Today, Friday, April 12, 2019, is the Feast of of the Seven Dolors of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Passiontide and the Commemoration of Friday in Passion Week
Devotion to Seven Sorrows of Our Lady dates back to Twelfth Century as the fruit of the devotions practiced by the Cistercians and the Servites, whose entire mission is to spread devotion to the Dolors of the Mother of God.
In a particular way, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, whose tender, filial devotion to the Mother of God sparked a flame that reignited many hearts that had grown cold during a century when many of the clergy were morally corrupt. Saint Bernard wrote as follows about the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady that pierced her Immaculate Heart through and through as a result of our sins:
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. (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Matins, Feast of the Seven Dolors of Our Lady.)
Yes, Our Lady is indeed the Queen of Martyrs. She is our Sorrowful Mother whom our sins brought tears to her eyes and sorrow to her Immaculate Heart as those sins, having transcended time, took their toll on her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady spread throughout Europe in the Second Millennium, and, under the title of Our Lady of Compassion, and it was in 1727 that Pope Benedict XIII (there have been only fifteen Successors of Saint Peter named Benedict, thank you) established a universal feast on the Friday before Palm Sunday, where, of course, it remains to this time, although under the current title of the Seven Dolors of Our Lady. Pope Saint Pius X, only a year away from his death in 1914, established a second feast in honor of Our Lady's Sorrows on September 15, although a second feast had been observed for nearly a century prior to that time on the third Sunday of September.
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., wrote the following reflection at the beginning of his commentary on this important feast day that contains a brief history of the placement of this feast in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church up to the time of his own writing in the Nineteenth Century:
'O all yet that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow!' Is this, then, the first cry of the sweet babe, whose coming brought such pure joy to our earth? Is the standard of suffering to be so soon unfurled over the cradle of such lovely innocence? Yet the heart of mother Church has not deceived her: this feast coming at such a time, is ever the answer to that question of the expectant human race: What shall this child be?
The Saviour to come is not only the reason of Mary's existence, He is also her exemplar in all things. It is as His Mother that the blessed Virgin came, and therefore as the 'Mother of sorrows'; for the God, whose future birth was the very cause of her own birth, is to be in this world, 'a Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity.' 'To whom shall I compare thee?' sings the prophet of lamentations: 'O Virgin . . . great as the sea is thy destruction.' On the mountain of the sacrifice, as Mother gave her Son, as bride she offered herself and as Mother, she was the co-redemptress of the human race. This teaching and these recollections were deeply engraved on our hearts on that other feast of our Lady's dolours which immediately preceded Holy Week.
Christ dieth no more: and our Lady's sufferings are over. Nevertheless the Passion of Christ is continued in His elect, in His Church, against which hell vents the rage it cannot exercise against Himself. To this Passion of Christ's mystical body, of which she is also Mother, Mary still contributes hercompassion; how often have her venerated images attested the fact, by miraculously shedding tears! This explains the Church's departure from liturgical custom, by celebrating two feasts, for different reasons, under one same title.
On perusing the register of the apostolic decrees concerning the sacred rites, the reader is astonished to find a long and unusual interruption lasting from March 20, 1809 to September 18, 1814, at which latter date is entered the decree instituting on this present Sunday, a second Commemoration of our Lady's Dolours. 1809-1814, five sorrowful years, during which the government of Christendom was suspended; years of blood which beheld the Man-God agonizing once more in the person of His captive Vicar. But the Mother of sorrows was still standing beneath the cross, offering to God the Church's sufferings; and when the trial was over, Pius VII, knowing well whence the mercy had come, dedicated this day to Mary as a fresh memorial of the day of Calvary.
Even in the seventeenth century, the Servites had the privilege of possessing this second feast, which they celebrated as a double of the second class, with a vigil and an octave. It is from them that the church has borrowed the Office and the Mass. This honor and privilege was due to the Order established by our Lady to honour her sufferings and to spread devotion to them. Philip Benizi, heir to the seven holy Founders, propagated the flame kindled by them on the heights of Monte Senario; thanks to the zeal of his sons and successors, the devotion to the Seven Dolours of the blessed Virgin Mary, once their family property, is now the treasure of the whole world.
The prophecy of the aged Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the divine Child, the carrying of the cross, the Crucifixion, the taking down from the cross, and the burial of Jesus: these are the seven mysteries into which are grouped the well-nigh infinite sufferings which made our Lady the Queen of martyrs, the first and loveliest rose in the garden of the Spouse. Let us take to heart the recommendation from the Book of Tobias which the Church reads during this week in the Office of the time: Thou shalt honour thy mother: for thou must be mindful what and how great perils she suffering in giving thee birth. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Time After Pentecost, Book V, pp. 208-210.)
As we know, only a handful of genuine mystics, such as the Venerable Anne Katherine Emmerich and the Venerable Mary of Agreda, and truly great spiritual writers, such as the late Father Frederick Faber of the Brompton Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, Saint Alphonsus de Liguori and, among others, Saint Louis de Montfort, have been able to comprehend fully the depth of the pain and sorrow that pierced Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart during her life. Most of us erring sinners, while relying upon her maternal intercession as her consecrated slaves, do not meditate too often or too deeply on the sufferings Our Lady endured as her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, bore the weight and the horror of our sins to redeem us on the wood of the Holy Cross. One of the ways to meditate more frequently on the sufferings of Our Lady is to pray the Seven Dolors of Our Lady, reflecting on the seven dolors or sorrows that Our Lady experienced as she fulfilled her role as the Co-Redemptrix of the human race.
Each one of our sins, no matter how small or venial, caused Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to suffer unspeakable horror in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death. Those sins also caused Our Lady to suffer in a perfect communion with the sufferings of her Divine Son. Having been preserved from all stain of Original and Actual Sin, Our Lady's Immaculate Heart was perfectly joined to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His sufferings were her sufferings. Her sufferings were His sufferings. The matchless union of hearts that existed once in time and exists in Heaven for all eternity between Our Lady and Our Lord requires from us a response of total surrender and submission. We must detest each one of our sins and seek to do penance for our forgiven mortal sins and for all of our venial sins and our general attachment to sin. Although our sins are wiped away in the Sacrament of Penance, the debt we owe for our forgiven sins remains. We are thus called, as one of the prayers in the Miraculous Medal Novena notes, to "recover by penance what we have lost by sin."
Sorrow entered the world as a result of the effects of Adam's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. It was Our Lady, though, the new Eve and the Ark of the New Covenant, that took sorrow unto herself as God's handmaid and made it an instrument of our salvation in cooperation with the Redemptive Act of her Divine Son. Our Lady, who is the Mother of Sorrows, reminds us that there is no suffering or pain or difficulty that we can endure in this passing vale of tears that is the equal of what she suffered in perfect communion with her Divine Son. Our own sorrows, as real and as intense as they may be, pale into insignificance when we meditate upon Our Lady's sufferings. Indeed, an honest assessment of our lives teaches us that we deserve as sinners to suffer and that it should be our joy to help to make reparation for our sins and those of the whole world by offering all of our sufferings and sorrows up to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart as her consecrated slaves. The more we love Our Lord and His Most Blessed Mother, the more we, like Saint Therese of the Child Jesus before us, will pray for sufferings and humiliations so as to be refined as we keep Our Lady company at the foot of her Son's Holy Cross.
Indeed, a true priest I know told me years ago that there were times he wished he could just go off to a monastery and spend the rest of his life weeping for his sins and doing penance for them. Another individual, a lay man, told me that he said the following during a time of intense personal crisis and grief, "If only I wept for my sins the way that I am weeping for myself right now." Such sorrow and contrition for one's sins are representative of an understanding of the horror contained within every sin we commit. Catholics know that we are powerless of our own accord to deal with this sorrow, which is why so many people who not only commit but persist in mortal sins unrepentantly must seek to anesthetize their sorrow and/or seek the affirmation and approval of others.
That is, even people who do not understand or accept the objectively evil nature of their actions will suffer the sorrowful effects of sin in their lives without attributing their depression and malaise or anxiety to the sins they are committing, which is why they must seek to flee from the misery into which they have plunged themselves. As sinners who have received the grace to be Catholics, we know that Divine absolution is available to us in the Sacrament of Penance as the merits of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus Christ are applied to us by an alter Christus acting in persona Christi. And it is Our Lady, the the Mother of Mercy--our life, our sweetness and our hope, who intercedes for us to be humble enough to cooperate with the actual graces that flow out of the Mass to get ourselves into the confessional and to make a firm purpose of amendment to sin no more, thereby making it possible for us to be less of a source of sorrow and grief to her Immaculate Heart. As the Mediatrix of all graces, Our Lady is indeed our hope as we attempt to walk on the rocky road that leads to the narrow gate of life won for the many by her Divine Son's Redemptive Act.
A brief review of the Seven Dolors of Our Lady, complemented by brief excerpts from Father Faber's The Foot of the Cross (published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary), might be instructive at this juncture.
The Prophecy of Simeon
The aged Simeon waited patiently in the Temple, confident that God would fulfill the promise He had made to him in his youth, that he would not die before his eyes had seen and he had beheld in his own arms the Messiah. Simeon must have been thought to be something of a religious fanatic to his relatives because of all of the time he spent waiting for the Messiah to be revealed to him. God had revealed to Simeon much more than the fact that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. God had told Simeon what the Mother of the Messiah, Mary of Nazareth, would have to suffer, giving him the words that he would utter to the woman who made possible our salvation when she presented her infant Son in the Temple.
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." (Lk. 2: 34-35).
Our Lady heard these troubling words from Simeon, storing them in her heart. God was telling her through Simeon that her present joy would be replaced with the sorrow of seeing her Son, who was to be and remains the Sign of Contradiction, suffer. Our Lady trusted in God totally and without any reservation. Her acceptance of Simeon's prophecy teaches each of us that we, who are baptized to be living signs of contraction in imitation of the Sign of Contradiction Who our sins hung on the wood of the Holy Cross, must be ready to accept suffering as the price of our discipleship. We must accept it in our lives. We must understand that those we love will have to be refined in the crucible of suffering, uniting it all to Our Lady's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart and to be thus used be her as she sees fit for the greater honor and glory of the Blessed Trinity and for the salvation of souls. Mothers and fathers have to understand that their children are going to suffer. Some may die at an early age as a result of an incurable disease or an unexpected tragedy. Others may go through life suffering one humiliation after another because they remain steadfast in their defense of the Holy Faith. The first dolor of Our Lady reminds us that no suffering any of us endures is the equal of what she endured to bring us forth in great pain at the foot of the Cross as adopted children of the living God.
From Father Faber's The Foot of the Cross:
Another lesson to be learned is, that in this world sorrow is the recompense of sanctity. It is to the elect on earth what the Beatific Vision is to the saints in heaven. It is God's presence, His manifestation of Himself, His unfailing reward. We must not be amazed, therefore, if new efforts to serve God bring new sorrows in their train. By the supernatural principles of the spiritual life they ought to do so. If we are able to bear them, these sorrows will come at once. Their delay is only the index of God's estimation of our weakness. yet we need not fear that they will be disproportioned to our strength. God's blows are not dealt out at random. Our crosses are poised to a nicety by divine wisdom, and then divine love planes them, in order to make them at once smoother and lighter. But we can have no real comfort in devotion if we are without trials. We have no proof that God accepts us, no security against delusion. We know that the stars in in their old places in the sky; but in different states of the atmosphere they seem much farther off than at other times, or again much nearer, like teardrops of light on the very point of falling to the earth. So it is with God. Joy makes Him seem far off, while sorrow brings Him near, almost down into our bosom. When sorrows come, we feel instinctively their connection with the graces which have gone before, just as temptations so often have an odor about them of past victories. They come up one after another, dealing their several blows upon our poor hearts, with such a modest heavenly significancy upon their faces, that it is easy to recognize angels beneath the thin disguise. As we touch them, even while the thrill goes through us, we feel that we are almost handling with our hands our own final perseverance, such solid evidences are they of our adoption, so full of substantial graces in their presence, and leaving such a legacy of blessings when they go. A heart without sorrows is like a world without a revelation. It has nothing but a twilight of God about it.
Furthermore, our sorrow must be our own. We must not expect any one else to understand it. It is one of the conditions of true sorrow that it should be misunderstood. Sorrow is the most individual thing in the whole world. We must not expect, therefore, to meet with sympathy at all adequate to what we are suffering. It will be a great thing if it be suitable, even though it is imperfect. It is a very desolate thing to have leaned on sympathy, and found that it would not bear our weight, with such a burden of sorrow upon our backs. It is very difficult to erect ourselves again. The heart sinks upon itself in dismay. It has used its last remaining strength to reach the place where it would rest itself, and now what is left for it but a faintness which opens all the wounds afresh, and a dismal conviction that the grief is less tolerable than it was before? It is best, therefore, to keep our sorrows as secret as we can. Unfitting sympathy irritates us, and makes us sin. Inadequate sympathy excites almost a querulous despair. God knows every thing. There is light for every darkness out of that simple truth. Our hearts are full of angels when they are full of sorrows. Let us make them our company, and go on our road, smiling all the day, scattering such sweetness round us as mourners only are allowed to scatter, and God will understand us when we go to Him. Who can comfort like those who also mourn?
We must expect also that it will be in some measure with us as it was with Mary; our sorrows will be fed by even our joys. God sends us joys before sorrows, to prepare our hearts; but the joys themselves contain prophecies of the coming sorrows. And what are those sacred fears, those strange presentiments, those vague expectations of approaching evil, by which joys are so often accompanied, but the shadows which they bring about with them? It is out of the brightness of life that its darkness mostly comes. In all manner of strange ways joys turn to sorrows, sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually. Sometimes what was expected as joy comes in the shape of sorrow. Sometimes the very enjoyment of the joy turns it into sadness, as if an enchanter's wand had been waved over it. Sometimes it is gladness to the last, but when it goes it leaves grief behind, a grief it was all the while concealing under its cloak, and we never suspected it. So again when a sorrow has become calm, and the freshness of its sting seems worn off by time, by endurance, or by the distraction of our duties, a joy comes to us, makes us smile as it enters our souls, but, when there, goes at once to the fountain of sorrow, wakes up the slumbering waters, digs the source deeper, and shakes the earth around to make the spring flow more abundantly. There are few who have not experienced this kindling and enlivening of grief by the advent of gladness. But, in truth, in a world where we can sin, in a strife where we so often lose sight of God, in a dwelling which is rather an exile than a home, all joys are akin to sorrows, nay, are almost sorrows in holiday attire. Joy is life looking like what it is not. Sorrow is life with an honest face. It is life looking like what it is. Nevertheless, there is the truest, the heavenliness of all joys in sorrow, because it detaches us from the world, and draws us with such quite, persuasive, irresistible authority to God. The sunrise of grace within the soul is full of cloud, and doubt, and uncertain presages, even admit the flashings of beautiful light which are painting the troubled sky everywhere. But when the orb has mounted to the top of its noonday tower, all clouds will have melted away into the blue, no one knows how. For to to joy into sorrows is the true work of heaven, and of that height of grace which is heaven on earth already. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 101-104.)
The Flight into Egypt
And after they 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: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet saying: Out of Egypt I have called my son. (Mt. 2: 13-15)
To avoid the clutches of the evil King Herod, Saint Joseph fled with his most chaste spouse, Our Lady, and his foster-Child, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and lived as refugees in Egypt. Our Lord, Who was born in poverty, stripped of all of the royal prerogatives due His kingly dignity, lived as an exile. There was no room in the inn in Bethlehem for the Holy Family. Room was found for them in Egypt, which is where the Hebrew people had suffered for 440 years in cruel slavery as the slaves to the Egyptians before being led out by a prefiguring of Him, Moses, through the parted waters of the Red Sea to their forty years' desert journey prior to entering into the Promised Land of Canaan. Our Lady was thus forced to make a temporary home for her Child and her husband as they fled for their lives.
The sorrow of not being able to return to Nazareth in light of the evil designs King Herod had on her Divine Son was excruciating for Our Lady.
Do we force Our Lady into exile in our lives by forgetting our consecration to her, by forgetting to pray the family Rosary with care each and every day?
Do we forget to meditate on the silent, selfless sacrifices made by Saint Joseph as he responded immediately to Saint Gabriel's warnings and abandoned his own place of business in order to do that which he had to do as the head of his household to protect and safeguard his chaste spouse and his foster-Child?
Are we willing to take our own flight into a figurative Egypt for the sake of the Faith, especially by means of seeking out the Immemorial Mass of Tradition so as to protect ourselves and our family members from the harmful novelty that is the Protestant and Masonic Novus Ordo service and from anything and everything that is tainted by conciliarism and the structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism?
Are we willing to be so completely detached from our desires that we can flee at a moment's notice from our own homes when called to do so, especially to have access to the fullness of Faith? Are we, in other words, willing to do what the Holy Family did?
Do we truly understand that we have no permanent home here in this life and that we must seek out first the Kingdom of Heaven, of which Holy Mass is a foretaste?
From Father Faber's The Foot of the Cross:
Even to us, down in the deep valleys where the merciful inquisitiveness of grace has found us out, there is something inexpressibly mournful in the way in which God is excluded from His own creation. We are considering now the mystery of the Creator's flight from His creatures. Is there not also something quite as dreadful in the flight of the creatures from their Creator, which we see going on all day? When faith has opened our eyes, what a scene the world presents! Everywhere God, with His omnipresent love, is pursuing His creature, His guilty creatures; but it it is to save them, not to punish them. There is not a recess of the world, not a retirement of poverty, not a haunt of sin, not an unlikely or unbeseeming place for so vast a Majesty., where He is not following His creatures and trying almost to force His great gifts upon them. Swifter than the lightning, stronger than the ocean, more universal than the air, is His glorious, many-sided compassion poured out over the world which He has made. Everywhere are men flying from this generous, this merciful, this tender pursuit. It seems as if the grand object of their lives was to avoid God, as if time were a respite from the necessity of God's presence in eternity, which it is unfair of Him to interfere with, as if space were a convenience expressly provided for creatures to get out of the way of their Creator. Little boys even are flying from Him with all their might and main, as if they understood the matter just as well as grown-up me, and had made their minds as determinedly about it. God speaks, entreats, pleads, cries aloud; but still they run. He doubles His sunbeams upon them, to win their hearts by the excess of His fatherly indulgence; but they run. He throws shadows and darkness over them, to make them sober and wise; but they run. He will have them. Great graces go forth to their souls, like swift stones from a sling, and they fall. But they are up again in a moment, and continue their flight. Or it He gets up with them, because they are too much hurt to rise on the instant, they only let Him wipe the blood and earth from their wound and kiss them sweetly on the forehead and they are off again. He will not be baffled. He will hide Himself in the water of a sacrament, and make loving prey of infants before they have reached the use of reason. It is well; but then He must slay them also if He will keep them; for almost before they can walk they will run away from Him. And what is this picture compared to the vision which was always before Our Blessed Mother's eyes?
But let us make the world stand still, and see how it looks. If our common love for God, which is so poor, is irritated by the sight, what must Mary have suffered? For what is irritation to our weakness to her would be the most deep and transcending sorrow. God comes to His creation. It does not stir. It cannot. It lies in the hollow beneath Him, and has no escape. He comes in the beauty of a mercy, which is almost incredible, because it is so beautiful. But seemingly it does not attract the world. He draws nigh. Creation must do something now. It freezes itself up before His eye. He may have other worlds, more fertile, more accessible to Him, than this. In the spiritual tropics, where the angels dwell, He may perhaps be welcome. But not here. This is the North Pole of His universe. He shed His life's blood upon it, and it would not thaw. It is unmanageable, unnavigable, uninhabitable for Him. He can do nothing at all with it, but let His sun make resplendent colored lights in the icebergs, or bid the moon shine with a wanner loveliness than elsewhere, or fill the long-night sky with the streamers of the Aurora, which even the Esquimaux, burrowing in his hut, will not go out to see. The only difference is that the material pole understands its business. which is to make ice in all imaginable shapes; whereas we men are so used to our own coldness, that we do not know how cold we are, and imagine ourselves to be the temperate zone of God's creation.
If God gets into His world, matters are not much mended. It is dismal to think--would that it were also incredible!--how much of the world is tied up from Him, so as to render almost a miracle necessary in order to insinuate grace into the soul. Look at whole regions of fair beginnings, of good wishes, holy desires, struggling earnestness, positive yearnings, and see how tyrannically the provisions of life deal with all these interests of God. Here are souls tied up from God by family arrangements. They have to live away from the means of grace, or they are thrown among bad examples, or they are forced into uncongenial dissipation, or they are put into the alternative of either judging their parents or blunting their perceptions of God, or they are entangled in unsuitable marriages, or they are forced into the ambitious temptations of worldly possessions, or their religious vocations are rough-ridden. God is not have His own way with them, and will not have it. He on His side will not work miracles, and souls are lost. How much again is tied up by money arrangements? The religion of orphans is endangered by executors who have not the faith. Fortunes are left under conditions which, without heroic grace, preclude conversion. Place of abode is dictated by straitened circumstances, and it so happens that spiritual disabilities come along with it. Questions of education are unfavourably decided on pecuniary grounds, as also are the choices of profession. Want of money is a bar to the liberty of many souls, who, as far as we can judge. would use that liberty for God. Even local arrangements tie up souls from God. There is sort of a necessity of living for part of the year where regular sacraments are not to be had, or where men must mix very much with people of another creed, or must lay themselves out for political influence, or where young people must break off habits of works of mercy only imperfectly formed in the great city, which after all is a truer sanctuary of God than the green, innocent country. How many also, without fault of their own, or fault of any one, are tied up from God by the temporal consequences of some misfortune? Homes are broken up. Souls are imprisoned in unsuitable occupations, and in unfavourable places; and a host of religious inconveniences follow from which there is literally no escape. It may be said that, after all, the excellence of religion is interior. But to how many is the interior spirit given? Surely it is not one of God's ordinary graces. And how few really interior persons are there, who are not visibly deteriorated when their public supplies of grace are impoverished! Others again are tied up from god by some irretrievable steps which they themselves have taken, culpably or inculpably. It is as if an eternal fixity had insinuated itself into some temporal decision. And now souls are helpless. They cannot be all for God, if they would, unless He communicates to them some of the extraordinary graces of the mystical saints. We have often need here to remember for our comfort, that, if steps are irretrievable, nothing in the spiritual life is irremediable. Who could believe the opposite doctrine, and then live? It is fearful the power which men have to tie their fellow-men up from God. What an exercise it is for a hot temper, with a keen sense of injustice, and an honest heartiness of love for God and souls, to have to work for souls under the pressure of the great public systems, organizations, and institutions of a country which has not the faith! To watch a soul perilously balancing on the brink of the grand eternal question, and to see plainly that the most ordinary fairness or the cheapest kindness would save it, and not be able to command either,--it is a work of knives in one's flesh, smarting unbearably. We have no right to demand the fairness; indeed, the fairness is perhaps only visible from our own point of view. We are more likely to get justice if we ask for it under the title of privilege and by the name of kindness. For the sake of Christ's poor, let us insist upon God's multiplying and prolonging our patience! thus, all the world over, in all classes, especially in the upper classes, creation is tied up as it were from God, and His goodness has not fair play with it, unless He will break His own laws, and throw Himself simply on His omnipotence. There is a tyranny of circumstances, which does not seem far short of a necessity of sin. It needs a definition of the faith to assure us that such a necessity is happily an impossibility. We feel all this. It cuts to the quick. Now it depresses, not it provokes, accordingly as it acts on the inequalities of our little grace. Multiply it till the sum is beyond figures, magnify it till is bulk fills spaces and hangs out beyond, ad then we have our Lady's sensitiveness about the honor of God's majesty. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, pp. 137-140. Please see Appendix A for a description of this sorrow as found in The New English Edition of The Mystical City of God.)
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
And when he was twelve years old, they going into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast. And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: "Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing."
And he said to them: "How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?" And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart." (Lk. 2: 42-51)
Our Lady and Saint Joseph believed that Our Lord was with their relatives in the caravan returning to Nazareth. They thought that He was visiting and playing with His cousins and friends. The realization that this was not the case caused Our Lady's Immaculate Heart to be burdened with sorrow. Had He been kidnapped? Had He had an accident? What relief Our Lady and Saint Joseph felt when they found Our Lord answering questions put to Him by the doctors in the Temple. (Just an aside: Our Lord was not "teaching" in the Temple. Our Lord did presumed to do that which was inappropriate for a Jewish boy of his age. A Jewish boy of twelve years of age did not presume the office of teaching. He was responding to questions that had been put to Him by the rabbinical doctors.)
Do we grieve when we lose possession of Our Lord by means losing the state of Sanctifying Grace if, God forbid, we commit a Mortal Sin?
Do we have sorrow in our hearts knowing that our indifference and our ingratitude have caused us to lose sight frequently of the fact that we are called at all times to live in such a way as to be prepared for a holy death as members of Christ's true Church, outside of which there is no salvation?
Do we forget to spend time regularly before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer?
Do we forget to adorn our homes with crucifixes and images of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph and other saints and of the angels?
Do we forget the importance of naming our children after saints to help them to learn to grow in sanctity in imitation of the saint whose name they bear?
Do we grieve for our relatives who have left the Faith or who are nominal Catholics who don't want to "take things too far" and/or who are hostile to the fullness of the Faith found in the Immemorial Mass of Tradition?
Do we make efforts to recover them for Christ and His true Church in the catacombs where no concessions are made to conciliarism or to its false shepherds?
There are many ways we continue to cause Our Lady to suffer by means of our forgetfulness of her Divine Son and the supernatural helps He has given us through Holy Mother Church.
From Father Faber's The Foot of the Cross:
Thus it was that our dearest Mother had her Passion at the end of the Infancy; and her Compassion, together with His Passion, at the end of the Ministry. The darkness of this third dolor was the Gethsemane; the loss of Jesus was the crucifixion of her soul; her complaint was her cry upon the Cross, just when the torment of the Cross was ending. It was with her now as it was to be with Him hereafter.
There is yet another thing which strikes us as unlike our Lady in this third dolor. It is her venturing to question our Blessed Lord as to the reasons of His conduct. In the midst of her love of Jesus, the thought always uppermost in her mind, the memory that never went to sleep, the faith which was her life, the fact which was her worship was His Divinity. Indeed, the greatness of her love arose from this very thing. It seems more probably that our Lord had actually shown her His Divine Nature. But at all events she saw it always by faith. It was the prominent thing which she saw in Him incessantly. Hence it would seem impossible for her to question Him. Her humility and her intelligence would alike forbid it. She had asked a question for one moment, just before consenting to the Incarnation. But it was of an angel, not of God; and moreover, those days were passed. How is it then that she seems to call upon Him, and in public also, to explain and justify Himself for what He had done? In all the Gospels her word are without any parallel. They stand out by themselves, inviting notice, and yet full of mystery. Her spirit was not troubled by the interior darkness of her soul. It have never been troubled by it. Trouble is not the word. Besides, the darkness had gone at the first sight of Jesus. It was not in the flush of joy, which at that instant was crowding in at all the inlets of her soul, that she spoke, not knowing what she said, like Peter upon Tabor when he talked of building three tabernacles. Neither joy nor sorrow ever made the balance of her tranquility to quiver. There was never any conflict in her. Struggle would have desecrated her Immaculate Heart. It was not exactly what she wanted to know. Her science was so vast, that it was absolutely without desire of increase, so far at least as it was merely science, and not the beatifying accompaniment of an ever-augmenting love. Her science was such as was befitting her attitude as the Mother of God. She knew, not only all that was due to her, not only all that was convenient for her, but all which could perfect her perfections within the limits of a creature. Every thing in her had its limits. Every thing was vast but it was also limited. Her beauty was in her limitations. She remained a creature. Hence her science was perfect, having nothing imperfect about it but the inevitable imperfection of whatsoever is created. God only is illimitable, God only omniscient, God only perfect with absolute independent, intrinsical perfection. Why then did she question Jesus about this? We must reverently venture upon a conjecture. It was by an impulse of the Holy Spirit, by an attraction from Jesus Himself, by a will of His which she read in His Sacred Heart. She had just been raised to a fresh height of sanctity. She had drawn closer to God. The time of boldness follows great graces, just as the time of great graces follows great trials. Heavenliness of mind takes the form of an adoring familiarity, when it is in actual contact with God. We see this in the saints. But what will the corresponding phenomenon be in the sanctity of Mary? Jesus invited her to claim Him, to assert her rights over Him, to exercise her authority upon Him. And all this publicly before the doctors. Thus would He make solemn proclamation of her being His Mother, and do her honor before all, while they who heard little knew the import of that royal proclamation. Just as it required vast grace in St. Joseph to enable His humility to govern and command His God, so now did it require immense grace in Mary thus to assert her rights over Jesus. But she did it in the same calm simplicity with which she had consent to the Incarnation; and that moment she stood once more on another mountain, higher than that which a moment since had been the pedestal of her wonderful grace. The glory of obedience, the triumph of humility, the magnificence of worship, all of these were in the bold question of the Blessed Mother. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 179-181.)
Although this dolor for the most part keeps up among the high hills, which do not belong to us, it is nevertheless so full of lessons for ourselves, that it is difficult to select from them. It teaches us, first of all, that the loss of Jesus, however brief, is the greatest of all evils. It was this which was almost unbearable even to our Lady, and Jesus is not more needful to us than to her, because to all creatures He is absolutely needful; only to us He is a more pressing necessity, because of our weakness and our sin. The greatness of Mary's sorrow is to us a visible measure of the magnitude of the evil. Yet alas! how little we feel it! How happy can men be, who yet have lost Jesus, often unconscious almost of their loss, more often indifferent to it when they know it! We should have thought the loss of Jesus was in itself so fearful an evil, that nothing could have aggravated it; and yet our want of perception of the greatness of our loss is a token of still deeper misery. It is sad indeed when the voice of the world is more musical in our ears than the voice of our Lord. It is just the very wretchedness, the very hatefulness of the world, that it has no Jesus. He does not belong to it. He refused to pray for it. He pronounced its friendship to be on our part a simple declaration of war upon Himself. It makes our hearts sink to look out upon the world, and to know that it has no part in Him. It is like gazing upon a cheerless and disconsolate view of barren moors or dreary swamp. No sunshine can gild it. It is dismal on the brightest day. Nay, it is ugliest when the sun shines upon it. So it is with the world, because it has no Jesus. So does it become with us in proportion as we are friends with the world, or even at peace in the world. He and it are incompatible. Are we not afraid? Pleasure, gayery, fashion, expense,--dare we, even in our thoughts, put these things into the Heart of Jesus? Would He smile when worldly things were said? Would He wish to please people round Him, who are taking no pains whatever to please His Father? Would He seek to be popular in society, to stand will with those who have not at heart the only one interest which He has at His, to keep out of sight His principles, not simply through silence and reserve, but lest they should ruffle others and, interfere with that smoothness of social intercourse which takes the place of charity?
Alas! sin is bad; excess of pleasure is bad; giving God the second place is ad; worshipping the rich is bad; hardening our Christian feeling to become accustomed to worldly frivolities and very slightly uncharitable conversation is bad. But these at least are evils which wear no masks. We know what we are about. We give up Jesus with the full understanding of the sacrifice we are making. We are taking our side, choosing our lot, and we know it. But wishing to please!--this is the danger to a spiritual person. Total separation from Christ is already implied in the very idea. What is it we wish to please? The world, which is the enemy of Jesus. Whom do we wish to please? Those whoa re not caring to please God, and in whom Jesus takes no pleasure. Wherein do we wish to please? In things, conversations, and pursuits, which have no reference to God, no savor of Christ, no tendency toward religion. When do we wish to please? At times when we are doing least for Christ, when prayer and faith and hope and love and abiding sorrow for sin would be the most unseasonable. Where do we wish to please? In haunts where there is less evidence of God than elsewhere, where every circumstance, every appurtenance, flashes the world's image back upon us from a lustre. Yet we see no evil. We want smoothness, polish, inoffensiveness, discreet keeping back of God. He said that He and Mammon would not dwell together. But to some extent we will force Him so to dwell. He shall at least keep the peace with the world, and learn to revolve alongside of it in His own sphere, without encroaching, without jarring. Dreadful! Is there not hell already in the mere attempt? Yet how little men suspect it! It is like something noxious getting into the air, and not at first affecting the lungs. But the lights burn dim, then one by one they go out, and we are left in the darkness, unable to escape, because lethargy and suffocation have already begun within ourselves. In other words, high principles gently lower themselves, or are kept for state occasions, such as Lent, or a priest's company. Then we begin to be keenly alive to the annoyance which comes to us from the conversation of uncompromising Christians, and we pronounce them indiscreet, and by that ceremony they are disposed of to our great comfort, and we praise them more than ever, because by that reserve we have got rid of what fidgeted us in them, and we lull to rest the remaining uneasiness of conscience by this great promptitude of a praise which we have first made valueless by counterweighting it. Then it dawns upon us that it is a duty to keep will with the world even for God's sake. Then keeping well edges on to being friends with the world. Then there begin to be symptoms of two distinct lives going to be lived by us; but we do not see these symptoms ourselves. Then uncomfortable feelings rise in us, taking away our relish for certain persons, certain thins, certain books, certain conversations. We rouse ourselves, and take a view, an intellectual view of the rightness of being smooth, and not offending, and getting on well with the world. The view comforts us, and we are all right again. Then God's blessings, His spiritual blessings, very gradually and almost imperceptibly, begin to evaporate from us, from ourselves, our children, our homes, our hearts, and every thing around us. But the sun of prosperity shines so clearly that we do not see the mist of the evaporation rising up from the earth and withdrawing itself into heaven. Perhaps we shall never awake to the truth again. Trying to please is a slumberous thing. So we drift on, never suspecting how far the current is carrying us away from God. We may die without knowing it. We shall know it after that, the instant afterward.
Thus we may lose Jesus in three ways. We may abruptly break from Him by sin. We may quietly and gracefully withdraw from Him, confessing the attractions of the world to be greater than His. We may retire from Him slowly and by imperceptible degrees, always with our face toward Him, as we withdraw from royalty, and all because He is not a fixed principle with us, and the desire to please is so. But if we have lost Him in any one of these three ways,--sin, worldliness, and the love of pleasing--and He rouses us by His grace, what are we to do? This third dolor teaches us. It must be a dolor to us. We must search for Him whom we have lost. He may not allow us to find Him all at once. He will probably not. But we must put off every thing else, in order to prosecute our search. Other things must be subordinate to it. They must wait, or they must give way. But we must not be precipitate in our search. We must not run; we must walk. We shall miss Him if we run. We must not do violent things, not even to ourselves, although we richly deserve them. It is not a time for taking up new penances. The loss of Jesus is penance enough, now that we have found it out. We must be gentle, and sorrow will give us gentleness. Hence, our search must be also a sorrowful one, as Mary's was. We must seek Jesus with tears, with tears, but not with cries,--with a broken heart, but a quiet heart also. We must seek Him, also, in the right place,--in Jerusalem, in the temple; that is, in the Church, and in sacraments and in prayer. He is never among our kinsfolk. He never hides in the blameless softness of a kind home. This is a hard saying; ut this dolor says it. All these are the conditions of a successful search. It was so Mary sought Him; it was so she found Him. We must be of good cheer. Every thing has its remedy. Even worldliness is curable, and it is by far the nearest to incurable of any diseases. If our whole life has been but a desire to please, if every thought, word, action, look and omission has got that poison at the bottom of it, we must not be cast down. To change the habit is too difficult. We will change the object. It shall be Jesus instead of the world. Who ever knew people more thoroughly all for God than some who were once notably all for the world? nay, it would seem the more notably for the world, the more thoroughly for Him. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 188-192.)
The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Via Dolorosa
The Via Dolorosa. The Way of Sorrows. Each of us walks on a figurative Via Dolorosa as we march forward in the direction of our daily crosses, our daily Calvaries, if you will. Life is full of difficulties. With the exception of the handful of genuine mystics, such as Saint Bridget of Sweden and the Venerable Mary of Agreda, none of us can possibly imagine the incomprehensible sorrow Our Lady suffered when she saw the fruit of her virginal and immaculate womb carrying His Cross on the Way of Sorrows. Mel Gibson did a pretty good job of showing us the encounter in his The Passion of the Christ. Even that filmed representation, however, cannot begin to plumb the depths of sorrow Our Lady felt.
Our Lady had given her Divine Son the Flesh with which He would pay back the sin of Adam on the wood of the Holy Cross. She had given Him the Blood that would be shed for the forgiveness of sins. The Sacred Heart of Jesus that was loaded down with our sins had been formed of her own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. Our Lady had beheld the radiance of her newborn Son in the stable in the cave in Bethlehem. She beheld Him on the Way of Sorrows as One Who had been defiled and disfigured almost beyond recognition as a result of our sins, our ingratitude, our indifference, our lack of willingness to even to aspire to scale up to the heights of personal sanctity. She loved Him with a perfect love. She suffered a sorrow beyond all telling when gazing upon His wounded countenance. She grieves for us, her adopted children, because we do not appreciate the horror of our sins and what it cost her as she cast her gaze upon our loving Redeemer.
We must, therefore, resolve to walk our daily Via Dolorosa by taking Our Lady with us so that we will see the face of the suffering Christ in everyone we encounter, so that we will at all times keep in mind our First Cause and our Last End, understanding that everything we say and do has an eternal dimension to it. Everything we say and do either helps us to get to Heaven or heaps more Purgatory time on us if are given the grace to die in a state of sanctifying grace. Those things we say and do that are hurtful to Our Lady and thus to our salvation might wind up sending us to Hell for all eternity if we let the weeds of spiritual sloth and abject neglect of the interior life cast out from within us the very inner life of the Blessed Trinity. We must stand watch with Our Lady as her trusting, docile, submissive children as we encounter her Son in the persons we meet in all walks of our daily life, treating them as we would treat Him, showing them the compassion and love that Our Lady showed Him and that she wants to bestow so generously upon each one of us if we merely invoke her maternal intercession and consecrate ourselves totally to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
From Father Faber's The Foot of the Cross:
Everywhere the streets are thronged with multitudes setting in one tide to Calvary. Heralds at the corners of the streets blow their harsh trumpets, and proclaim the sentence to the people. Mary draws her veil around her. John and the Magdalen lean their broken hearts on hers, for they are faint and sick. What a journey for a Mother! She hardly takes note of the streets, but with their shadows they fling into her soul dim memories of the Pasch twenty-one years ago, and the three bitter days that followed it. She has taken her place, silent and still. She does not even tremble. Some tears flow as if spontaneously form her eyes. But her cheeks are red? Yes,--her tears were blood. The procession comes in sight; the tall horse of the centurion shows first, and leads the way. The trumpet sounds with a wailing clangor. The women look from the lattices above. She sees the thieves, the crosses every thing,--and yet only one thing, Himself. As He draws nigh, the peace of her heart grows deeper. It could not help it; god was approaching, and peace went before Him. Never had maternal love sat on such a throne as that one in Mary's heart. The anguish was unutterable. God, who knows the number of the sands of the sea, knows it. Now Jesus had come up to her. He halts for a moment. He lifts the one hand that is free, and clears the blood from His eyes. Is it to see her? Rather, that she may see Him, His look of sadness, His look of love. She approaches to embrace Him. The soldiers thrust her rudely back. Oh, misery! and she is His Mother too! For a moment she reeled with the push, and then again was still, her eyes fixed on His, His eyes fixed on hers; such a link, such an embrace, such an outpouring of love, such an overflow of sorrow! Has has less strength than she? See! He staggers, is overweighed by the burden of the ponderous Cross, and falls with a dull dead sound upon the street, like the clank of falling wood. She sees it. The God of heaven and earth is down. Men surround Him, like butchers round a fallen beast; they kick Him, beat Him, swear horrible oaths at Him, drag Him up again with cruel ferocity. It is His third fall. She sees it. He is her Babe of Bethlehem. She is helpless. She cannot get near. Omnipotence held her heart fast. In a peace far beyond man's understanding, she followed slowly on Calvary, Magdalen and John beside themselves with grief, but feeling as if grace went out from her blue mantle enabling them also to live with broken hearts. The fourth dolor is accomplished; but alas! we only see the outside of things. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, pp. 207-208.)
The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.
When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost. (Jn. 19: 25-30)
Mel Gibson got the portrayal of Our Lady right as the actress who portrayed her stood by the foot of the Cross in The Passion of the Christ. As Anne Catherine Emmerich recounts in The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lady stood by the foot of her Divine Son's Cross with a dignified solemnity, containing the unspeakable grief her Immaculate Heart suffered as the sword of sorrow prophesied by Simeon pierced her heart through and through. Our Lady wept, but not uncontrollably (as portrayed in Jesus of Nazareth). She stood by her Son's Cross valorously, suffering physically as He suffered physically, suffering in the depth of her Immaculate Heart as He suffered in the depth of His Most Sacred Heart. Words are useless to describe this sorrow. Words are not only inadequate. They are completely and totally useless. Our puny little hearts, so stained by the vestigial after-effects of our sins, cannot even begin to grasp but the faintest traces of the grief Our Lady suffered as she saw the toll our sins took on her Divine Son's Sacred Humanity and as she herself shared in that suffering completely.
Words are useless. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the unbloody representation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, says all we ever need to have said about the dolor of Our Lady standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son underwent His fearful Crucifixion to win back for us on the tree of the Cross what was lost for us on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. Our Lady is present at each offering of Holy Mass. She is there not only with the few souls who accompanied her (Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Mary Magdalene. Mary of Cleophas) but with all of the souls of Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering. All of the choirs of angels are there. And we, whose sins put us on the wrong side of the Cross as Our Lady suffered so valiantly as our Co-Redemptrix. We have the privilege of consoling Our Lady at Holy Mass, which is why we should have such a love of the Mass that we will make any and all sacrifices imaginable, including (as mentioned before) moving if necessary to have access to the Immemorial Mass of Tradition on a daily basis.
Words are useless. Love the Mass. Keep Our Lady, the Queen of all of the Angels and Saints, company as a sacerdos, priest, enfleshes her Son under the appearances of bread and wine. The more frequently we assist at Holy Mass will be the more we grow in the depth of our understanding of the intense sorrow Our Lady experienced as our sins put her Son to death and the great love she us for us as our Mother.
From Father Frederick Faber's The Foot of the Cross:
Such was the fifth dolor, with its creative periods of sanctity and sorrow. She [Our Lady] had stood through it all, notwithstanding the agonizing yesterday, the sleepless night, the long morning crowded with its terrible phenomena. In the strength of her unfailing weariness she had stood through it all, and Scripture is careful to mark the posture, as if this miracle of endurance was of itself a reward for her dolor, that we cannot preach Christ Crucified unless Mary be in sight. It is something else we preach--not that--unless she be standing there. And now she stands on Calvary alone. It is three hours past noon of the most awful day the world shall ever see.
Something still remains to be said of the peculiarities of this dolor, notwithstanding that so much has been unavoidably anticipated in the narrative. Above all things, the Crucifixion has this peculiarity, that it was the original fountain of all the other dolors, except the third. That stands apart. It is Mary's own Crucifixion, her Gethsemane and her Calvary. But the two dolors which came out of the Infancy, and the four which represent the Passion, have the Crucifixion for their centre. The Three Days' loss does not belong to the Infancy, and the shadow of the Passion is no more thrown over it than it was over the whole life of Mary. It was the act of Jesus Himself, which seemingly had an especial relation to His Mother. The third dolor, which prefaces the Eighteen Years at Nazareth, was to her sorrows what the Eighteen Years were to her life generally, something between Jesus and herself, a mystery of a different sphere from those in which both He and she were concerned in the fulfillment of the world's redemption. But the sword in Simeon's prophecy was the Crucifixion. The Flight into Egypt was to hinder the cruelty of Herod from anticipating the moment of our Saviour's death. The Meeting with the Cross was the road to Calvary. The Taking down from the Cross and the Burial were sorrows which flowed naturally out of the Crucifixion, and were in unbroken unity with it. The Crucifixion was therefore the realization of her lifelong woe. The fountain was reached. She had tracked it up to Calvary. What remained was the waste water, or rather the water and blood, which flowed down from the mount, and sank in at the threshold of the Garden Tomb. Compared with the Crucifixion, the other dolors, the third always excepted, were almost reliefs and distinctions stirring in the fixed depths of her unfathomable woe. The Crucifixion was a sorrow by itself, without name or likeness. It was the centre of the system of her dolors, while the independence of her third dolor betokens the existence of that vast world which Mary is in her own self, a creation apart, brighter than this world of ours, and more dear to Jesus. It is a mysterious orb allowed to come in sight of this other system, where we are,--a disclosure of all that world of phenomena which is hidden from our eyes in the Eighteen Years, during which Jesus devoted Himself to her. It ranks with the Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation, and the Assumption, all which belong to Mary's world, and would have been even if sin had not been, though they would have been different from what they were. But that third dolor shows how the fallen world of sin and the necessity of a passible Incarnation told on her world, as it did on His, and passed upon the lineaments of the Maternity as well as upon those of the Incarnation. There are certainly few mysteries in the gospel which we understand less than the Three Days' Loss.
Another peculiarity of the Crucifixion is the length of time during which the tide of suffering remained at its highest point without any sign of ebbing. The mysteries, which filled the three hours, seem too diversified for us to regard them, at least till we come to the Dereliction, as rising from less to greater in any graduated scale. They are rather separate elevations, of unequal height, standing linked together like a mountain-chain. But the lowest of them was so immensely high that it produced most immeasurable agony in her soul. The anguish of death is momentary. The length of some of the most terrific operations which can rack the human frame seldom exceeds a quarter of an hour. Pain pushed beyond a certain limit, as in medieval torture, is instantaneous death. In human punishments which are not meant to kill, the hand of science keeps watch on the pulse of the sufferer. But to Mary the Crucifixion was three hours, three long hours, of mortal agony, comprising hundreds of types and shapes of torture, each one of them intolerable in itself, each pushed beyond the limits of human endurance unless supported by miracle, and each of them kept at that superhuman pitch for all that length of time. When pain comes we wish to lie down unless madness and delirium come with it, or we are fain to run about, to writhe, gesticulate, and groan. Mary stood upright on her feet the whole while, leaning on no one, and not so much as an audible sigh accompanied her silent tears. It is difficult to take this thought in. We can only take it in by prayer, not by hearing or reading.
It was also a peculiarity of the Crucifixion that it was a heroic trial of her incomparable faith. Pretty nearly the faith of the whole world was in her when she stood, with John and Magdalen, at the foot of the Cross. There was hardly a particle of her belief which was not tried to the uttermost in that amazing scene. Naturally speaking, our Lord's Divinity was never so obscured. Supernaturally speaking, it was never so manifest. Could it be possible that the Incarnate Word should be subject to the excesses of such unparalleled indignities? Was the light within Him never to gleam out once? Was the Wisdom of the Father to be with blasphemous ridicule muffled in a white sack, and pulled about in absurd, undignified helplessness by the buffooning guards of an incestuous king? Was there not a point, or rather were there not many points, in the Passion, when the limit of what was venerable and fitting was overstepped? even in the reserved narrative of the Gospels, how many things there are which the mind cannot dwell on without being shocked and repulsed, as well as astonished! Even at this distance of time do they not try our faith by their very horror, make our blood run cold by their murderous atrocity, and tempt our devotion to withdraw, sick and fastidious, from the affectionate contemplation of the very prodigies of disgraceful cruelty, by which our own secret sins and shames were with such public shame most lovingly expiated? Is not devotion to the Passion to this day the touchstone of feeble faith, of lukewarm love, and of all self-indulgent penance? And Mary, more delicate and fastidious far than we, drank all these things with her eyes, and understood the horror of them in her soul, as we can never understand it. Think what faith was hers. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, reprinted by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 259-262.)
The taking down of Our Lord's dead Body from the Holy Cross was a source of great sorrow for Our Lady. There are few things so moving as a mother grieving over the dead body of her child. Mothers expect to predecease their children. Our Lady had stored up the words of Simeon's prophecy. The sword of sorrow prophesied by Simeon pierced her heart completely as her Son's body was placed into her loving arms. She who had beheld her Son as a newborn infant beheld his lifeless corpse, grieving over the indifference of the men whose sins had put Him to death and grieving also over the fact that He had died for many souls who would refuse to cooperate with the graces He had just won for them by the shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood.
As Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ gave each one of us to be the children of his own Blessed Mother, we must comfort her in these times when her Son's Mystical Body, Holy Mother Church, is wounded by our own sins and by the widespread confusion and the propagation of error by a false church that is but a counterfeit ape of the Catholic Church.
Although Our Lord cannot suffer again physically, He suffers in the persons of the members of His Mystical Body. Our Lady weeps as each of us worsens the state of the Church Militant on earth by our lukewarmness and our refusal to spend as much time in prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, if this is at all possible, as we ought. She weeps as false popes claim to occupy the Throne of Saint Peter and as they and the false "bishops" who have been in communion with them pervert the Faith and do so much harm to so many souls.
Our Lady, who beheld the lifeless corpse of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, holds the Church and each of her members as she endures attacks from without and errors aplenty from quarters of the counterfeit church of conciliarism that claims to be the true Catholic Church, which can never give us error and sacrilege. We must resolve never again to be such a source of sorrow for Our Lady, surrendering unto her Immaculate Heart whatever merits we earn by enduring the crosses of ordinary living and the crosses of the reality of the Church Militant's horrific situation today as he consecrated slaves. We must trust in her. As she beheld her Son after death, she wants to behold each one of us if we persist in a state of sanctifying grace until the point of our dying breaths.
From Father Frederick Faber's The Foot of the Cross:
The love of God brings many new instincts into the heart. Heavenly and noble as they are, they bear no resemblance to what men would call the finer and more heroic developments of character. A spiritual discernment is necessary to their right appreciation. They are so unlike the growth of earth, that they must expect to meet on earth with only suspicion, misunderstanding, and dislike. It is not easy to defend them from a controversial point of view; for our controversy is obliged to begin by begging the question, or else it would be unable so much as to state its case. The axioms of the world pass current in the world, the axioms of the gospel do not. Hence the world has its own way. It talks us down. It tries us before tribunals where our condemnation is secured beforehand. It appeals to principles which are fundamental with most men but are heresies with us. Hence its audience takes part with it against us. We are foreigners, and must pay the penalty of being so. If we are misunderstood, we had no right to reckon on any thing else, being as we are, out of our own country. We are made to be laughed at. We shall be understood in heaven. Woe to those easy-going Christians whom the world can understand, and will tolerate because it sees they have a mind to compromise!
The love of souls is one of these instincts which the love of Jesus brings into our hearts. To the world it is proselytism, there mere wish to add to a faction, one of the selfish developments of party spirit. One while the stain of lax morality is affixed to it, another while the reproach of pharisaic strictness! For what the world seems to suspect least of all in religion is consistency. But the love of souls, however apostolic, is always subordinate to love of Jesus. We love souls because of Jesus, not Jesus because of souls. Thus there are times and places when we pass from the instinct of divine love to another, from the love of souls to the hatred of heresy. This last is particularly offensive to the world. So especially opposed is it to the spirit of the world, that, even in good, believing hearts, every remnant of worldliness rises in arms against this hatred of heresy, embittering the very gentlest of characters and spoiling many a glorious work of grace. Many a convert, in whose soul God would have done grand things, goes to his grave a spiritual failure, because he would not hate heresy. The heart which feels the slightest suspicion against the hatred of heresy is not yet converted. God is far from reigning over it yet with an undivided sovereignty. The paths of higher sanctity are absolutely barred against it. In the judgment of the world, and of worldly Christians, this hatred of heresy is exaggerated, bitter, contrary to moderation, indiscreet, unreasonable, aiming at too much, bigoted, intolerant, narrow, stupid, and immoral. What can we say to defend it? Nothing which they can understand. We had, therefore, better hold our peace. If we understand God, and He understands us, it is not so very hard to go through life suspected, misunderstood and unpopular. The mild self-opinionatedness of the gentle, undiscerning good will also take the world's view and condemn us; for there is a meek-loving positiveness about timid goodness which is far from God, and the instincts of whose charity is more toward those who are less for God, while its timidity is searing enough for harsh judgment. There are conversions where three-quarters of the heart stop outside the Church and only a quarter enters, and heresy can only be hated by an undivided heart. But if it is hard, it has to be borne. A man can hardly have the full use of his senses who is bent on proving to the world, God's enemy, that a thorough-going Catholic hatred of heresy is a right frame of man. We might as well force a blind man to judge a question of color. Divine love inspheres in us a different circle of life, motive, and principle, which is not only not that of the world, but in direct enmity with it. From a worldly point of view, the craters in the moon are more explicable things than we Christians with our supernatural instincts. From the hatred of heresy we get to another of these instincts, the horror of sacrilege. The distress caused by profane words seems to the world but an exaggerated sentimentality. The penitential spirit of reparation which pervades the whole Church is, on its view, either a superstition or an unreality. The perfect misery which an unhallowed touch of the Blessed Sacrament causes to the servants of God provokes either the world's anger or its derision. Men consider it either altogether absurd in itself, or at any rate out of all proportion; and, if otherwise they have proofs of our common sense, they are inclined to put down our unhappiness to sheer hypocrisy. The very fact that they do not believe as we believe removes us still further beyond the reach even of their charitable comprehension. If they do not believe in the very existence our sacred things, how they shall they judge the excesses of a soul to which these sacred things are far dearer than itself?
Now, it is important to bear all this in mind while we are considering the sixth dolor. Mary's heart was furnished, as never heart of saint was yet, yet with these three instincts regarding souls, heresy, and sacrilege. They were in her heart three grand abysses of grace, out of which arose perpetually new capabilities of suffering. Ordinarily speaking, the Passion tires us. It is a fatiguing devotion. It is necessarily so because of the strain of soul which it is every moment eliciting. So when our Lord dies a feeling of repose comes over us. For a moment we are tempted to think that our Lady's dolors ought to have ended there, and that the sixth dolor and the seventh are almost of our own creation, and that we tax our imagination in order to fill up the picture with the requisite dark shading of sorrow. But this is only one of the ways in which devotion to the dolors heightens and deepens our devotion to the Passion. It is not our imagination that we tax but our spiritual discernment. In these two last dolors we are led into greater refinements of woe, into the more abstruse delicacies of grief, because we have got to deal with a soul rendered even more wonderful than it was before by the elevations of the sorrows which have gone before. Thus, the piercing of our Lord with the spear as to our Blessed Lady by far the most awful sacrilege which it was then in man's power to perpetrate upon the earth. To break violently into the Holy of Holies in the temple, and pollute its dread sanctity with all manner of heathen defilement, would have been as nothing compared to the outrage of the adorable Body of God. It is in vain that we try to lift ourselves to a true appreciation of this horror in Mary's heart. Our love of God is wanting in keenness, our perceptions of divine things in fineness. We cannot do more than make approaches and they are terrible enough. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 291-295.)
The Burial of Jesus
And when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate, and asked the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded that the body should be delivered. And Joseph taking the body, wrapped it up in a clean linen cloth. And laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock. And he rolled a great stone to the door of the monument, and went his way. (Mt. 27: 57-60)
Joseph of Arimathea, a disciple of Jesus (but a secret one for fear of the Jews), besought Pontius Pilate to take away the Body of Jesus and to lay it in a new tomb he had hewn out of stone. Pilate gave permission. The life cycle of Our Lord was thus brought to a symmetrical conclusion prior to His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
That is, Our Lady gave birth to Our Lord in a cave on the first Christmas day. She watches as her Son's dead Body is laid in the cave out of which Joseph of Arimathea had hewn His tomb. Our Lady wrapped the Infant Jesus in swaddling clothes. She wraps her Son's dead Body in His burial shroud, whose miraculous existence continues to befuddle scientists and to inspire believers. Unlike His Nativity in Bethlehem, though, Our Lady must depart from her Son as the tomb is sealed. She has great Faith. She is still nevertheless a mother grieving over the death of her Son. Her Immaculate Heart, though full of grace and the fortitude provided by her faith, is pierced through for the last time prior to her Son's Resurrection. She then awaits His appearance to her on Easter Sunday as she keeps a vigil in prayer.
We must do no less than what Our Lady did during the forty hours between Our Lord's burial on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. We must keep a vigil in prayer. None of us knows when we will breathe our last. None of us knows when our mortal bodies will be placed in a grave. If we want those bodies to rise up incorrupt and glorious on the Last Day, we must do as Our Lady did during the forty hours. We must pray. We must fast. We must bury any and all hurts. We must forgive all of those who we believe, rightly or wrongly, have hurt us or misunderstood us or calumniated us. Just as Our Lady waited patiently during those forty hours, so must we wait patiently until the intentions of all hearts are revealed at the General Judgment of the Dead on the Last Day. It matters not who misunderstands us and speaks ill of us. All is revealed on the Last Day.
We must not grieve Our Lady by holding grudges or refusing to forgive those who we believe have offended us. We must forgive as her Divine Son forgave us, His executioners, on the wood of the Holy Cross, and as He forgives us through the lips and at the hands of an alter Christus acting in persona Christi in the hospital of Divine Mercy that is the Sacrament of Penance. Et dimmite nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimmitimus debitoribus nostris. We must bury the old man of disordered self-love and lust and hatred and envy and greed and anger and put on the new Man Who is the fruit of Our Lady's womb, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are called to die to self and to bury the past of our sins by cooperating with the sacraments administered to us by Holy Mother Church. We are called to grow in the supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity with every beat of our hearts, consecrated as they must be to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
From Father Frederick Faber's The Foot of the Cross:
Since there are so many resemblances between the seventh dolor and the third, it is not surprising that they should in some respect teach the same lessons. We learn form this last sorrow that there is no darkness like the darkness of a world without Jesus, such as Mary's world was on that fearful night. It is darker than the darkness of Calvary; for that is a darkness which cheers, refreshes, and inspires. Jesus is there. He is the very heart of that darkness. He is felt more plainly than if He were seen. He is heard more distinctly because all is so dark about Him, and other sounds are hushed by the gloom. It is like being in the cloud with God, as tried souls often are. It is truly a darkness, and brings with it the pain of darkness; yet there is hardly a loving soul on earth to whom such darkness would not be more welcome far than light. But the darkness of the absence of Jesus is, at it were, a participation in the most grievous pain of hell. If it is by our own fault, then it is the greatest of sorrows. If it is a trial from God, then it is the greatest of sufferings. In either case we must not let the light of the world tempt us out of the darkness. In such a gloom it is indeed dreadful to abide; but the consequences of leaving it by our self-will are more dreadful still. It is not safe there to think of creatures. We must think of God only. It is the sanctuary of "God Alone," the motto of saints and of the saintly. We must deal only with the supernatural and leave Him who brought us there, whether for chastisement or fervor, to take us out when it shall be His will. Meanwhile we should unite ourselves to the dispositions in which Mary endured her seventh dolor, and this will bring us into closer union with God.
One more lesson still she teaches. She did her work in the world, as it were, with all her heart; and yet her heart was not there, but in the tomb with Jesus. This is the grand work which sorrow does for all of us. It entombs us in the will of God. It buries our love, together with our sorrow, in the Blessed Sacrament. Sorrow is, as it were, the missionary of the Divine will. It is the prince of the apostles. The Church is built upon it. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Our Lord is with it always to the end. It is sorrow that digs the grave of self, and blesses it, and burns incense in it, and buries self therein, and fills it up, and makes the flowers grow upon the tomb. The great secret of holiness is never to have our hearts in our own breasts, but living and beating in the Heart of Jesus; and this can rarely be accomplished except through the operation of sanctified sorrow. Happy, therefore, is he who has a sorrow at all hours to sanctify!
We have now brought our Blessed Mother to the threshold of those mysterious fifteen years which followed her dolors and the Ascension of our Lord. She began with fifteen years without Him, and so in like manner she ended without Him. Only as in the first fifteen years the image of the Messias was engraven upon her heart, and the shadow of His coming lay over all her growths in holiness, so in the last fifteen years he dwelt bodily within her in the unconsumed Blessed Sacrament, from Communion to Communion, and was the living fountain of all those nameless and unimaginable growths in holiness which, during that time, went on within her soul. The destiny of the Mother of God was a destiny of unutterable sorrow, exhausting at once the possibilities of woe and the capabilities of the creature. This might be expected, since it was by sorrow, shame and the Passion that the Incarnate God came to save the world. The dolors of our Blessed Lady, therefore, are inseparable from her divine Maternity. They ate not accidents of her life, one way out of many ways in which God might have chosen to sanctify her. They were inevitable to her as Mother of God, of God who took flesh and to die. Thus, rightly considered, Mary's dolor are Mary's self. Her first fifteen years, commencing with the Immaculate Conception, were a preparation for her dolors. Her last fifteen years, commencing with the descent of the Holy Ghost, were the maturity of her dolors. During them her sea of sorrow settled till it became a clear, profound, translucent depth of unmingled love, whose last act of taking the tranquil plenitude of possession of its glorious victim was the dislodging of her soul from her body, by the most marvellous and beautiful death which creature could ever die. Such an edifice of sorrow as the Divine Motherhood was to bring along with it could not rest on foundations less broad and deep than the immeasurable graces of her last fifteen years. What, then, must have been the grandeur of the graces which came upon that edifice when it was completed, and were its domes and towers, and pinnacles? We have often wondered what could be done to Mary, in the way of sanctification, at the descent of the Holy Ghost? What was left to do? In what direction was she to grow? The mere fact of the delaying of the Assumption meant something; and what could it have meant but increase of holiness and multiplication of grace? It she was kept on earth to nurse the Infant Church, as she had nursed the Infant Saviour, to be herself a living Bethlehem, with the Blessed Sacrament forever in her, and her queenship of the apostles and external ministry of Bethlehem to the childhood of the Church, still, untold and incalculable augmentations of grace and merit are implied in the very office, as well as in the fact that it was God's Mother who fulfilled the office. It was her dolors which opened out in her soul fresh abysses for eager grace to fill. It was the dolors which rendered her capable of that other new creation of grace in the descent of the Holy Ghost. His graces are absolutely inexhaustible: her capacities of grace are practically inexhaustible, to our limited comprehension. Her martyrdom prepared her for those ineffable augmentations of grace and merit which were compressed into her last fifteen years. Thus her dolors are, at it were, the centre of her holiness. They reveal Mary to us as she was in herself more than any other of her mysteries. Indeed, they are hardly to be called mysteries; they are more than that: they are her life, her self, her maternity. They enable us to understand her holiness. They help us to see that what theologians say of the momentary accumulation of her merits is not to incredible as it often seems to those who have not loved and meditated their way into Mary's greatness. There is nothing about Mary which units in itself so Mary of Mary's part in the Incarnation, of her own peculiar personal holiness, and of her similitude to God, as the system of her dolors. They are at once the plainest and the completest as well as the most tender an pathetic revelation of the Mother of God. As her first fifteen years were secret, so were her last fifteen; but over the marvellous processes of grace, which fill them both lies the shadow of her dolors, the shadow of a coming time in the one case, the shadow of of a lofty mountainous past in the other. He who would learn Mary must enter into her broken heart to do so. It is the "dolorous Mother" who illuminates the Immaculate Conception on the one side and the fair pomp of the Assumption on the other.
Look once more at the great Mother, as she leaves the garden of the sepulchre. Eve going forth from Eden was not more sorrow-laden, and bore with her into the unpeopled earth a heart less broken and less desolate. That woe-worn woman is the strength of the Church, the queen of the apostles, the true mother of all that outspread the world, over which the blue mantle of darkness is falling fast and silently. Sleep on, tired world! sleep on, beneath the paschal moon and the stars that are brightening as it sets; they mother's heart watches and waits for thee! (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 363-367.)
A few final reflections from Father Faber on the Compassion of Our Lady will aid us considerably:
We have now to speak of our compassion with Mary as an imitation of her Compassion with Jesus, or, in other words, of our compassion with her as itself a worship of Jesus and a true compassion with Him. First of all, devotion to our Blessed Lady is most acceptable to our Lord Himself. We quoted in the first chapter His revelation to the Blessed Veronica of Binasaco, in which He told her that tears shed over His Mother's sorrows were more precious in His sight than tears shed in memory of His own. We may perhaps venture to explain this as teaching us, what appears to be certainly true in itself, that devotion to the seven dolors brings with it by a kind of necessity devotion to the Passion, whereas devotion to the Passion does not seem so necessarily to include devotion to the dolors. Devotion to the Passion, in which the right place and participation are not assigned to Mary, is not a scriptural devotion; and in many ways, it would be out of place to enter upon here, it betokens an imperfect and unworthy view of the Passion itself. Yet it is not uncommon to meet with this partial devotion, and it rather tends to keep devotion to the Dolors at arms'-length than to lead to it. It is based upon that untheological mistake, which some deceive themselves into thinking a theological nicety and a controversial felicity, namely, a sort of jealous, ignorant accuracy in keeping Jesus and Mary apart, and not letting one intrude on the sphere of the other, as if to speak as slightingly as they dare of the Mother of God would make truth more attractive in the eyes of a misbelieving world, to which the incredible abasement of Jesus in His Sacrament is already a far greater stumbling-block than the incredible exaltation of His Mother. On the other hand, we see that devotion to the dolors brings with it as its invariable practical result a deep, tender, accurate, minute and reverential devotion to the Passion. Again, we may venture to read in our Lord's words a loving intent to have reparation made to Mary for her Compassion, just a her Compassion was the grand reparation of His Passion. By inspiring saints and religious orders with this devotion, and sending forth His mighty grace and efficacious blessing to accompany it, He repays her for the beautiful reparation of her Compassion. But whatever other meanings there may be in this revelation to the Blessed Veronica, and although its force as a revelation was, as in all private revelations, intended for herself, it proves at least as much as this, that the devotion to our Lady's dolors is one of peculiar acceptableness in the eyes of our Blessed Saviour.
This devotion has also a remarkable connection with great interior holiness. This is proved by experience. Neither is it to be wondered at. For it is a devotion which naturally makes us unworldly, because we live and breathe in an atmosphere of sorrow. It brings out the unreality of worldly joys. It sobers our thoughts. It keeps them close to Jesus Christ, and to Him crucified. It communicates to our souls the spirit of the Cross, and the enviable gift of love of suffering full often begins in a prayerful familiarity with the sorrows of our Blessed Mother. More than most devotions it tends to supernaturalize the mind, because it keeps us in a sphere of heavenly beauty, whose look and odor gradually pass upon ourselves. It is a sphere in which the most wonderful divine operations mingle with the common woes and sorrows of a suffering world, and so it expresses that union of self-abasement and self-oblivion in which all the greater graces of the spiritual life take root. Moreover, the prevailing ideas to which it weds our minds are just those which are the most solid and essential in any preserving endeavors after holiness. For it unites us to an abiding sorrow for sin, sin over which Mary sorrowed, sin of our own which was actually present and influential in both those sorrows, wronging at once the Mother and the Son. It equally unites us to the perpetual sense of needing grace, of absolute dependence upon grace, and of that ready abundance of grace on which our filial confidence reposes. It is all stained with the Precious Blood; and thus it puts us into the very depths of our Saviour's Sacred Heart. There is no soul which worldliness finds it harder to attack than one which is entrenched within the dolors of our Blessed Lady. There is nothing which the world can graft itself upon in that devotion. There is nothing congenial to the spirit and way of the world in it, nothing even which the world can falsify for its own ends or fraudulently divert for its own purposes. Moreover, it was in the dolors that the grandeurs of Mary's sanctity were fabricated, and fabricated out of materials which in their degree are common to every one of us her sons and daughters. It is hard to live in the bosom of great examples and be uninfluenced by them. The lessons which the dolors teach us are wanted at almost every turn of life, and are most appropriate to be the very seasons when grace is wont to be most active in us; and they are imparted with such loving tenderness, with such pathetic simplicity, and in the midst of such countless similitudes between our sinless Mother and our sinful selves, that it is difficult to conceive of a school in which so much heavenly wisdom is taught so winningly as in the Compassion of Mary.
Furthermore, this devotion to the dolors of Mary is reckoned by theologians among the signs of predestination. Certainly a special attraction of grace is a sweet prophecy of our final perseverance; and it is by a special attention of grace that we addict ourselves to this devotion. Perhaps our Lord's revelation to St. John the Evangelist, cited in the first chapter, of the four graces which it was His blessed will to attach to this devotion, one of which concerned the gift of perfect contrition before death, may have led to its being included in the catalogue of signs of predestination. For sorrow for sin is well-nigh the queen of graces, enclosing as it does within itself the grace and more than the grace of sacraments. Contrition is nearest of kin to perseverance, and the promise of our Lady's assistance at the hour of death is not far removed from an assurance of our salvation. Cartagena says, "A man may put before himself, as the most assured sign of predestination, the fact that he has had compassion for this most afflicted Mother; for the ancients tell us that it was conceded to the Blessed Virgin by Christ the Lord, that whoever should revolve in his mind her maternal dolors might be sure of impetrating any favor which concerned the salvation of his soul, and especially the grace of true penance for his sins before death."
Thus also devotion to the dolors is one of the best preparations for death, not only because of the precise graces promised to it in the hour of death, but also because it concerns our Lady's ministry to our Lord at the hour of His blessed death. Hence there is a congruity between this devotion and death. And, after all, what should life be but a preparation for death? And what graces should more attract our humility than those which promise us their succor in that tremendous hour? Alas! it is not for such as we are to look forward to death with triumph, or even with impatience. We are not saints. Triumph therefore would be unseemly in us, and impatience is surely premature. It is enough for us, in our low attainments, to be content to die, and to fear bravely that which are are contented to endure. Fine words are easy, and love is very profuse of them, when we are not tempted, and when God is flooding us with that inward sweetness which gives us such a facility in prayer. But when we are tempted, we grow silent; and when to our temptation is added spiritual dryness, querulousness and peevishness are added to our silence. We are soon prostrated; and we learn thereby the good lesson of our own real inward misery and helplessness. But if dryness and temptation brings such changes, what will death bring? It will bring such an unutterable, speechless, terrified, agonizing necessity of grace as it is appalling to think of when we bend our thoughts seriously to it. What will a devotion be worth to us, then, which has two special deathbed promises attached to it! Gold and pearls could not reckon its price. But the devotion must have been a lifetime devotion in order legally to inherit the deathbed promises. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp, 394-398.)
How about starting a lifelong devotion to the Seven Dolors of Our Lady today, if we have not done so already?
We should pray the Chaplet of the Seven Dolors of Our Lady every day. The chaplet consists of announcing each of the Seven Dolors before praying one Pater Noster and seven Aves, saying at the end of the seventh Ave, " Pray for us, O most sorrowful Virgin. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ." Three final Aves are said in honor of the tears that Our Lady shed because of the suffering that our sins imposed upon her Divine Son in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death. The chaplet (chaplets can be purchased from Our Lady of the Rosary Library) concludes with the following prayer after those last three Aves:
Lord Jesus, we now implore, both for the present and for the hour of our death, the intercession of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Thy Mother, whose holy soul was pierced at the time of Thy Passion by a sword of grief. Grant us this favour, O Saviour of the world, Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost for ever and ever. Amen.
A meditation on the Seven Dolors of Our Lady produces abundant peace, yes even in the midst of personal difficulties and of all the problems that beset the Church and the world, which is in more of a state of confusion and barbarism because of the triumph of Modernism in the conciliar church. Here are the Seven Graces that Our Lady gives to those who meditate on her Seven Dolors:
1) I will grant peace to their families
2) They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.
3) I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.
4) I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.
5) I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.
6) I will visibly help them at the moment of their death, they will see the face of their Mother.
7. I have obtained (This Grace) from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors, will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness since all their sins will be forgiven and my Son and I will be their eternal consolation and joy. (Our Lady of the Rosary Library, Prospect, Kentucky)
As a terrible sinner who trembles when he considers that God is just, knowing that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, I place my trust in Our Lady that this propagation of a devotion to her Seven Dolors might count in some small measure to obtain the graces listed above, especially number seven. May we implore her help, especially through her Most Holy Rosary and by wearing her Brown Scapular and Miraculous Medal, at all times so that she will plead for us at the hour of our deaths, presenting us to the Blessed Trinity as one of the children for whom she did not suffer in vain. Let us be intent on reforming our lives so that we will never grieve Our Lady, who suffered so much as our Co-Redemptrix, again.
Our Lady, Mother or Sorrows, pray for us.
Prayers in Honor of the Seven Dolors of Our Lady, approved by Pope Pius VII in 1815:
O God, come to my assistance;
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
V. Glory be to the Father, etc.
R. As it was in the beginning, etc.
1. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in affliction of your tender heart at the prophecy of the holy and aged Simeon. O dearest Mother, by your heart so afflicted, implore for me the virtue of humility and the Gift of the holy Fear of God. Ave Maria
2. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the anguish of your most affectionate heart during the flight into Egypt and your sojourn there. O dearest Mother, by your anxious heart so troubled, obtain for me the virtue of generosity, especially toward the poor, and the Gift of Piety. Ave Maria.
3. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in those anxieties which tried your troubled heart at the loss of your beloved Child Jesus. O dearest Mother, by your exceedingly troubled heart implore for me the virtue of chastity and the Gift of Knowledge. Ave Maria.
4. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, on account of the horror with which your mother-heart was stricken when meeting Jesus bearing the Cross. O dearest Mother, by your exceedingly oppressed heart implore for me the virtue of patience and the Gift of Fortitude. Ave Maria.
5. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, on account of that martyrdom which tortured your generous heart at the death-agony of Jesus. O dearest Mother, through this thy martyred heart, implore for me the virtue of temperance and the Gift of Counsel. Ave Maria.
6. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, in the wounding of your tender heart, by the thrust of the lance that opened the side of Jesus and pierced His most adorable Heart. O dearest Mother, by this vicarious transfixion of thy own heart, implore for me the virtue of brotherly love and the Gift of Understanding. Ave Maria.
7. I grieve for you, O Mary most sorrowful, on account of that agony which racked your most loving heart at the burial of Jesus. O dearest Mother, through this extreme torment that filled thy burdened heart, obtain for me the virtue of zeal and the Gift of Wisdom. Ave Maria.
V. Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let Us Pray:
'Let intercession be made for us, we beseech You, O Lord Jesus Christ, now and at the hour of our death, before the throne of Your mercy, by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Mother, whose most holy soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the hour of Your bitter Passion. Through You, O Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost lives and reigns world without end. Amen.'
Vivat Christus Rex!
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Jude, pray for us.
Saint John the Beloved, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Passages from The Mystical City of God on The Flight into Egypt
609. In the course of these manifestations, on the fifth day of the novena after the presentation and purification, while the heavenly Lady was in the temple with the Infant on her arms, the Deity revealed Itself to Her, although not intuitively, and She was wholly raised and filled by the Spirit. It is true, that this had been done to Her before; but as God's power and treasures are infinite, He never gives so much as not to be able to give still more to the creatures. In this abstractive vision the Most High visited anew his only Spouse, wishing to prepare Her for the labors, that were awaiting Her. Speaking to Her, He comforted Her saying: "My Spouse and my Dove, thy wishes and intentions are pleasing in my eyes and I delight in them always. But Thou canst not finish the nine days' devotion, which Thou hast begun, for I have in store for Thee other exercises of Thy love. In order to save the life of thy Son and raise Him up, Thou must leave thy home and thy country; pass with Him and thy spouse Joseph into Egypt, where Thou art to remain until I shall ordain otherwise, for Herod is seeking the life of the Child. The journey is long, most laborious and most fatiguing. Do thou suffer it all for my sake, for I am, and always will be, with Thee."
610. Any other faith and virtue might have been disturbed (as the incredulous really have been) to see the powerful God fleeing from a miserable earthly being, and that He should do so in order to save his life, as if He, being both God and man, could be affected by the fear of death. But the most prudent and obedient Mother advanced no objection or doubt; She was not in the least disturbed or moved by this unlooked for order. Answering She said: "My Lord and Master, behold thy servant with a heart prepared to die for thy love if necessary. Dispose of me according to thy will. This only do I ask of thy immense goodness, that, overlooking my want of merit and gratitude, Thou permit not my Son and Lord to suffer, and that Thou turn all pains and labor upon me, who am obliged to suffer them." The Lord referred Her to St. Joseph, bidding Her to follow his directions in all things concerning the journey. Therewith She issued from her vision, which She had enjoyed without losing the use of her exterior senses and while holding in her arms the Infant Jesus. She had been raised up in this vision only as to the superior part of her soul; but from it flowed other gifts, which spiritualized her senses and testified to Her that her soul was living more in its love than in the earthly habitation of her body.
611. On account of the incomparable love, which the Queen bore toward her most holy Son, her maternal and compassionate heart was somewhat harrowed at the thought of the labors which She foresaw in the vision impending upon the infant God. Shedding many tears, She left the temple to go to her lodging-place, without manifesting to her spouse the cause of her sorrow. St. Joseph therefore thought that She grieved on account of the prophecy of Simeon. As the most faithful Joseph loved Her so much, and as he was of a kind and solicitous disposition, he was troubled to see his Spouse so tearful and afflicted, and that She should not manifest to him the cause of this new affliction, This disturbance of his soul was one of the reasons why the holy angels spoke to him in sleep, as I have related above when speaking of the pregnancy of the Queen (400). For in the same night, while St. Joseph was asleep, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, and spoke to him as recorded by St. Matthew (2:13): "Arise, take the Child and his Mother and flee into Egypt. There shalt thou remain until I shall return to give thee other advice, for Herod is seeking after the Child in order to take away its life." Immediately the holy spouse arose full of solicitude and sorrow, foreseeing also that of his most loving Spouse. Entering upon her retirement, he said: "My Lady, God wills that we should be afflicted, for his holy angel has announced to me the pleasure and the decree of the Almighty that we arise and flee with the Child into Egypt, because Herod is seeking to take away its life. Encourage thyself, my Lady, to bear the labors of this journey and tell me what I can do for thy comfort, since I hold my life and being at the service of thy Child and of Thee."
612. "My husband and my master," answered the Queen, "if we have received from the hands of the Most High such great blessings of grace, it is meet that we joyfully accept temporal afflictions (Job 2:10). We bear with us the Creator of heaven and earth; if He has placed us so near to Him, what arms shall be able to harm us, even if it be the arm of Herod (Ib. 17:3)? Wherever we carry with us all our Good, the highest treasure of heaven, our Lord, our guide and true light, there can be no desert; but He is our rest, our portion, and our country. All these goods we possess in having his company; let us proceed to fulfill his will." Then most holy Mary and Joseph approached the crib where the Infant Jesus lay, and where He, not by chance, slept at that time. The heavenly Mother uncovered Him without awakening Him, for He awaited those tender and sorrowful words of his Beloved: Fly away, O my beloved, and be like the roe and the young hart upon the mountains of aromatical spices. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field, let us abide in the villages (Cant. 8:14; 7:11). And the tender Mother added: "Sweetest Love, meekest Lamb, thy power is not limited by that of earthly kings; but Thou wishest, in thy exalted wisdom, to hide it for love of men. Who among mortals can think of taking away thy life, O my God? Is it not in thy power to annihilate all life? Since Thou givest life to all, why should men take away thine (Jn. 10:10)? Since Thou visited them in order to give them eternal life, why should they wish to give Thee death? But who shall comprehend the secrets of thy Providence (Rom. 11:34)? Allow me, then, O Lord and light of my soul, to awaken Thee, for when Thou sleepest thy heart is awake”(Cant. 5:2).
613. Some such sentiments were also expressed by St. Joseph. Then the heavenly Mother, falling upon her knees, awakened the sweetest Infant, and took Him in her arms, Jesus, in order to move Her to greater tenderness and in order to show Himself as true man, wept a little. O wonders of the Most High in things according to our judgments so small! Yet He was soon again quieted, and when the most holy Mother and St. Joseph asked his blessing He gave it them in visible manner. Gathering their poor clothing into the casket and loading it on the beast of burden which they had brought from Nazareth, they departed shortly after midnight, and hastened without delay on their journey to Egypt, as I will relate in the following chapter.
614. I will here add what I have been made to understand as to the concordance of the two Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke in regard to this event For, since all of them wrote under guidance and light of the Holy Ghost, each of them knew what the other three had written, and what they had omitted to say in their Gospels. Hence it happened that according to divine predisposition some of the happenings of the life of Christ and of the Gospel were described by all four of the Evangelists, while again some other things mentioned by one were omitted by the others. St. Matthew describes the adoration of the Kings and the flight into Egypt, while these events were not mentioned by St. Luke. He again describes the Circumcision, Presentation and Purification, which are omitted by St. Matthew. Thus St. Matthew, after referring to the departure of the Magi, immediately, without speaking of the Presentation, relates that the angel appeared to St.Joseph commanding him to flee into Egypt; but it does not follow therefrom that the Child had not been presented before that time in the temple, for it is certain that this was done after the departure of the Kings and before the flight into Egypt, as is narrated by St. Luke. Thus, likewise, although St. Luke, after describing the Presentation and Purification, immediately mentions that the holy Family lived in Nazareth, we must not conclude that they had not before that time lived in Egypt he writes nothing of this flight into Egypt either before or after, because it had already been recorded by St. Matthew. And this flight took place immediately after the Presentation before most holy Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth. As St. Luke had received no commission to write about this journey it was natural that, in continuing his history, he should mention the return to Nazareth immediately after the Presentation. To say that, having fulfilled what the law commanded, they returned to Galilee, was not to deny the flight into Egypt, but it was merely continuing the narrative without mentioning the flight from Herod. Even the very text of St. Luke intimates that the return to Nazareth happened after their sojourn in Egypt, for he says that the Child grew and increased in wisdom, and that grace was manifested in Him, which could not have been before He had passed the years of infancy. Hence it must have been after his return from Egypt, and at an age when the use of reason usually begins to show itself in children.
615. I was also given to understand how foolish it is in the infidels or incredulous to stumble against this cornerstone, Christ our Good, even in his infancy, and to take offense at seeing Him flee to Egypt in order to defend Himself against Herod, as if this were on account of his weakness and not a mystery, and as if it had happened for no higher purpose than to defend his life against the cruelty of a wicked man. For the well-disposed souls the words of the Evangelist are amply sufficient: since he says it happened in order that the prophecy of Osee might be fulfilled, who prophesies in the name of the eternal Father: And I called my Son out of Egypt (Osee 11:1; Mt. 2:15). The ends which He had in view in sending Him there and in calling Him thence are most exalted and mysterious: of these I will say something anon (641ff.). If not all of the doings of the incarnate Word are equally admirable and sacramental, yet no one with sane judgment can dispute or ignore the sweet providence of God in directing the secondary causes, while allowing full liberty to the human will (Ecclus. 15:14). For this reason, and not for want of power, He permits so many idolatries, heresies and other sins, which are not any smaller than that of Herod, for this reason He permitted the crime of Judas and all those which followed in the sufferings and crucifixion of Christ. Certainly He could have prevented all these sins and yet would not, not only because He wished to work our Redemption, but also in order that He might secure to man freedom of his will in all his actions. He was ready to give to men the helps and graces according to his divine Providence, whereby they could accomplish the good, if they would only use their free will to attain it in the same degree as they were using it to follow evil.
616. In this sweetness of his Providence He gives sinners time, hoping for their conversions, as in the case of Herod. If He would use his absolute power and perform great miracles for preventing the course of secondary causes, the order of nature would be confounded, and to a certain extent He would contradict Himself in his double role as Author of grace and as Author of nature. Therefore miracles must happen but rarely, and on special occasions for particular reasons, or when some end is to be served. Hence God reserves them for the manifestations of his power at certain times. He makes Himself known as the Author of his works by bringing them into existence and preserving them independently of creatures. Neither must we wonder that He should consent to the death of the innocent children which Herod murdered, for it would not have been to their benefit to save them through a miracle, since by their death they were to gain eternal life together with an abundant reward which vastly recompensed them for the loss of their temporal life. If they had been allowed to escape the sword and die a natural death not all would eventually have been saved. The works of the Lord are just and holy in all particulars, although we do not always see the reasons why they are so, but we shall come to know them in the Lord when we shall see Him face to face.
INSTRUCTION WHICH THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN, MOST HOLY MARY, GAVE ME.
617. My daughter, what thou must especially learn from this chapter is, that thou accustom thyself to humble thanksgiving for the benefits which thou receivest, since thou, among many generations, art so specially signalized by the riches of grace with which my Son and I visit thee without any merit of thine. I was wont to repeat many times this verse of David (Ps. 115:12): What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me? In such sentiments I humiliated myself to the dust, esteeming myself altogether useless among creatures. Therefore, if thou knowest what I did as Mother of God, consider what then is thy obligation, since thou must with so much truth confess thyself unworthy and undeserving of all thou receivest, and so poorly furnished for giving thanks and for making payment. Thou must supply thy insufficiency and thy misery by offering up to the eternal Father the living host of his onlybegotten Son, especially when thou receivest Him in the holy Sacrament and possessest Him within thee, for in this thou shouldst also imitate David, who, after asking the Lord what return he should make for all his benefits, answers (Ib. 13): I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. Thou must accept the salvation offered to thee and bring forth its fruits by the perfection of thy works, calling upon the name of the Lord, offering up his Onlybegotten. For He it is who gave the virtue of salvation, who merited it, who alone can be an adequate return for the blessings conferred upon the human race and upon thee especially. I have given Him human form in order that He might converse with men (Bar. 3:38) and become the property of each one. He conceals Himself under the appearances of bread and wine (Jn. 6:57) in order to accommodate Himself to the needs of each one, and that each one might consider Him as his personal property fit to offer to the eternal Father. In this way He furnishes to each one an oblation which no one could otherwise offer, and the Most High rests satisfied with it, since there is nothing more acceptable nor anything more precious in the possession of creatures.
618. In addition to this offering is the resignation with which souls embrace and bear with equanimity and patience the labors and difficulties of mortal life. My most holy Son and I were eminent Masters in the practice of this doctrine. My Son began to teach it from the moment in which He was conceived in my womb. For already then He began to suffer, and as soon as He was born into the world He and I were banished by Herod into a desert, and his sufferings continued until He died on the Cross. I also labored to the end of my life, as thou wilt be informed more and more in the writing of this history. Since therefore We suffered so much for creatures and for their salvation, I desire thee to imitate Us in this conformity to the divine will as being his spouse and my daughter. Suffer with a magnanimous heart, and labor to increase the possessions of thy Lord and Master, namely, souls, which are so precious in his sight and which He has purchased with his life-blood. Never shouldst thou fly from labors, difficulties, bitterness and sorrows, if by any of them thou canst gain a soul for the Lord, or if thou canst thereby induce it to leave the path of sin and enter the path of life. Let not the thought that thou art so useless and poor, or that thy desires and labor avail but little, discourage thee; since thou canst not know how the Lord will accept of them and in how far He shall consider Himself served thereby. At least thou shouldst wish to labor assiduously and eat no unearned bread in his house (Prov. 31:27). (Venerable Mary of Agreda, The Mystical City of God, The Incarnation, Book Four, Chapter XXI. See Mr. Timothy Duff’s new English translation of this text: Chapter XXI.)