September 15th marks the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, the title of Mary that commemorates the suffering and hardship that she went through. Though perfect and therefore not subject to sin and its effects, she was called to be the Mother of God and therefore to persevere through a tremendous amount of pain.
The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows goes back to the 17th century and is represented by many different images and symbols. Because it is typically thought that Mary underwent seven sorrows, her heart is often depicted as being pierced by seven daggers or swords. Her first sorrow was the prediction from Simeon at the Presentation in the Temple: “’Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” (Luke, 2:34-35) Other events that marked the sorrow of Our Lady include the flight to Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem, and the various stages of the Passion of Our Lord.
During Christ’s Passion, Mary not only stood witness to the torture and death of her son, but she stood by Him when His closest friends hid. Christ is not just her son either, but her Lord and Savior as He is to all of us. At the site of His greatest suffering under the weight of the physical wounds and the sins of the whole world, His mother stayed for every moment. The anguish that she withstood that day was the sword that pierced her heart.
And then, as Jesus lay dying on the cross, he said to Mary, “‘Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’” (John 19:26-27) Affirming that Mary was to be Our Blessed Mother, He gave her to the Church. And affirming that we were to love her and cherish her as our mother, He entrusted us to her. And then Jesus died, giving up His life so that we could attain eternal salvation. After taking Him down from the cross, they laid Him in the arms of Our Lady and we see the Pietà, a specific iteration of the mourning of Christ in which the artist depicts a solitary Mary lamenting His death.
As difficult as that was and as much heartbreak as Our Lady went through, she had hope. She had hope because she was a believer in God’s plan which delineated the imminent Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His triumphant victory over sin and death. We should imitate Mary in all things: in her purity of heart and soul, in her acceptance of God’s will, in her acceptance of undue trials, and in her refusal to despair in the face of supernatural agony.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.