinary contradictions of life; for three years He was taunted and regarded as a menace by those who should have recognized Him and His mission. He knew hunger, cold and fatigue; He slept so heavily in a boat amid a tempest, that we can only suppose He was exhausted. He knew what it was to be abandoned in need and to lose, to the empire of various passions, followers He had called His. Christ is our forerunner in all human sorrows and difficulties. Mary, as His Mother, offered to God with Him all the afflictions of His earthly life, and she continues to offer those of the Church, for its sanctification, for the souls in Purgatory and the salvation of souls.
The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
I. The Prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:22-35):
1. When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.
2. Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
3. He took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.
4. for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples.
5. And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
6. and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against".
7. (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
II. The Flight into Egypt(Mt 2:13-21):
1. When the Magi had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
2. He said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
3. Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod.
4. Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage.
5. He sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under.
6. But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.
7. "Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
III. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple(Lk 2:41-50):
1. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
2. When the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.
3. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey,
4. They sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.
5. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
6. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously."
7. He said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?".
IV. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross(John 19:1; Luke 23:26-32):
1. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross.
2. And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus.
3. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.
4. But Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
5. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!'
6. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"
7. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).
V. The Crucifixion and Jesus Dies on the Cross (Mark 15:22; John 19:18, 25-27; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46):
1. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).
2. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
3. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his Mother, and his Mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
4. When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
5. Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your Mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
6. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "E'lo-i, E'lo-i, la'ma sabach-tha'ni?" which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
7. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last.
VI. The Taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross (John 19:31-34, 38; Lam 1:12):
1. In order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
2. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him.
3. but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.
4. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
5. After this Joseph of Arimathe'a, who was a disciple of Jesus, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.
6. Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body.
7. "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.
VII. Jesus is Laid in the Tomb (Matthew 27:59; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:46; Luke 27:55-56):
1. Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud,
2. Nicodemus also, who had at first come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds' weight.
3. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
4. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid.
5. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. And Joseph rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
6. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid.
7. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
According to the visions of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303–1373) our Blessed Mother promises to grant seven graces to those who honor her and draw near to her and her Son every day by meditating on her dolors (sorrows) and entering into her grief.
"I will grant peace to their families."
"They will be enlightened about the divine Mysteries."
"I will console them in their pains and will accompany them in their work."
"I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls."
"I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives."
"I will visibly help them at the moment of their death — they will see the face of their mother."
"I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolorous will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy."