The following is a re-print of an interview conducted by Zenit Catholic News Service with Dr. Mark Miravalle regarding the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.– Asst. Ed.
The liturgical feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is a day with as much relevance as ever, says a noted Mariologist.Mark Miravalle, professor of theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Miravalle: In the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we commemorate the unparalleled human sufferings experienced by the Virgin Mary in her unique role with Jesus in the mission of redemption.
In Salvifici Doloris, No. 25, John Paul II describes these shared sufferings by Christ’s Mother, particularly during their climactic moments at the foot of the cross, as reaching an “intensity which can hardly be imagined from a human point of view, but which was mysteriously and supernaturally fruitful for the redemption of the world.”
Historically, this feast can be traced to the fifteenth century and was fostered by popular devotion to the seven dolors, or sorrows, of Mary, particularly among the Flemish faithful and through its promulgation by the Servites of Mary.
Until 1960, two feasts of the Sorrows of Mary were liturgically celebrated each year, the first on the Friday before Palm Sunday, which emphasized the “cumpassio” or “co-suffering” of Mary at Calvary; the second on September 15, which commemorates her entire life of co-redemptive suffering, which is highlighted in seven key scriptural events.
Q: What are the specific “seven sorrows” of Mary, and why does the Church encourage our liturgical and personal meditation upon these sorrows?
Miravalle: The specific number of sorrows, originally varied, became fixed to these seven events: 1) Simeon’s prophecy in the temple; 2) the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; 3) the loss of the Christ Child in the temple; 4) the encounter of Mary with Jesus on the way of the cross; 5) the crucifixion and death of Jesus; 6) the taking down of Jesus from the cross; 7) the burial of Jesus in the tomb.
The Church calls us to ponder the sufferings of the Sorrowful Mother, to more deeply appreciate the sacrifice the Virgin of Nazareth endured in order to participate with and under Jesus in humanity’s redemption, and through this suffering, to become the spiritual mother of all peoples, as designated by her crucified Son: “‘Woman, behold your son!’ … ‘Behold, your mother!'”
We too are called to enter into the mystery of the passion of Christ and the compassion of Mary, to join our sufferings with theirs, in order to mysteriously release the graces of redemption for the many spiritual needs of the Church and world. The Stabat Mater, the medieval sequence recited on this memorial, reminds us: