CYM Lenten Series 2019 – 7 Sorrows of Mary
We tend to think of Mary as the Sorrowful Mother during Lent. The image of Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows often shows her with 7 swords piercing her Immaculate Heart. The swords represent her grievous sorrows, known as the Seven Dolors of Mary. In this series, we will discuss and reflect on Mary’s final 4 sorrows to prepare ourselves spiritually this Lent.
We invited several speakers to share their reflection and speak about the 7 Sorrows of Mary. Here are the recordings of their talks, PowerPoints and notes.
by Tom Gourlay
Speaking on the fifth of the seven sorrows of Our Lady is an interesting thing to be asked to speak about. I have not had much personal experience with this devotion, but the opportunity to reflect on this over the last few days and weeks has been a wonderful opportunity and I am glad to share with you some reflections.
To speak on this, the fifth Sorrow of Our Lady is not simply speaking of the Crucifixion, but on that event in light of and from the perspective of Mary – calling to mind the pain that she endured as a participant in that most horrible, and yet hope-filled event.
As with all facets of our faith, we should stop to ask from time to time, what does this have to do with me, here and now, on the 27th of March 2019. Because if it is not something happening now, not something that affects me now, then it is at best, an interesting point of social or cultural history. But as Pope Benedict has said, the Christian faith is a not merely an ethical choice or a lofty idea, it is an encounter with an event, a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive new direction. (Deus Caritas Est, 1)
On Monday we took a break from our Lenten fasts to celebrate the great solemnity of the Annunciation – the moment when the Son of God took on human flesh, became a man by the power of the Holy Spirit and the free ascent of Mary.
We do not often stop and ponder this mystery and the immensity of what it means for us, and how we live our lives. This event, this fact, the fact of the incarnation, changes everything. This is the essence of the Christian thing. Without this, there would be no Christmas, and there would be no Good Friday, no Easter Sunday.
This mystery which we marked on Monday is so precious – so vulnerable. God takes of flesh as a tiny clump of cells in the womb of the virgin. My own experience as a father has given me a new perspective on this reality. There is so much that hinges on this first moment of life – and every subsequent moment. At no stage can we take this for granted. It is all a miracle. As my good friend has at the bottom of every email he sends – ‘It is all gift.’
Mary’s willingness to take on this role, as Mother of God, is in a very real sense, opens her to a love that surpasses all that she could have hoped for – but with this, a suffering deeper and more profound that she could ever have conceived of.
These seven sorrows are one way of reflecting on the nature of Mary’s role in the salvation of the world – which is one way in we can reflect on the nature of our own role in the saving work of Jesus.
By virtue of this fact of God becoming man, each and every one of us, every human person “in some fashion” (GS 22) is united to him. “For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.” (GS 22)
This means that he has shared everything with us, even death.
What is death?
In these times we are dealing the death of someone who has been significant in our community. Fr Joe’s death leaves us with a maelstrom of emotion – the circumstances leave us in all manner of unease – Death in all its manifestations is discombobulating. And in this instance particularly we are shaken to our core with the finality of it. Death, naturally, is the termination of all human relationships – we are no longer able to ask those questions, or engage in that discussion, to be in relation as we once were. But, by sharing our death, Jesus, the Son of God, incorporates our human relationships in his eternal relationship with God the Father – a relationship that cannot be destroyed by death. Christ shares in our death so that we might share in in his, and participate in his triumph over death.
When Mary gave her fiat, her yes, to the Angel – in that event we call to mind whenever we pray the Angelus, it was not merely consent to bear within her a child – motherhood is so much more than taking care of a child for 9 months in utero – it is sharing your life with this person whom you beget with the help of the LORD. Our mothers feel, often with more intensity the sufferings of their children than do their children themselves. They share their heartbreak, and their pains in ways that we often fail to recognise.
Mary’s assent to God’s plan of redemption found its most radical expression in her participation in this event of Christ’s death. It is impossible to think of her as merely a passive witness to this event. She has been with him all along, and almost since the very beginning she has anticipated something that would come – as Simeon had prophesied, ‘A sword will pierce your heart…’ The anticipation that this prophecy had stirred in her would have been, on many levels, agonising. Our experience of a pain to come is often just a difficult or even more so than the thing itself. The anticipation can be worse than the experience itself. For Mary, the anguish would have been intense.
Mary’s union with her Son is total. She does not watch on the sidelines, but experiences with him every stroke of the lash, the piercing of the nails into his flesh… She is with him until the end. And at this moment, at the point of his death on the cross, her relationship with Him is changed forever. We know that this is not the end – we are aware of the glory of Easter Sunday – but for her, this is catastrophic. The finality of it unfathomable.
We read that, at the moment of his impending death Jesus addresses his mother – ‘Woman’, he says, ‘behold your son’, and to his beloved disciple John, he says, ‘behold your mother’. From this moment, she is to relate with her Son through her maternal love for his followers, the Church – personified in this instance by John. She, the mother of God, and mother of Christ, is to be mother of his body on earth the Church.
For us, it is acceptance of her motherhood – living as her sons and daughters that solidifies our participation in Christ’s victory over death. This is why the Church has always prayed to Mary, asking her to prayer for us “now, and at the hour of our death…”
Virgin Most Sorrowful, pray for us.