“Mondays with Mary” – Holy Week with the Mater Dolorosa

Yesterday, beginning with Palm Sunday, the Catholic Church entered Holy Week also known as the Great Week. In my personal opinion, these are the best days in the entire liturgical cycle because we celebrate the High Holy Days of Catholicism.

Holy Week begins with the great imagery of palms and olive branches, which were symbolic for victory and triumphant in the ancient world. We also witness Jesus riding a colt into Jerusalem, just as Solomon rode David’s mule into Jerusalem centuries before declaring him as king. We now see the New Davidic King, Jesus Christ, enter to the words – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our Father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk 11:9-10; cf. Ps 118:26).

As we begin this week of suffering with Our Lord, I want you to remember the one person who was there with him, most united with him, and always prepared to lead us closer to him, yes, even into his suffering – the person is of course the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the Mater Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Mother, Mary leads us into a more complete union with Jesus, not only during the joyful and blessed times of our lives, but also during the times of suffering and pain. During this week, as we walk with Our Lord to Calvary, we must keep in mind that we also walk with Our Mother.

Mary’s role is so important during the week of Holy Week that in the Roman Missal and Calendar prior to 1970, the Church commemorated the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday. Today, this commemoration is still celebrated in Catholic parishes where the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite is celebrated as well as in the Anglican Ordinariate parishes. This special day is a day where we remember what the Mother of God witnessed and underwent as she watched her Son brutally tortured and executed.

To better prepare for this Holy Week with the Mater Dolorosa, I encourage you to read and pray with the Seven Sorrows (Dolors) of Mary. Often prayed as part of the Mater Dolorosa Rosary, these seven sorrows will lead us into the suffering Our Lady endured not only during Holy Week, but also in the childhood of Jesus.

The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady are the following:

1. The Prophecy of Holy Simeon

2. The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple

4. The Encounter of Jesus with His Blessed Mother as He Carries the Cross

5. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross

6. The Descent from the Cross, and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother

7. The Burial of Our Lord, and the Loneliness of the Blessed Virgin

Mater Dolorosa…Pray for Us. 

A Whole Lot of Writings on Our Lady of Sorrows

Today in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, we celebrate the Marian memorial known as Our Lady of Sorrows. This traditional devotion, which helps us understand Mary’s role in the suffering of Our Lord Jesus Christ, began in 1814 by Pope Pius VII. Many of the Church Fathers and other saints wrote on how Mary is united with Christ in his suffering and how we are to suffer with Christ as well. In this Apostolic Letter, Salvific Doloris, Pope St. John Paul II said,

“Suffering is also an invitation to manifest the moral greatness of man, his spiritual maturity. Proof of this has been given, down through the generations, by the martyrs and confessors of Christ, faithful to the words: “And do not fear those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”

If you don’t know or haven’t realized it yet, suffering is very much a part of the Christian lifestyle, and although following Christ brings us happiness and joy, suffering is something that we all must learn to embrace. We are reminded of this every time we walk into a Catholic Church and see the crucifix in the sanctuary. As she is in all things that pertain to the Christian faith, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect example for us when it comes to suffering. Although she was free of all sin because of her Immaculate Conception, she still had to endure great pains and great suffering as she watched Her Son and Our Lord suffer to and on the cross.

Our Lady of Sorrows by Carlo Dolci

Our Lady of Sorrows by Carlo Dolci

So for today’s blog post on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, here are the many blog posts I have written in the past that speak about the Blessed Mother as the Mother of Sorrows –

1. “Mondays with Mary” – 7 Quotes by Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady of Sorrows

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Sorrows 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – Marian Reflections from St. Alphonsus Ligouri

4. “Mondays with Mary” – The Burial of Our Lord, and the Loneliness of the Blessed Virgin

5. “Mondays with Mary” – The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross

6. “Mondays with Mary” – The Suffering of Mother Mary

7. “Mondays with Mary” – Jesus, Mary, and the Cross

8. “Mondays with Mary” – Mary Under the Cross

9. “Mondays with Mary” – The Method of Praying the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa

10. “Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II on the Suffering of Mary 

11. “Mondays with Mary” – The Prophecy of Holy Simeon

12. “Mondays with Mary” – Litany of the Mater Dolorosa

Our Lady of Sorrows…Pray for Us. 

 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Burial of Our Lord, and the Loneliness of the Blessed Virgin

Today, we conclude the seven-week examination of The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. For the past six weeks, I have focused on explaining these sorrows, which are meditated upon in the Mater Dolorosa Rosary. For today’s “Mondays with Mary”, we are going to focus our attention on the last sorrow – The Burial of Our Lord, and the Loneliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Burial of Our Lord or Jesus is laid in the Sepulcher is traditionally prayed as the Fourteenth Station of the Cross.

The Burial of Jesus Christ is written in all four Gospel accounts with each evangelist explaining his own account of what occurred. The one thing that stands out in all four accounts is the mention of Joseph of Arimathea. I spoke about Joseph of Arimathea in last week’s post, but essentially he was a righteous and virtuous man who was for the most part a silent follower of Jesus since he was a member of the Sanhedrin, a group that disliked Jesus and his teachings. However, at the death of Jesus, Joseph, along with Nicodemus (Jn 3:1-21,19:39) finds the courage to boldly ask for the body of Jesus to have him buried.

After confirming that Jesus died (Mk 15:44-45), Pilate then proceeded to give the body to Joseph. Our Lord Jesus Christ was buried in a tomb that is believed to have been a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, and a tomb that no one again was laid. St. Augustine says in In Ioannis Evangelium, “just as in the womb of the Virgin Mary none was conceived before him, none after him, so in this tomb none before him, none was buried after him.”

The Entombment of Christ - Caravaggio

The Entombment of Christ – Caravaggio

It’s believed that wealthy Jews had graves on their own properties meant for them and their families. Tombs in the early centuries were carved out of rock. The average tomb composed of a small vestibule in the front half of the tomb and the inner part of the tomb, or the vault, had a variety of etches carved in the walls where the bodies were laid.

In the case of Jesus Christ, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke speak about how the women were witnesses to the burial. As she was with him as he walked to Calvary, and as she stood at the Cross and watched him die, more than likely the Blessed Virgin Mary was a member of the group of women that watched Jesus be laid to rest in the tomb.

Although the Sacred Scriptures don’t speak of Mary’s loneliness after the burial of Jesus, the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in some countries that speak Spanish is known as Nuestra Senora de la Soledad or Our Lady of Solitude. The devotion to Our Lady under this title was developed as she lay in wait beginning on Good Friday, continuing to Holy Saturday till the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday.

Our Lady of Solitude - Philippines

Since Our Lady of Solitude is in mourning for the death of her Son, art often depicts Mary as wearing the traditional color of mourning, which is black. She is also kneeling before the tools of death that killed Jesus – the scourge, nails, hammer, rope, crown of thorns, spear, and the INRI sign placed above the head on the cross. There are angels that flank Mary separating the curtains to show Our Lady as the Sorrowful Mother.

Let us pray that we never look upon the Fourteenth Station of the Way of the Cross without remembering the sorrow and loneliness that the Blessed Virgin Mary endured for Jesus. Let us pray that when we pray the Stations of the Cross we too may come to know the loneliness of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Passion and Death through the witness of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross

Continuing with our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are meditated in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa, today we discuss The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross.

The place where our Lord was crucified is known as Calvary or “the place of the skull” (Aramaic – Golgotha). It was on the outskirts of Jerusalem and was a disused rock query shaped like a skull. It was the primary location for criminal executions performed by the Romans as well as the sanitation dump for the city at the time.

The crucifixion is the total summary of the life and death of Jesus Christ –

The seamless tunic that Our Lord worn and was stripped of him before he willingly lay upon the cross represents the unity of the Church. It’s the same unity that Jesus asked for in John 17:20-26. The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Apostle, the gushing of blood and water from the side of Jesus reconnects us with the Wedding Feast at Cana. The blood and water represent the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. It is through these two sacraments that individuals become members of the Church.

When Jesus thirsts on the cross it harkens us back to John 4 – The Samaritan Woman at the Well. It is here that we see Jesus isn’t only interesting in saving the Jews, but he is looking to save all souls. Those very last words of Jesus (vs. 30) on the cross display for us that he is truly dying. He will eventually send the Holy Spirit to the Church, a promise he made numerous times in the scriptures.

Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Lastly, we see that before his death Jesus gives the Blessed Mother to St. John. The famous words of Jesus while suffering on the Cross-to Mary and John establish for all of humanity the relationship that we would have with Her for all time. At the point when Jesus says, “Woman, behold your son…Behold, your mother”, symbolically through the disciple John, Mary becomes the Spiritual Mother for all humanity. She is the spiritual gift personally given by Jesus Christ himself to every human person – believer or non-believer. The “beloved disciple” from that moment on takes Mary into his home and treats her as his own mother.

We too must invite Mary into our “homes” and allow her to be our mother. The devotion the Catholic Church has to the Blessed Virgin Mary developed from the households of Saint John.

The display or “title” over the head of Jesus proclaims that he is the Universal King and Christ. Written in multiple languages (Latin, Hebrew, and Greek), it signifies that the universal world that made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem could read it. It affirms that words of Jesus to Pontius Pilate from John 18:37 – “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.”

Although Mary does not endure a physical suffering in the way our Lord does, she does suffer spiritually with him as he makes his way to the Cross. She is the Sorrowful Mother walking and standing with her Son. Pope St. John Paul II says in Salvifici Doloris,

“…It was on Calvary that Mary’s suffering, beside the suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view but which mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the Redemption of the world. Her ascent of Calvary and her standing at the foot of the cross together with the beloved disciple were a special sort of sharing in the redeeming of her Son. And the words which she heard from His lips were a kind of solemn handing-over of this Gospel of suffering so that it could be proclaimed to the whole community of believers.”

For more on the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross, please read the following blog posts –

Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

“Mondays with Mary” – Six Words of Pope John Paul II on Mary at the Cross

“Mondays with Mary” – 7 Quotes by Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady of Sorrows

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Leads Us To Jesus’ (Pope Benedict XVI Homily at Altötting)

Sources:

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Ignatius Press, 2010.

The Navarre Bible – The New Testament Expanded Edition. Four Courts/Scepter, 2008.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Encounter of Jesus with His Blessed Mother as He Carries the Cross

Continuing with our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are meditated in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa, today we discuss The Encounter of Jesus with His Blessed Mother as He Carries the Cross.

Even though this is not specifically revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures, however, through the Tradition of the Church and private revelations, we have an understanding that this event did occur on the way to Calvary. In the devotional known as the Stations of the Cross, this is the fourth station – Jesus Meets His Blessed Mother. The Stations of the Cross are the fourteen stations that Catholics can pray throughout the year, especially during the Season of Lent, which focuses on Christ’s Way of the Cross. Although prayers for each station differ from different Stations of the Cross devotionals as a collective whole, the prayer that I have for the fourth station is the following –

How painful was Thine encounter with Thy Blessed Mother in this way of bitter sorrow! Thy gaze was like another sword that pierced Mary’s heart. My Lord, grant me the grace to obtain true devotion to the Mater Dolorosa!

Although we can never completely replicate the terrible images that Mary witnessed as she watched her Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ be led to die, we do have a faint understanding. Our Lord was Jesus Christ was beaten to a pulp – blood pouring forth from all parts of his body, a crown of thorns hammered into his skull, his back and chest shredded from the flogging at the pillar, and on top of this, he was forced to carry a cross that would push him to the brink of death, even before he arrived at Calvary.

Jesus Carrying His Cross - Raphael, 1516.

Jesus Carrying His Cross – Raphael, 1516.

All the events leading up to the Death of Jesus on the Cross bring great sorrow to the Blessed Mother, but it was this encounter that made Mary’s heart suffer the most. In the private revelations made to St. Bridget of Sweden from Mary herself, she said that she knew where Christ had carried the cross since “by the footsteps of my Son, I knew where he had passed, for along the ground was marked with blood.”

In his Meditations on the Stations of the Cross from Good Friday 2003, Pope St. John Paul II said,

“The Mother. Mary meets her Son along the way of the Cross. His Cross becomes her Cross, his humiliation is her humiliation, the public scorn is on her shoulders. This is the way things are. So it must seem to the people around her, and this is how her own heart reacts: “And a sword will pierce through your soul also” (Lk 2:35). The words spoken when Jesus was forty days old are now fulfilled. They are now completely fulfilled. And so, pierced by that invisible sword, Mary sets out towards her Son’s Calvary, her own Calvary. Christian devotion represents her with this sword penetrating her heart, in paintings and sculpture. Mother of sorrows!”

To conclude, if you like, watch the video clip below from Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. It is in this film that we see visually what theologians and saints have explained to us in the encounter between Jesus and Mary on His way to Golgotha. This scene was also taken from book – The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, visions made known to Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th century German mystic and nun. Along with the Sacred Scriptures, it was with this text that Mel Gibson developed his 2004 Drama on the Passion, Death, and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Sources:

Our Catholic Prayers Website – http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/the-fourth-sorrow.html Excessed site on August 9, 2015.

Prayers. Miles Christi Religious Order. 2013.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple

Continuing with our examination of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, which are meditated in the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa, today we discuss the Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple. If you haven’t read my previous posts on the first two sorrows, I would encourage you to read both of them – The Prophecy of Holy Simeon and The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt.

In the Gospel of Luke, we read,

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple begins not in the Temple where it’s revealed to us in the Sacred Scriptures, but days before, since it was custom that the men of Israel were obligated through the Law to make a pilgrimage to Israel for three feasts each year. This was the feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover. Although women and children were not indebted to attend these feasts, devout families would often travel together up to Jerusalem. Now knowing this, we can see how easily it was that Jesus had gone missing.

The Finding of the Savior in the Temple - William Holman Hunt

The Finding of the Savior in the Temple – William Holman Hunt

During these pilgrimages, the city of Jerusalem would surge, and nearly double in size with the many people arriving and staying. To get from their home to Jerusalem and back again, individuals would travel in caravans and in two groups, one group of men and one group of women. Children would go with one of the two groups. When a stop was made, this was the time for families to gather together again. It was at this point when returning to Nazareth that Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with them. They searched for him among the other family members, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking the Child. You could imagine the anxiety and sorrow they must have felt as they rushed back to find Jesus.

St. Luke doesn’t explain to us this journey back to Jerusalem, but focuses on the dialogue between Jesus and his Mother. As they return to the Holy City, they find Jesus in the Temple “listening to [the teachers] and asking them questions (vs. 46), and everyone that heard him were “amazed at his understanding” (vs. 47). We come to realize that Jesus isn’t just your ordinary Jewish child, or even a very clever boy, but he is the Son of God.

The response that Jesus gives to his mother is neither remote nor rebuking, but shows that the Semitic mind is a mind that “relishes contrasts and antithesis.” Jesus’ response is not stating that they as his parents did something incorrectly, but that the will of God is more important than their role as parents. They must learn to be subservient to the divine economy of God. His parents do have an important part to play since they will raise him. He will grow under their care and be obedient to them.

Allegorically, in his document, In Lucam, St. Ambrose says that, “the discovery of Jesus in the Temple prefigures his Resurrection, when Christ will be three days absent in flesh, only to be found again in the flesh. The anxiety following his burial will likewise give way to joy and relief at his rising.”

Furthermore the great saint of Milan states Jesus “does not reproach them for having searched for their son; his words are intended to make them raise the eyes of their souls to see what is due to the One whose Eternal Son he is.”

So as I conclude, for this week as we continue to focus on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, let us have the intention to seek out the Lord Jesus Christ this week and embrace him wholeheartedly. May we never lose sight of His abundant love and mercy for us. Let us know that Christ leads us to the Father just as Mary leads us to Him.

Sources:

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Ignatius Press, 2010.

The Navarre Bible – The New Testament Expanded Edition. Four Courts/Scepter, 2008.

“Mondays with Mary” – The Prophecy of Holy Simeon

Over the past few weeks, I have focused our attention on the Rosary and Litany of the Mater Dolorosa, prayers I learned after attending a Miles Christi Silent Retreat. In case you have not read the previous posts, the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa meditates on the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.

In order to help you say the Mater Dolorosa Rosary with more fervor and prayer, I am going to explain teachings of the Seven Sorrows for the next seven weeks. I will also draw your attention to other blog posts that I have written that underline each sorrow and its theme. For this first week, we shall examine the Prophecy of Holy Simeon.

In the Gospel of St. Luke, we read,

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (vv. 25-35).

Yegorov-Simeon_the_Righteous

Simeon (along with Anna) is an elderly individual who stands in faithful anticipation for the coming of Israel’s Savior and Redeemer. They both give praise to God for allowing them to live long enough to see the hope they have waited for in the infant Jesus. In the above scriptural passage, we are introduced to Simeon, a man led by the Holy Spirit. Since it was revealed that he would see the Messiah before his death, anything that he professes is very significant. He says that Jesus is the Messiah Israel has been waiting for; he also states that He is mankind’s “light” and “salvation.” Along with these words of great hope, Simeon’s prophecy also states that Jesus’ birth will bring with it the rise and fall of many in Israel and his sign of salvation will be a sign that contradicts. It is at this point in the life of Christ that we see both sorrow and joy.

Not only would there be sorrow in the life of Christ, but Mary, the Mother of Jesus would endure great amounts of sorrow as well – “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Let’s clarify something – an actual physical sword never pierces Mary’s soul, but because of the great pains she would endure watching our Lord suffer in his sacrifice at Calvary, spiritually she suffers with Him. In her vocation as Mother, Mary must embrace a maternal suffering. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering” (#618).

The Catechism further states, “the sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had ‘prepared in the presences of all peoples’” (#529).

Furthermore, in his document, Redemptoris Mater, Pope St. John Paul II says, “Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful” (#16).

Through the Prophecy of Holy Simeon, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph learn that not only will their child bring glory to His people, but that he will also bring salvation to all of humanity.

This event in the scriptures is the seed that would blossom into what would eventually become the Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

As we conclude today’s post, let us ask the Lord Jesus Christ to allow us to always be ready to receive him in our hearts, allow us to share in his sacrifice, and allow us to bring Him to others as messengers through the intercession of the Holy Spirit.

Sources:

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Ignatius Press, 2010.

The Navarre Bible – The New Testament Expanded Edition. Four Courts/Scepter, 2008.