The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I. The prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” – Luke II, 34-35.

Meditation: How great was the shock to Mary’s Heart at hearing the sorrowful words, in which holy Simeon told the bitter Passion and death of her sweet Jesus, since in that same moment she realized in her mind all the insults, blows, and torments which the impious men were to offer to the Redeemer of the world. But a still sharper sword pierced her soul. It was the thought of men’s ingratitude to her beloved Son. Now consider that because of your sins you are unhappily among the ungrateful.

Salutatio Angelica
The Angelic Salutation

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum; Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

II. The flight into Egypt: “And after they (the wise men) were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise and take the child and His mother and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him. Who arose and took the child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and He was there until the death of Herod.” – Matt. II, 13-14.

Meditation: Consider the sharp sorrow which Mary felt when, St. Joseph being warned by an angel, she had to flee by night in order to preserve her beloved Child from the slaughter decreed by Herod. What anguish was hers, in leaving Judea, lest she should be overtaken by the soldiers of the cruel king! How great her privations in that long journey! What sufferings she bore in that land of exile, what sorrow amid that people given to idolatry! But consider how often you have renewed that bitter grief of Mary, when your sins have caused her Son to flee from your heart. Continue reading

Our Lady’s Suffering in the Passion

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent
by St. Thomas Aquinas

Passion Friday

Our Lady’s Suffering in the Passion

Thy own soul a sword shall pierce– Luke ii. 35.

In these words there is noted for us the close association of Our Lady with the Passion of Christ. Four things especially made the Passion most bitter for her.

Firstly, the goodness of her Son, Who did no sin (i Pet. ii. 22).

Secondly, the cruelty of those who crucified Him, shown, for example, in this that as He lay dying they refused Him even water, nor would they allow His mother, who would most lovingly have given it, to help Him.

Thirdly, the disgrace of the punishment, Let us condemn him to a most shameful death (Wis. ii. 20).

Fourthly, the cruelty of the torment. O ye that pass by the way, attend and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorroiv (Lam. i. 12).

The words of Simeon, Thy own soul a sword shall pierce, Origen, and other doctors with him, explain with reference to the pain felt by Our Lady in the Passion of Christ. St. Ambrose, however, says that by the sword is signified Our Lady’s prudence, thanks to which she was not without knowledge of the heavenly mystery. For the word of God is a living thing, strong and keener than the keenest sword (cf. Heb. iv. 12).

Other writers again, St. Augustine for example, understand by the sword the stupefaction that overcame Our Lady at the death of her Son, not the doubt that goes with lack of faith but a certain fluctuation of bewilderment, a staggering of the mind. St. Basil, too, says that as Our Lady stood by the cross with all the detail of the Passion before her, and in her mind the testimony of Gabriel, the message that words cannot tell of her divine conception, and all the vast array of miracles, her mind swayed, for she saw Him the victim of such vileness, and yet knew Him for the author of such wonders.

Although Our Lady knew by faith that it was God’s will that Christ should suffer, and although she brought her will into unity with God’s will in this matter, as the saints do, nevertheless, sadness filled her soul at the death of Christ. This was because her lower will revolted at the particular thing she had willed and this is not contrary to perfection.

Santo Stefano in Monte Celio

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Lenten Station Churches of Rome

Passion Friday: Santo Stefano in Monte Celio

The peaceful churchyard provides a welcome respite from the busy streets outside as we approach the church of St. Stephen on the Caelian Hill. As the shape of the basilica materializes through the pines, we will likely be struck by its unusual shape, for St. Stephen’s is one of the three ancient round churches remaining in Rome, although time has obscured the original ground plan. The design of this church is thought to have been inspired by the shrine built by the Emperor Constantine over the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem, and circular plans were often used for the shrines built over the tombs of martyrs, particularly in the Eastern Roman Empire. This church, built on the site of a Roman military camp, dates from the pontificate of Pope Simplicius I (r. 468-483), being further decorated early in the following century. Although there was no tomb here, the design would call that connotation to mind for the people at the time, appropriate for a church placed under the patronage of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, whose supreme witness is recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. This original church consisted of a circular sanctuary with a concentric aisle, with four projecting chapels connected by walls forming the outermost ring.

Restored in the eighth century, by the 1130s this church was near collapse. In the restorations which took place at this time, most of the outer ring was abandoned, save for one chapel and a small part of the aisle next to it. The central arch which cuts through the inner ring, meant to strengthen the upper walls, was built at this time. Pope Nicholas V had to carry out another round of restorations in the mid-fifteenth century. In the late sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII commissioned the images of martyrdom that adorn the outer wall of the ambulatory, which are the best known artwork in this church. As this church had been given to the German College sometime before, these were meant to help encourage the young seminarians as they prepared to return to their homeland, and possibly death. Pope Gregory also constructed the present chancel. In recent years, the church had undergone a great deal of conservation, which has preserved the church for yet another age.

OUR LADY OF SORROWS

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OUR LADY OF SORROWS

Fr. Francis Cuthbert Doyle, 1896

I. One of the Wise Man’s most pathetic exhortations is, that a son should never forget the travailing and the sorrows of his mother. In order, therefore, that we may bear in mind the bitter anguish which lacerated our Lady’s heart, we must reflect today upon that scene of woe in which her seven-fold sorrow culminated, in which the waters rose up around her, and closed over her head in a sea of anguish, such as never before flooded the heart of mortal man.

Jesus hung on the Cross, the outcast of His nation–a mark at which the vile rabble, and their still viler leaders, hurled their bitter taunts, and aimed their clumsy scorn. A galling wreath of thorns circled His head; His eyes were filled with blood; His hands and feet nailed tightly down to the cruel wood. The wickedness of a sinful world pressed heavily upon Him, and its ponderous weight well-nigh crushed Him Who upholds the universe. During His death agony, men scoffed and jeered at Him, taunting Him with impotence, and blaspheming Him most vilely; and all the while there stood by that death-bed of shame, Mary His Mother! He was Her Child; her blood flowed in His veins; her heart beat in unison with His. Those sacred features, now so sadly bruised and disfigured, were the exact counterpart of her own. That head, now crowned with thorns, had often nestled in her bosom. That tongue which now and then spoke through the darkness, had been taught by her to lisp its first accents. Between Him and her there had passed all that interchange of fond affection and tender love which takes place between a mother and the child of her bosom. Add to this the intense love with which she loved Him as her God, and we may truly say, there never could be love between mortal man and God greater than the love which existed between Jesus and Mary. Continue reading