15.09.2023 — Suffering as Redemption

Our Lady of Sorrows, Friday – 15th September 2023 — Gospel: Lk 2,33-35; Jn 19,25-27

Suffering as Redemption

Today’s feast is linked with yesterday’s celebration of the Exaltation of the Cross. Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows has inspired the famous works of art, namely Pieta, the grieving Mother holding her dead Son in her arms, after being taken down the Cross. Only the Gospel of John records that the “mother of Jesus” stood by the cross with her sister, Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple.” One can imagine the pain and grief she must have undergone in seeing her Son suffering and dying on the Cross.

Traditionally, Our Lady of Sorrows is depicted to have dressed in black with seven swords piercing her heart. These seven swords symbolize the chief seven sorrows of her life.

  • The Prophecy of Simeon – During the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, Simeon prophesized that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart (Lk 2,22-37).
  • The Flight to Egypt – Mary and Joseph with the new born baby Jesus ran to Egypt in order to escape the massacre of the children in Bethlehem (Mt 3,16-18)
  • 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 three days of missing, he was found in the temple discussing with the teachers of the Law (Lk 2,41-52).
  • Meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary – A traditional and familiar scene from the Stations of the Cross, where Jesus meets his mother in his journey towards Calvary (not mentioned in the Scripture).
  • Crucifixion and Death of Jesus – In the Gospel of John, we read that the Mother of Jesus was at the foot of the Cross and kept vigil with her Son as he died (Jn 19,25-27).
  • Jesus taken down from the Cross – Traditional scene of 13th Station of the Cross and represented in art by the Pieta (no Scriptural reference to this scene).
  • Jesus laid in the Tomb – This is recorded in all four Gospels (Mt 28,57-61; Mk 15,42-47; Lk 23, 50-56; and John 19,38-50).

By remembering Mary’s sufferings in this way, we realize how close she was to the redeeming work of her Son, as she became Jesus’ first and closest disciple. This feast is relevant for three reasons: first, although Jesus and Mary were constantly doing God’s will, they were not spared from the cross and challenges of life. Second, in the midst of these challenges, God never abandoned them, but walked ahead of them. Finally, sorrow or Cross is never the end, but only a step towards resurrection and fullness of life.