Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows

Lectionary: 446/639

Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.

Americans have a predilection for joy. We would choose joy over sorrow in almost any case. It’s hard to imagine how we might choose otherwise. This preference is assumed, encouraged and exploited by a consumer industry which assures us we should never be unhappy. No marketer would ever say, “Our product will not make you happy but please buy it anyway.”

I’ve not travelled the world and don’t have deep knowledge of any other culture but I have occasionally read of societies which seem to prefer sadness. I have heard of Mexican Catholics who celebrate Good Friday by processing on their bloodied knees to the church, self-flagellation and crucifixions with very real nails. The Catholic Church has tried to suppress the outlandish custom but it persists nonetheless. Two days later only the usual old women attend the Easter Mass. They seemed to celebrate grief, oppression and human suffering with little interest in the promised Resurrection. 

I have read of some nations who celebrate with great public displays their defeat at the hands of an invading army. Americans remember December 6, November 22 and September 11 but they are not major holidays. The banks and shopping centers remain open. 
The Catholic Church celebrates with great ceremony the glad festivals of Christmas and Easter, but we’re not averse to remembering the sorrowful. First, there is Holy Week, beginning with Jesus' entering Jerusalem; and climaxing with his crucifixion on Friday. We celebrate the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, especially during Lent; and, on Tuesdays and Fridays we reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.
We dedicate this fifteenth day of September to Our Lady of Sorrows and recall her Seven Sorrows:
  1. The Prophecy of Saint Simeon. (Luke 2:34–35)
  2. The escape and Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:43–45)
  4. The Meeting of Mary and Jesus on the Via Dolorosa.
  5. The Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. (John 19:25)
  6. The Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent from the Cross. (Matthew 27:57–59)
  7. The Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:40–42)

The Wise Man Job, responding to his nagging wife who urged him to “Curse God and die!” replied, “We accept good things from the Lord, and should we not accept the bad as well?”
Wisdom suggests that we let go of our preference for joy, happiness, pleasure and satisfaction. There is more to life than what I want; and a preference, if it is too urgent, may cause one to run and hide when something less than happiness looms.

Monastic traditions, both east and west, describe Job's attitude as apatheia. Not exactly apathy, it's a willing compliance to God's will. 

Christian apatheia is a desire for communion. I would rather be with my friend in her grief than alone in my pleasure. I would rather rejoice with my companions in their triumph than wallow in my disappointment. 

The Sorrows of Mary describe her preference for communion with her Son even as he approached his passion and death. The Holy Spirit that filled her would not consider abandoning him to his doom. She had a presentiment of his fate even as she carried the infant into the temple. His disappearance in Jerusalem at the age of twelve and his apparent rebuke of her when she and Joseph found the boy, warned her of coming sorrow. Discovering him on the way to Calvary, walking silently with the howling mob, standing beside him as he died, receiving John as a substitute for him, and watching as he was laid in a tomb: Mary could not but be with Jesus. 

Her communion with him was uncompromising and complete. Would she have preferred to be happy? Would you wish she might be happy through that ordeal? Of course not. 

The Christian prefers communion with the Lord, with Mary, with anyone who is happy or sad, disappointed or hopeful. We are willing to share our lives with others even as we receive the gift of their lives in our purified hearts. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.