If we take seriously the scandal of the cross, we must reflect on the terrible image of Mary standing at the foot of the cross as her son and savior hangs dying there. So, on the day after the feast of the Holy Cross, we observe the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.
Mary’s life as a mother begins and ends in public shame. She is unmarried when she conceives the Christ-child. Scripture tells us that her betrothed, Joseph, believes he is honor-bound, in the face of what is surely Mary’s sin, to divorce her quietly. Only an angelic visitation convinces him to stand with Mary, sheltering her and raising her son.
That same son, Jesus, dies as a common criminal, hung on a hillside between two thieves. There must have been pitying glances and whispered words. “Poor Mary, she had such dreams for this boy, and now, look.”
Mary not only shares the public humiliation, she shares the terrible fate of women in most of human history. Already a widow, Mary will be left without a son. Poverty and isolation are surely her lot. This is such a serious matter that John tells us in his gospel how Jesus addresses it from the cross. He instructs John to care for Mary as his mother, and for Mary to care for John as her son.
Mary’s life as a mother begins and ends in public shame.
Today we remember Mary’s sorrows. We reflect on how many of these sorrows she shares with women and men throughout time. This reflection helps us understand the title, “Our Lady.” Her sorrows are ours. We pray that her steadfast faith may be ours as well.
The Memorare (attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 12th c.)
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you do I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not our petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer us. Amen.
The Salve Regina (attributed to Hermann Contractus, 11th c.)
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, your eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.
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