The devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows flourished in the Middle Ages, and the hymn Stabat Mater was composed for it. Although it is officially celebrated today, the day after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, popular devotion in many parts of the Mediterranean celebrates it with processions on the Friday before Holy Week. (Universalis)
From a Sermon by Saint Bernard, Abbot
His Mother Stood by the Cross
The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted. He went on to say to Mary: And your own heart will be pierced by a sword.
Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus – who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours – gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.
Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son, not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!
Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.
Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.
Excerpts from Pope Francis’ Homily on Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 Sept 2016
“Mary heard these things. She suffered terrible humiliation. And she also heard the dignitaries, even some priests, whom she respected, because they were priests, [saying] ‘You who are so good, come down! Come down!’ With her Son, naked, there [on the Cross]. And Mary had such great suffering, but she didn’t go away. She didn’t deny her Son! He was her flesh.”
“They were moms. But they were not ashamed: their flesh was there inside. And these women suffered not only the shame of being there – ‘Look at her! What did her son do?’ — but they also suffer the ugly humiliation of the searches they had to undergo before entering. But they were mothers, and they went to find their own flesh. So it was with Mary: she was there, with her Son, with that very great suffering.”
“We Christians have a Mother, Jesus’ [Mother]; we have a Father, Jesus’ [Father]. We are not orphans! And she gives birth to us in that moment with such great sorrow: She is truly a martyr. With a pierced heart, she accepts giving birth to all of us in that moment of sorrow. And from that moment she becomes our Mother, from that moment she is our Mother, the one who takes care of us and is not ashamed of us: she defends us.”
“In a world we could call an orphan, in this world that suffers the crisis perhaps our help lies in saying ‘Look to your Mother!’ We have a mother who defends us, teaches us, accompanies us; who is not ashamed of our sins. She is not ashamed, because she is our Mother. May the Holy Spirit, this friend, this companion along the way, this Paraclete or Advocate whom the Lord has sent, make us understand this very great mystery of the maternity of Mary.” (Rome Reports)
Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based upon the prophecy of Simeon that a sword was to pierce the heart of Our Lord’s mother, Mary (Lk2:35).
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had pass’d.
Oh, how sad and sore distress’d
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm’d in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruis’d, derided, curs’d, defil’d,
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord.
Holy Mother! pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn’d for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.
Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon’d
In His very blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defence,
Be Thy cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.