Mother of Sorrows, Mother of Compassion


Only by entering into the sufferings of Christ do we enter into the sufferings of others. This is compassion in its fullest sense, in its twofold direction. There can be surely no higher title given to Mary than that of Mother of Compassion….


Entrusted with the care of humankind, Mary became mother of the whole person—weakened by original sin, tempted to actual sin, broken by the suffering of having sinned. More closely identified with her divine Son than any other…the relationship between this Mother and this Son leaves no possible room for misunderstanding or non-cooperation. Consequently if Christ enters into the wayward heart of humanity, Mary does the same. Mother of the Man Christ, she is mother of his mystical body, and the mystical body is still being tempted and tortured as the actual Body was tempted and tortured on Maundy Thursday.


It is perhaps our tendency to imagine that the Immaculate Conception puts Mary so far outside the common weakness as to let her see sin only as it were academically: pitied, yes, but because never experienced not fully understood. Far from making her less understanding of sin, the Immaculate Conception makes her more so. Where in the rest of us sin blunts our sensibilities—causing us to condone, certainly, but not always to show compassion in its purest sense—in Mary the sensibilities are in any case all the sharper, and there has never been anything to blunt their edge. Her sympathy for the sinner is not less human than ours but more human; not theoretical or notional but actual and real.


Dom Hubert Van Zeller, o.s.b.


Dom Hubert Van Zeller († 1984) was a Benedictine monk, artist, and spiritual author. [From The Gospel Priesthood. Published by Sheed & Ward, 1956. Reproduced by kind permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. ]

Raphael Benedict

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