A Reflection on Our Lady of Sorrow
September 15 is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, (a title given to Mary) it is recognized the day after the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. It provides us an opportunity to ponder our sorrows and struggles but also that hope is always ours.
When the firstborn of my brother and sister-in-law was stillborn a sword indeed pierced their hearts and the hearts of our whole family. When Dawson, a young elementary student, on the weekend of his Aunt’s wedding fell ill and never recovered and weeks later I was leading his family and fellow classmates in prayer, I saw into the pierced heart of another set of parents and a family. When we hear the tragic news of yet another cancer diagnosis, a child of a refugee washed up on a shore, an opioid overdose, a suicide of a young person or even an adult, the hearts of another set of parents and family are pieced with deep sorrow. The agony of any parent to lose a child not only pierces the heart but also the soul, as Mary encountered those many years after Simeon’s prophecy.
Each of us knows the agony of loss and sorrow. When our hearts and souls are pierced, we are left with a void, an emptiness, a longing for what was or what could have been. When our hearts and souls are pierced, we are left with the ache of sorrow and the agony of unanswered questions. When our hearts and souls are pierced, we are in a liminal place having to face our sufferings.
Our pierced hearts and souls bring us to the foot of the cross with Mary. She stands with us as a witness that in our sorrow and pain we can always gaze upon Christ who is the “source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5.9), love and hope. Standing with Mary at the cross with our pierced, exposed hearts and souls we have to face the new reality that is given us in the death of her son “who belongs to everyone” (Saint Bernard). The reality of new life, and for this new life to come forth the reality of pain is not foregone. Oh, how we wish it was. Yet we all know from the journey of faith that whether it is the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the termination of a relationship, the fears and loneliness of so many during this pandemic, raging forest fires, hate crimes or the surrendering of false expectations that pain and sorrow pepper our journey and once again call us to gaze upon him who is the “source of eternal salvation,” love and hope.
Here at the foot of the cross with the sorrowful Mother we seek perspective for the new life which is to come on the other side of the piercing reality of the cross. Here with Mary we echo the truths of Psalm 31. Psalm 31 which must have crossed her mind and lips at some point whether after Simeon’s prophecy or in her deep sorrow at the cross or with small sufferings in between those moments; when her heart felt pierced beyond hope. This psalm speaks the truth that God’s steadfast love is our constant refuge, that God is abundant in goodness and faithfulness no matter our struggles, sorrows or how many times our hearts and souls are pierced. This psalm declares that we can trust in our God who delivers us, saving us from even a pierced heart and soul, for his beloved son is our “source of eternal salvation” love and hope each and every day.
Let us carry with us those we know who are hurting because their hearts and souls are pierced in this moment. Let us offer them and ourselves with what has pierced our hearts and souls together at the altar where we are welcomed to the banquet of life – our source of new life; where we encounter God’s commitment to steadfast love.