O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow! (Lamentations 1:12) Is this, then, the first cry of that 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 Savior 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.(Isaiah 53:3) o whom shall I compare thee? sings the prophet of lamentations: O Virgin … great as the sea is thy destruction. (Lamentations 2:13) On the mountain of the Sacrifice, as mother she gave her Son, as Bride she offered herself together with him; by her sufferings both as Bride 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 now 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 a Mother, Mary still contributes her compassion; 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, in different seasons, under one title.
On perusing the register of the apostolic decrees concerning sacred rites, the reader is astonished to find a long and unusual interruption lasting from March 20th 1809 to September 17th 1814, at which latter date is entered the decree instituting on this present Sunday a second Commemoration of Our Lady’s Dolours. (Gardellini, Decreta auuthentica Congr. Sacr. Rit.)
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 2nd Class, with a Vigil and an Octave. It is from them that the Church has borrowed the Office and Mass. This honor and privilege was due to the Order established by Our Lady to honor 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, now the treasure of the whole world.
The prophecy of the aged Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the divine Child in Jerusalem, 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 of the Book of Tobias, which the Church reads during this week in the Office of the Time: Thou shalt honor thy mother: for thou must be mindful what and how great perils she suffered in giving thee birth. (Tobias 4:3, 14)
The daily Sacrifice, though surrounded with all the pomps of the Liturgy, is substantially the same as that of Calvary. But the only assistants at the foot of the Cross were, as our Introit points out, one single man, and a few women weeping around the Mother of sorrows. The Gospel will repeat this Introit, and even its verse which, contrary to custom, is not taken from the Psalms.
There stood by the Cross of Jesus his Mother, and his Mother’s sister Mary of Cleophas, and Salome, and Mary Magdalene.
℣. Woman, behold thy son, said Jesus; to the disciple however, Behold thy mother. Glory be. There stood.
The honoring of our Lady’s Dolours does not distract our thoughts from the one Victim of salvation. On the contrary, its immediate result, as the Collect shows, is to cause the Passion of our Savior to bear fruit in our souls.
O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of sorrow pierced the most sweet soul of the glorious Mary, Mother and Virgin: grant in thy mercy, that we who call to mind her sorrows with veneration, may obtain the happy effect of thy Passion. Who livest, etc.
Then is added the Collect of the occurring Sunday.
Lesson from the Book of Judith 13:22-25
The Lord hath blessed thee by his power, because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought. Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth, who hath directed thee to the cutting off the head of the prince of our enemies. Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever, for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God.
Oh, the greatness of our Judith among all creatures! “God,” says the pious and profound Father Faber, “vouchsafed to select the very things about him which are most incommunicable, and in a most mysteriously real way communicate them to her. See how he had already mixed her up with the eternal designs of creation, making her almost a partial cause and partial model of it. Our Lady’s cooperation in the redemption of the world gives us a fresh view of her magnificence. Neither the Immaculate Conception nor the Assumption will give us a higher idea of Mary’s exaltation than the title of co-redemptress. Her dolours were not necessary for the resurrection of the world, but in the counsel of God they were inseparable from it. They belong to the integrity of the divine plan. Are not Mary’s mysteries Jesus’ mysteries, and his mysteries hers? The truth appears to be that all the mysteries of Jesus and Mary were in God’s designs as one mystery. Jesus himself was Mary’s sorrow, seven times repeated, aggravated seven-fold. During the hours of the Passion, the offering of Jesus and the offering of Mary were tied in one. They kept pace together; they were made of the same materials; they were perfumed with kindred fragrance; they were lighted with the same fire; they were offered with kindred dispositions. The two things were one simultaneous oblation, interwoven each moment through the thickly crowded mysteries of that dread time unto the Eternal, out of two sinless Hearts, that were the Hearts of Son and Mother, for the sins of a guilty world which fell on them contrary to their merits, but according to their own free will.” (Faber, The Foot of the Cross 9:1-2)
Let us mingle our tears with Mary’s, in union with the sufferings of the great Victim. In proportion as we do this during life we shall rejoice in heaven with the Son and the Mother; if our Lady is now, as we sing in the Alleluia-Verse, Queen of heaven and mistress of the world, is there one among all the elect who can recall sufferings comparable to hers?
After the Gradual follows the Stabat Mater, the touching Complaint attributed to the Franciscan, Blessed Jacopone de Todi.
Thou art sorrowful and worthy of tears, O Virgin Mary, standing near the Cross of the Lord Jesus, thy Son, our Redeemer.
℣. O Virgin Mother of God, he whom the whole world doth not contain, beareth this punishment of the Cross, he the author of life being made man.
℣. Holy Mary, the Queen of heaven, and mistress of the world, stood by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, full of sadness.
At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.
Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
she beheld her tender Child
All with scourges rent:
For the sins of His own nation,
saw Him hang in desolation,
O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.
Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified:
Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live:
By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgin of all virgins blest!,
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine;
Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with His every wound,
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away;
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die,
in His awful Judgment Day.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
by Thy Mother my defense,
by Thy Cross my victory;
While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. John 19:25-27
At that time, 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.
Woman, behold thy son.—My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Such are the words of Jesus on the Cross in our Gospel. Has he, then, no longer a Father in heaven, a Mother on earth? Oh! mystery of justice, and still more of love! God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son for it, so far as to lay upon him, instead of upon sinful men, the curse our sins deserved, and our Lady too, in her sublime union with the Father, did not spare, but offered in like manner for us all, this same Son of her virginity. If on this head we belong to the Eternal Father, we belong henceforth to Mary also; each has bought us at a great price: the exchange of any only Son for sons of adoption.
It is at the foot of the Cross that our Lady truly became the Queen of mercy. At the foot of the Altar, where the renewal of the great Sacrifice is preparing, let us commend ourselves to her omnipotent influence over the Heart of her divine Son.
Be mindful, O Virgin Mother of God, when thou standest in the sight of the Lord, to speak good things for us, that he may turn away his anger from us.
How many holy souls, in the course of ages, have come to keep faithful company with the Mother of sorrows! Their intercession united with Mary’s is a strength to the Church; and we hope to obtain thereby the effect of the merits of our Savior’s death.
We offer to thee prayers and sacrifices, O Lord Jesus Christ, humbly beseeching, that we who pray in remembrance of the transfixion of the most sweet soul of blessed Mary thy Mother, by the multiplied and pious intercession of her and her holy companions under the cross, may have a reward with the blessed, by the merits of thy death. Who livest.
A commemoration is then made of the Sunday.
The Preface is the same as on the 8th of September, except that for in Nativitate, on the Navitity is substituted in Transfixione, on the Transfixion of the Blessed Mary ever Virgin.
So great, it has been said (Bernardin of Siena, Pro festivit. V.M. Sermo xiii. De exaltatione B.V. in gloria, art ii. c. 2), was Mary’s grief on Calvary, that had it been divided among all creatures capable of suffering, it would have caused them all to die instantly. It was our Lady’s wonderful peace, maintained by perfect acquiescence and the total abandonment of her whole being to God, that alone was able to sustain in her the life which the Holy Ghost was preserving for the Church’s sake. May our participation in the sacred mysteries give us that peace of God which passeth all understanding and which keepeth minds and hearts in Christ Jesus!
Happy senses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which without dying deserved the palm of martyrdom beneath the cross of our Lord.
As the Postcommunion points out, the loving memory of our Mother’s sorrows will powerfully assist us to find all good things in the holy Sacrifice of the Altar.
O Lord Jesus Christ, may the sacrifices of which we have partaken, in the devout celebration of the transfixion of thy Virgin Mother, obtain for us of thy clemency the effect of every salutary good. Who livest, etc.
The Postcommunion of the occurring Sunday is added, and the Gospel of the same is read at the end of the Mass instead of the usual passage from St. John.
The first and fifth antiphons of Vespers are taken from the Canticle of canticles, the three intermediate ones from Isaias, and that of the Magnificat from Job; the capitulum is from Jeremias.
- ANT. Whither is they beloved gone, O thou most beautiful among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside, and we will seek him with thee?
Ps. Dixit Dominus.
2. ANT. Depart from me, I will weep bitterly: labour not to comfort me..
Ps. Laudate pueri.
3. ANT. There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness.
Ps. Lætatus sum.
4. ANT. From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness in him.
Ps. Nisi Dominus.
5. ANT. Stay me up with flowers, compass me about with apples, because I languish with love..
Ps. Lauda Jerusalem.
TO what shall I compare thee? or to what shall I liken thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? to what shall I equal thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Sion? for great as the sea is thy destruction.
Oh! in what floods of tears, in what an abyss of sorrow is she whelmed, that Virgin Mother, as mourning she beholds her Son taken down from the blood-stained tree and laid in her arms!
That lovely mouth, that gentle breast, that side most sweet, that right hand all pierced, and the left hand wounded too, those fee all rosy with his blood: the desolate Mother bathes them with her tears.
A hundred and a thousand times she locks in loving embrace that breast and those arms, and kisses their wounds; and thus she melts away in sorrowful caresses.
O Mother, we beseech thee, by these thy tears, by the cruel death of thy Son, and by his empurpled wounds, plant deep in our hearts this anguish of thine own.
To the Father and to the Son and to the coequal Spirit, to the most high Trinity, be everlasting glory, unending praise and honour, now and forevermore.
℣. Pray for us, O Queen of martyrs.
℟. Who didst stand by the cross of Jesus.
ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT
My sorrow hath oppressed me, my face is swollen with weeping, and my eyelids are dim.
The Prayer is the Collect of the Mass.
Then is made a commemoration of the Sunday.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)