There is a longstanding tradition of commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows on the Friday before the beginning of Holy Week, which has roots in the Middle Ages, in the penitential processions of many confraternities. It is a great preparation for the observance of Holy Week. The sufferings of Our Lady pave the way so that we might better take to heart the sufferings of her Son.
Meditating on her sorrows, we become keenly aware that she is our co-redeemer because the Lord chose her to be His main collaborator in the work of our salvation. Indeed, her soul and body were preserved from original sin for this particular purpose. She also freely accepted to fulfill this mission when she gave her assent to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation. She gave her consent with full conscience of all the pains and sufferings she would have to endure in the discharge of her unique mission.
The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady on which we traditionally meditate are:
The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34-35) The main brunt of this prophecy in the heart of Mary was that many would reject her son, and at that moment a sword of pain wounded her heart. It is evident that this refusal of her son was not going to be limited to her lifetime but would continue until the end of times. Let us hope and pray that many who now reject the saving truth will repent and convert.
The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13) This terrible experience is an accomplishment of the Prophesy of Simeon. Mary and Joseph experienced rejection even before the birth of Christ when there was no place at the inn for them, and no one was ready to offer them lodging in Bethlehem, including their relatives. The Flight into Egypt forced the Holy Family to share the bitter lot of exiles. This leads us to remember that we are exiles in this world and we are longing for our Heavenly homeland.
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:43-45) This mysterious episode shows how Mary and Joseph learned how to understand the great mission of Jesus. It also leads us to ask for the grace to be able to accept the vocation that each of our children receives from the Lord.
Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary. (Luke 23:26) Our Lady knew that Jewish authorities were bent on destroying her Son. She was well informed of the violent accusations that the Jews had made against Him, and even of the occasions when they had tried to stone Him to death, but the horror of this reality touched her in a direct way when she saw her Son carrying His cross to Calvary.
Jesus Dies on the Cross. (John 19:25-30) Our Lady knew that this violent rejection was to lead to Jesus' death, but now she witness His death and in His love for her human sons she is ready to offer herself with Him, praying for the forgiveness and redemption of the ones that caused His death and all of her earthly children.
Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms. (Matthew 27:57-59) For centuries Christian artists have depicted this tragic moment (e.g. Michelangelo's Pieta). Many of these depictions lead us to understand that at the same time that Our Lady is holding the body of her Son, she is offering Him to the Father as the most perfect of all sacrifices.
The Body of Jesus is placed in the Tomb. (John 19:40-42) On the one hand, Our Lady suffers terribly when she witnesses the burial of her Son; on the other hand she knows that her son will defeat death and rise from the dead. She is fully aware that death will not have the last word, but at the same tine her human heart is in bitter suffering.
Our Lady knew that her Son was offering His life to atone for all the sins of the world. Perhaps through her immaculate nature she was given an unclouded intelligence and was able to have an intuition of the future sins of the world for which her Son was also atoning. It is the opinion of some saints that before the Passion, the Lord visited His Mother, as Fr. Luis De La Palma explains in his magnificent book, The Passion of the Lord. In this sad meeting the Lord probably told His mother that He was offering His life not only for the past sins of mankind but for the future sins that would be committed until the end of the world. In that moment, Our Lady united her sufferings with the sufferings of her Son, adding her readiness to suffer in reparation for all the future sins of humanity.
We should also meditate on the moving sequence called the Stabat Mater, which is found in the missals on the proper of the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 14th. It is also sung during the Stations of the Cross as the procession moves from one station to the other. This beautiful sequence should be contemplated more with the heart than with the mind, the point being to open our hearts to experience compassion with the sorrows that Our Lady suffered at the foot of the Cross and in all her life. The sequence tells us that Christ died for the sins of his own nation, but we can add with certainty that He died for the sins of all nations and for our own sins.
Meditating on her sorrows we should be moved to put and end to the worse sins that afflict our society through prayer, sacrifice and sincere commitment to the mission of the Church. Here, we think especially the sin of rejection of the saving truth of Christ, which leads to other sins like abortion and contraception and others that are a direct rejection of the Lord's love for our society. We should pray for our full conversion and for the conversion of all the abortionists, for those who promote contraception and so many other social evils.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula
Interim President, Human Life International