Right after we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The gospel reading for this day recounts Mary at the foot of the cross. It fulfills the prophecy of Simeon when Mary brought Jesus to the Temple. He said, “your own soul a sword shall pierce.” Those that study Mary’s life count seven swords or sorrows starting with that of Simeon’s prophecy. The next sorrow is when she had to escape with Joseph to Egypt, fleeing from the assassins of King Herod. The third is when she lost Jesus in the Temple – one can only imagine her worry as a mother. The fourth is when she met Jesus as he carried the cross. Fifth is his crucifixion and death. As if his death were not enough, a soldier had to pierce his side – which is the sixth sorrow. Finally, the last sorrow is the burial of Christ – the definite moment when she had to physically detach herself from the person she dearly loved.
We must ask ourselves why Mary had to suffer. Since suffering was seen by her culture as a punishment for sin, she shouldn’t suffer at all because we believe Mary was conceived without original sin, and the Holy Spirit protected her from sin her whole life. And yet we find her grieving like no other has grieved upon seeing her son crucified.
We wonder what she did to merit her sorrows. The answer is nothing. The reason why she suffered is that she is a disciple of Christ, and anyone who follows him must suffer. Didn’t he tell his disciples, “follow me”?
The rosary reminds us that after the joyful and luminous are the sorrowful mysteries that we too must navigate before going into glorious mysteries. For fallen humanity, this earth is not heaven, and suffering is an integral part of it. Christ did not save us from suffering but through it.
So we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows because she is our model so that, like her, we plant ourselves at the feet of the crucified Christ. For it is there we can find him sharing our suffering, and us sharing his. Without this, suffering just becomes an unpleasant experience. With Christ, it is mystical.
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Joby finished Theology courses from the University of Notre Dame. He is a contributing writer at www.catholic365.com, and teaches in the De La Salle College of St. Benilde where he engages students in conversations about religion, pop-culture, and food.
Did you ever wonder how Mary is a Refuge of Sinners or the Morning Star?
Mary's titles express how the Church presents her, but some are obscured by language and culture. The book A Sky Full of Stars, explains all her titles in the litany so we get to meet Mary face to face.
Bishop Socrates Villegas says, "A Sky Full of Stars must be an obligatory reference material for religion teachers and seminarians. It helps the reader to see the Virgin Mary within the perspective of sound biblical theology and solid Catholic tradition... [and is] also easy to understand."