“[On Calvary there were] two altars: one in Mary’s heart, the other in Christ’s body. Christ sacrificed his flesh, Mary her soul.” –Abbot Arnold of Chartres (1144-56), friend and disciple of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – Doctor of the Church
“Even while living in the world, the heart of Mary was so filled with motherly tenderness and compassion for men that no-one ever suffered so much for their own pains, as Mary suffered for the pains of her children.” –Saint Jerome, Doctor of the Church
“Let us bind ourselves tightly to the Sorrowful Heart of our Heavenly Mother and reflect on it’s boundless grief and how precious is our soul.” -Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
Each year the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are liturgically celebrated on two different occasions. First in a more minor way on the Friday of Passion Week, and then in a more solemn manner on September 15th the Octave Day of the Feast of the Nativity of our Lady.
The devotion to the Sorrowful Heart of Mary and to her Seven Sorrows is a most ancient devotion as with the devotion to her Immaculate Heart, in fact they are but two sides of the same devotion. This devotion, in fact, goes all the way back to the Gospel of Luke 2:35:
“And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
But even though this devotion was most ancient the official devotion to our Lady of the Seven Sorrows was only universally established by Pope Pius VII in 1815. Though the Order of Servites of the Blessed Virgin who are the special promoters of this devotion had permission to celebrate this feast all the way back in 1668. It is for this reason that the Servites wear and promote the Black Scapular of the Seven Sorrows of our Lady. The seven sorrows of our Lady are as follows:
- The Prophecy of Simeon
- The Flight into Egypt
- The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
- Mary meets Jesus carrying His Cross
- The Crucifixion
- Mary receives the body of Jesus from the Cross
- The body of Jesus is placed in the Tomb
Devotion to the sorrows of our Lady is one of the most beautiful and ancient Marian devotions. For through these sorrows we enter more deeply and profoundly into the mysteries of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacred Passion and Death on the Cross. It is this devotion that makes known to the devout soul the truth of the teaching of our Lady as Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Grace.
We ought to with Saint Joseph and Saint John the Beloved Disciple remain always close to our dear Mother Mary and console her in her sorrow. Let us always unite ourselves to the Passions of her only Son Jesus Christ and to His Most Sacred Heart through her Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart.
One of the most beautiful treatments of this subject of the sorrows of our Lady, and one most worthy of our meditation, was written by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, and can be found in his great work The Glories of Mary (pgs. 537-593).
Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary – September 15th
Propers for Holy Mass
Introit – John 19:25-27
Stabant iuxta Crucem Iesu Mater eius, et soror Matris eius, María Cléophæ, et Salóme et María Magdaléne. Múlier, ecce fílius tuus: dixit Iesus; ad discípulum autem: Ecce Mater tua. Glória Patri. Stabant…
There were standing by the Cross of Jesus His Mother, and His Mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Salome, and Mary Magdalene. Woman, behold your son, said Jesus; and to the disciple, Behold your mother. Glory be. There were standing…
Deus, in cuius passióne, secúndum Simeónis prophétiam, dulcíssimam ánimam gloriósæ Vírginis et Matris Maríæ dolóris gladius pertransívit: concéde propítius; ut, qui transfixiónem eius et passiónem venerándo recólimus, gloriósis méritis et précibus ómnium Sanctórum Cruci fidéliter astántium intercedéntibus, passiónis tuæ efféctum felícem consequámur: Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
O God, in Whose Passion the sword, according to the prophecy of blessed Simeon, pierced through the soul of Mary, the glorious Virgin and Mother, mercifully grant that we, who reverently commemorate her piercing through and her suffering, may, by the interceding glorious merits of all the saints faithfully standing by the Cross, obtain the abundant fruit of Your passion. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Lesson – Judith 13:22-25
Benedíxit te Dóminus in virtúte sua, quia per te ad níhilum redégit inimícos nostros. Benedícta es tu, fília, a Dómino, Deo excélso, præ ómnibus muliéribus super terram. Benedíctus Dóminus, qui creávit coelum et terram: quia hódie nomen tuum ita magnificávit, ut non recédat laus tua de ore hóminum, qui mémores fúerint virtútis Dómini in ætérnum, pro quibus non pepercísti ánimæ tuæ propter angústias et tribulatiónem géneris tui, sed subvenísti ruínæ ante conspéctum Dei nostri. R. Deo gratias.
The Lord has blessed you by His power, Who by you has brought our enemies to nought. Blessed are you, O daughter, by the Lord the Most High God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord Who made heaven and earth, because He has so magnified your name this day, that your praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men, who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord forever: for you have not spared your life by reason of the distress and tribulation of your people, but have prevented our ruin in the presence of our God. R. Thanks be to God.
Dolorósa et lacrimábilis es, Virgo María, stans iuxta Crucem Dómini Iesu, Fílii tui, Redemptóris. Virgo Dei Génetrix, quem totus non capit orbis, hoc crucis fert supplícium, auctor vitæ factus homo. Allelúia, allelúia.
Sorrowful and tearful are you, O Virgin Mary, standing by the Cross of the Lord Jesus, your Son and Redeemer. O Virgin Mother of god, He Whom the whole earth contains not, the Author of life, made man, bears this anguish of the Cross. Allelúia, allelúia.
Stabat Mater dolorósa
Iuxta Crucem lacrimósa,
Dum pendébat Fílius.
Cuius ánimam geméntem,
Contristátam et doléntem
O quam tristis et afflícta
Fuit illa benedícta
Quæ mærébat et dolébat,
Pia Mater, dum vidébat
Nati poenas íncliti.
Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si vidéret
In tanto supplício?
Quis non posset contristári,
Christi Matrem contemplári
Doléntem cum Fílio?
Pro peccátis suæ gentis
Vidit Iesum in torméntis
Et flagéllis súbditum.
Vidit suum dulcem
Natum Moriéndo desolátum,
Dum emísit spíritum.
Eia, Mater, fons amóris,
Me sentíre vim dolóris
Fac, ut tecum lúgeam.
Fac, ut árdeat cor meum
In amándo Christum Deum,
Ut sibi compláceam.
Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo válida.
Tui Nati vulneráti,
Tam dignáti pro me pati,
Poenas mecum dívide.
Fac me tecum pie flere,
Donec ego víxero.
Iuxta Crucem tecum stare
Et me tibi sociáre
In planctu desídero.
Virgo vírginum præclára.
Mihi iam non sis amára:
Fac me tecum plángere.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
Passiónis fac consórtem
Et plagas recólere.
Fac me plagis vulnerári,
Fac me Cruce inebriári
Et cruóre Fílii.
Flammis ne urar succénsus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defénsus
In die iudícii.
Christe, cum sit hinc exíre.
Da per Matrem me veníre
Ad palmam victóriæ.
Quando corpus moriétur,
Fac, ut ánimæ donétur
Paradísi glória. Amen.
At the Cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing
Now at length the sword had passed.
Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother’s pain untold.
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of His own nation
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His spirit forth He sent.
O sweet Mother! fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.
Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.
Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.
Let me share with you His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.
Mix’d with yours let my tears be,
Mourning Him Who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the Cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.
Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share that grief of yours.
Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.
Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In His very Blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In this awful judgment day.
Christ, when You shall call me hence,
Be Your Mother my defense,
Be Your Cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
May my soul Your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally. Amen.
Gospel – John 19:25-27
In illo témpore: Stabant iuxta Crucem Iesu Mater eius, et soror Matris eius, María Cléophæ, et María Magdaléne. Cum vidísset ergo Iesus Matrem, et discípulum stantem, quem diligébat, dicit Matri suæ: Múlier, ecce fílius tuus. Deinde dicit discípulo: Ecce Mater tua. Et ex illa hora accépit eam discípulus in sua.
At that time, there were standing by the Cross of Jesus His Mother and His Mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus, therefore, saw His Mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He said to His Mother, Woman, behold your son. Then He said to the disciples, Behold your Mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
Offérimus tibi preces et hóstias, Dómine Iesu Christe, humiliter supplicántes: ut, qui Transfixiónem dulcíssimi spíritus beátæ Maríæ, Matris tuæ, précibus recensémus; suo suorúmque sub Cruce Sanctórum consórtium multiplicáto piíssimo intervéntu, méritis mortis tuæ, méritum cum beátis habeámus: Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, we offer You prayers and sacrificial gifts, humbly beseeching You that, as we prayerfully recall the piercing of the most sweet soul of Your blessed Mother Mary, so through the merits of Your death and the manifold intercession of her and her holy friends at the foot of the Cross, we may have our reward with the blessed. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. R. Amen
Felices sensus beátæ Maríæ Vírginis, qui sine morte meruérunt martýrii palmam sub Cruce Dómini.
Happy the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which without dying earned the palm of martyrdom beneath the Cross of our Lord.
Sacrifícia, quæ súmpsimus, Dómine Iesu Christe, Transfixiónem Matris tuæ et Vírginis devóte celebrántes: nobis ímpetrent apud cleméntiam tuam omnis boni salutáris efféctum: Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre, in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, may the sacrifices of which we have partaken, while devoutly celebrating the piercing of Your Virgin Mother’s soul, obtain for us, through Your kindness, the good effect of salvation. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen
Excerpts from the Divine Office
Hymn at Matins
What a sea of tears and sorrow
Did the soul of Mary toss
To and fro upon its billows,
While she wept her bitter loss;
In her arms her Jesus holding,
Torn so newly from the cross.
Oh, that mournful Virgin-Mother!
See her tears how fast they flow
Down upon his mangled body,
Wounded side, and thorny brow;
While his hands and feet she kisses—
Picture of immortal woe.
Oft and oft his arms and bosom
Fondly straining to her own;
Oft her pallid lips imprinting
On each wound of her dear Son;
Till at last, in swoons of anguish,
Sense and consciousness are gone.
Gentle Mother, we beseech thee
By thy tears and troubles sore;
By the death of thy dear offspring,
By the bloody wounds he bore;
Touch our hearts with that true sorrow
Which afflicted thee of yore.
To the Father everlasting,
And the Son who reigns on high,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
Trinity in Unity,
Be salvation, honour, blessing
Now and through eternity.
From the Readings at Matins
From the Sermons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – On the twelve stars.
The Martyrdom of the Virgin is set before us, not only in the prophecy of Simeon, but also in the story itself of the Lord’s Passion. The holy old man said of the Child Jesus, Luke ii. 34, Behold, this Child is set for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; yea, said he unto Mary, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also Even so, O Blessed Mother! The sword did indeed pierce through thy soul! for nought could pierce the Body of thy Son, nor pierce thy soul likewise. Yea, and when this Jesus of thine had given up the ghost, and the bloody spear could torture Him no more, thy soul winced as it pierced His dead Side His Own Soul might leave Him, but thine could not.
The sword of sorrow pierced through thy soul, so that we may truly call thee more than martyr, in whom the love, that made thee suffer along with thy Son, wrung thy heart more bitterly than any pang of bodily pain could do. Did not that word of His indeed pierce through thy soul, sharper than any two-edged sword, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, Heb. iv. 12, Woman, behold thy son! John xix. 26. O what a change to thee! Thou art given John for Jesus, the servant for his Lord, the disciple for his Master, the son of Zebedee for the Son of God, a mere man for Very God. O how keenly must the hearing of those words have pierced through thy most loving soul, when even our hearts, stony, iron, as they are, are wrung at the memory thereof only!
Marvel not, my brethren, that Mary should be called a Martyr in spirit. He indeed may marvel who remembereth not what Paul saith, naming the greater sins of the Gentiles, that they were without natural affection, Rom. i. 31. Far other were the bowels of Mary, and far other may those of her servants be! But some man perchance will say Did she not know that He was to die? Yea, without doubt, she knew it. Did she not hope that He was soon to rise again? Yea, she most faithfully hoped it. And did she still mourn because He was crucified? Yea, bitterly. But who art thou, my brother, or whence hast thou such wisdom, to marvel less that the Son of Mary suffered than that Mary suffered with Him? He could die in the Body, and could not she die with Him in her heart? His was the deed of that Love, greater than which hath no man, John xv. 13; her’s, of a love, like to which hath no man, save He.
Homily by Saint Ambrose of Milan – On Virgins, 7.
At that time There stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother, and His Mother’s sister, Mary (the wife) of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. And so on.
There stood by the Cross His Mother. Men had forsaken Him, but she stood there fearless. Behold how the Mother of Jesus could break through her shrinking modesty, but could not belie her heart. With the eyes of a mother’s love she gazed upon the Wounds of her Son, those Wounds through Which she knew that redemption for all mankind was flowing. The Mother, who feared not the executioners, was able to endure the sight of their work. Her Son was hanging upon the Cross, and she braved His tormentors.
From Saint Ambrose of Milan – 25th Epistle to the Church of Vercelli.
Mary, the Mother of the Lord, stood by the Cross of her Son. My only informant of this fact is the holy Evangelist John. Others have written that when the Lord suffered, the earth quaked, the heavens were veiled in darkness, the sun was hidden, and the thief received, after a good confession, the promise of Paradise. John hath taught us what the others have not taught us. Upon the Cross He called her Mother. It is reckoned (by John) a greater thing that in the moment of triumph over agony, He should have discharged the watchful duty of a Son to His Mother, than that He should have made gift of the kingdom of heaven. For if it be a sacred thing to have forgiven the thief, this so great kindness of the Son to the Mother is to be worshipped as the outcome of a tenderer and more touching love.
Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it. How nobly doth the Saviour say Yea to the woman’s blessing, declaring also that not only is she blessed who was meet to give bodily birth to the Word of God, but that all they who spiritually conceive the same Word by the hearing of faith, and, by keeping it through good works, bring it forth and, as it were, carefully nurse it, in their own hearts, and in the hearts of their neighbours, are also blessed. Yea, and that the very Mother of God herself was blessed in being for a while the handmaid of the Word of God made Flesh, but that she was much more blessed in this, that through her love she keepeth Him for ever.
Hymn for Lauds
God of mercy, let us run
Where yon fount of sorrows flows;
Pondering sweetly, one by one,
Jesu’s wounds and Mary’s woes.
Ah, those tears Our Lady shed,
Enough to drown a world of sin;
Tears that Jesu’s sorrows fed,
Peace and pardon well may win!
His five wounds, a very home,
For our prayers and praises prove;
And Our Lady’s woes become
Endless joys in heaven above.
Jesus, who for us did die,
All on thee our love we pour;
And in the Holy Trinity
Worship thee forevermore.
Hymn for Vespers
Nov let the darkling eve mount suddenly on high,
The sun affrighted reave his splendours from the sky,
While I in silence grieve o’er the mocked agony
And the divine catastrophe.
Grief-drenched, thou dost appear with heart of adamant,
O Mother; and dost hear the great hierophant,
Upon his wooden bier locked in the arms of death,
Utter in groans his parting breath.
What lookest thou upon, mangled and bruised and torn?
Ah, ’tis the very Son thy yearning breast bath borne!
Surely, each breaking moan and each deep-mouthèd wound
Its fellow in thy heart hath found!
Surely, the taunts and woes, the scourge, the dripping thorn,
The spitting and the blows, the gall, the lance, the scorn—
Surely, each torment throws a poison-dart at thee,
Crushed by their manifold tyranny.
Yet thou with patient mien beneath his cross dost stand,
Nobler in this, I ween, than all the martyr-band:
A thousand deaths, O Queen, upon thy spirit lie,
Yet thou, O marvel! dost not die.
O Holy Trinity, let earth and heaven raise
Their song of laud to thee the while my spirit prays:—
When evil comes to me, the strength do thou impart
That erst upheld thy Mother’s heart! Amen.