God's Mercy and Mary's Tears
Our Lord died because of you. Not only that, more is true. He was tortured to death because of you. Every time you ever were angry immoderately, lied, were envious, he was tortured yet more. Do you feel sorrow for what horrible things you have done to Him?
Perhaps thoughts like this have occurred to us. But what thoughts do we have about Our Lady? Could you imagine what it would be like to have not only your son, but your God, tortured to death in the most gruesome and savage ways while being taunted all the while? How terrible would it be to have the object of your most tender affection so cruelly mistreated? And how sad would you feel if those who caused the torture were, by and large, so indifferent to His pain?
So we commemorate the sorrows of Our Lady, both on September 15th and the Friday before Palm Sunday. As a parallel to Passion week, both Our Lady of Sorrows and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross give a particular focus to their respective themes outside of Lenten time. The genius of the Liturgical year is to allow us this extra time to reflect upon the additional dimensions of the Passion and the co-sufferers in it.
You ought to console her.
What could you possibly do to console such a sorrowful mother? Do penance, fast, pray the Rosary. Stay up late at night and pray vigils. Endeavor as best you can never to sin again. Every time you do it causes Him pain and she sheds a tear. Sing the sequence for Our Lady of Sorrows, the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (hear it here):
Who would not be able to be saddened
to behold the Mother of Christ
grieving with the Son?
Besides suffering for our sins, Christ died for them. In response, the least we must do is share her sorrow. And this response calls forth our own plea, from the same sequence:
Come now, O Mother, fountain of love
Make me feel the power of sorrow
that I might mourn with you. …
Grant that I might bear the death of Christ,
Make [me] kindred in the passion,
and contemplate the wounds.
Make me injured by the wounds,
make me drunken by the Cross,
and by the blood of the Son.
In the sequence, after suffering with Our Lady and feeling the wounds of Our Lord in our own bodies as a due penalty for our many sins, we ask for her to help us on the day of Judgment. We implore Christ for mercy, and request a peaceful repose in heaven:
Lest I be consumed burned by flames,
through you, O Virgin, may I be defended
on the day of judgment.
O Christ, when it is time to depart hence,
grant me to come through the Mother,
to the palm of victory.
When the body will decay,
grant that it may be bestowed on [my] soul
the glory of paradise.
After all, we have to live a life of penance in order to stand with any confidence at the Judgment. But our confidence is not rooted in what we have done; rather, it is rooted in God’s mercy. He sees that we try with our small penances to make up for all the evils we have done to Him and His mother. His mercy, after all, was what led Him to incarnate and be tortured to death to save us from the consequences of our own evil.
So when we suffer with Our Lady, and share in the Passion, she will ask her son to have mercy on us. He, in turn, will intercede before the Father on our behalf. Our Lady of Sorrows, then, is about our unworthiness of salvation, and how recognition of that fact should lead to an increase in our confidence in God’s mercy and Hope in salvation.