“You yourself a sword shall pierce”
The meaning of the celebration
+ On September 15, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Church honors the suffering (or “sorrows”) of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
+ First celebrated in the Middle Ages, today’s memorial is based on a special feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary first celebrated by the Servite Friars in the seventeenth century.
+ The Gospel of Luke tells us the story of the Presentation in the Temple when he was only a few weeks old. The devotions of Mary and Joseph were interrupted when Simeon, an elderly priest, took the Child in his arms and proclaimed that he was the fulfillment of the promises God had made to Israel.
+ Simeon also prophesied that Mary would have to share in the sufferings of her Son: “You yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35). Years later, this prophesy was fulfilled as Mary courageously stood by and witnessed the execution of her Son (cf. John 19:25-27).
+ In art, the Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is often depicted with seven swords piercing her heart. These swords represent the traditional seven “sorrows” of Mary: the Prophecy of Simeon, the Flight into Egypt, the Loss of the Child Jesus, Meeting Jesus as he carried his Cross to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Body of Jesus being placed in Mary’s arms, and the burial of Jesus.
John’s account of Jesus’ death is highly symbolic. When Jesus gives the beloved disciple to Mary, we are invited to appreciate Mary’s role in the Church: She symbolizes the Church; the beloved disciple represents all believers. As Mary mothered Jesus, she is now mother to all his followers. Furthermore, as Jesus died, he handed over his Spirit. Mary and the Spirit cooperate in begetting new children of God—almost an echo of Luke’s account of Jesus’ conception. Christians can trust that they will continue to experience the caring presence of Mary and Jesus’ Spirit throughout their lives and throughout history.
For prayer and reflection
“She gave herself totally to the hurts associated with her son, but she also knew how to dip deeply inside and draw from the strength that the Holy One gave her. Mary’s life contained piercing hurts, but it also held a vast reservoir of faith.”—Joyce Rupp, O.S.M., Your Sorrow is My Sorrow
There are numerous religious communities dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. Please pray for vocations to these communities, including:
The Trappist Monks of Gethsemani Abbey (Trappist, KY): www.monks.org
The Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, visit: www.ols.org
The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, visit: http://sistersofthesorrowfulmother.org/
The Marianites of the Holy Cross: www.marianites.org
The Sisters of Loretto: http://www.lorettocommunity.org/
Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows: www.olpretreat.org
Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance and the Sorrowful Mother: www.franciscansisterstor.org
Poor Sisters of Jesus Crucified and the Sorrow Mother: www.cjcbrockton.org
Mantallate Sisters Servants of Mary: www.mantellatesistersmsm.org
Servants of Mary (Servite Sisters): www.osms.org
Servite Sisters (Ladysmith, WI): www.servitesiters.org
O God, who willed
that, when your Son was lifted high on the Cross,
his Mother should stand close by and share his suffering,
grant that your Church,
participating with the Virgin Mary in the Passion of Christ,
may merit a share in his Resurrection.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.