Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows from a triptych by the Master of the Stauffenberg Altarpiece, Alsace c. 1455

The day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, or, in Latin, Mater Dolorosa. Though less popular these days, we have the devotion of the Seven Sorrows of Mary (to balance this, we also have her Seven Joys).

The first sorrow is The Prophecy of Simeon, found in Luke 2:34-35: "Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.'" Next is the Holy Family's flight into Egypt (Matt. 2:13ff); losing the 12 year-old on their pilrimmage to Jerusalem (Luke 2:43-45); meeting her Son as he walked the via dolorosa (Luke 23:26); Our Lady was present as Jesus died on the Cross (John 19:25); she received the body of her Son after His crucifixion (an image on which the Pietà is based- Matt. 27:57-59); seeing her Son's body placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42).

As the lives of Jesus and Mary show us, suffering is an inherent part of being human. It is not the whole of life, just an inescapable aspect.

On Monday I read short extract of a book by Sri Lankan Christian leader, Ajith Fernando, The Call to Joy and Pain, who serves that country's urban poor:

The church in each culture has its own special challenges—theological blind spots that hinder Christians from growing to full maturity in Christ …. I think one of the most serious theological blind spots in the western church is a defective understanding of suffering. There seems to be a lot of reflection on how to avoid suffering and on what to do when we hurt. We have a lot of teaching about escape from suffering and therapy for suffering, but there is inadequate teaching about the theology of suffering ….

The "good life," comfort, convenience, and a painless life have become necessities that people view as basic rights. If they do not have these, they think something has gone wrong …. One of the results of this attitude is a severe restriction of spiritual growth, for God intends us to grow through trials.
Mater Dolorosa, ora pro nobis.

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