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Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows

Q: Please provide information on Our Lady of Sorrows.

A: The devotion has its origin in the gospels of John (19, 25 Mary standing at the foot of the cross) and Luke (2:35 Your own soul a sword shall pierce). Other possible references to Mary's sorrow, pain or hardship are:

Lk 2:7: no room for them in the inn
Mt 2: 16-18: massacre of the Innocents
Lk 2:41-50: search for Jesus until the third day in Jerusalem
Lk 4:28-30: Jesus' life threatened by the townspeople of Nazareth
Lk 11:53-54: Jesus' life threatened by the Jewish authorities

Mary was most intimately related to the suffering servant during the Passion (MC 7 alluding to Isaiah 53).

The celebration and veneration of Mary's sorrows and compassion, based on the crucifixion scene goes back to the 4/5 centuries (Abbot Poemon contemplates Mary weeping over the Cross of the Savior in his Apothegms 144). Ephrem the Syrian (373) writes a lamentation of Mary at the foot of the cross and so does Romanos the Melodist (n 500: "Hymn of Mary at the Cross") engaging mother and Son in a dialogue regarding the mystery of the Cross. Other spiritual writers and mystics have dealt with this theme, so Ambrose, Anselm, and Bernard. It became particularly popular with the Franciscans in the thirteenth century, not to forget the Servites. Take, for example, the poignant Plaint of the Madonna by Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306), and the famous Stabat Mater Dolorosa (possibly also by Todi). The Meditations on the Life of Christ (beg. eleventh century) further contributed to the dissemination of this devotion, especially of the episode dealing with Mary's swooning.

A further and new aspect was the devotion to the Sorrows of Mary (probably influenced by Henry Suso, c. 1300-1366). It expanded the calvary scene to other moments of Christ's Passion and Mary's sorrows. Paralleling Mary's joys, lists of five, later seven sorrows (corresponding to the Hours of the daily office) were drawn up. 

There are a number of chaplets related to this devotion: the "Rosary of the Seven Sorrows;" the "Little Rosary of the Seven Dolors of Mary;" "Rosary of Our Lady's Tears;" "Rosary of the Tears of Blood." For a presentation of these various chaplets see: P. Quintiliani, My Treasury of Chaplets (1998, 183-196). Most important, of course, is the liturgical feast celebrated on September 15, the day after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary contains several votive masses to commemorate Mary's sorrows, especially during the lenten season.

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