The Sorrowful Mother Today

As a sequel to the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross the Church keeps the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose heart was pierced by the nails that pierced Christ’s hands and feet, and the lance that pierced the Lord’s side.

One of the most typical images for the feast today is that of the Pietà. The most famous representation is, of course, Michelangelo’s sculpture in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Yet his is very far from the only one.

It struck me at Mass today how powerful an image it is for the Church in its current crisis of sexual and physical abuse by clergy and religious, and the negligence, or worse, of some in the hierarchy in dealing with such abuse. The scandal of deposed-Cardinal McCarrick truly merits the label scandal, as it has become for many a true stumbling block for a peacefully fruitfully life in the Church. Who really does believe that so many of McCarrick’s fellow bishops and cardinals knew nothing of Uncle Ted’s activities? I suspect only fools and the terminally idealistic.

The Pietà, seen below in a late-14th century German example, captures something of the perpetual sorrow of Our Lady at the fate of her Son and his body. (It is one of the marvellous mysteries of eternity that perpetual sorrow can exist with and nourish perpetual joy.) Only today, if we view things from our own time and place in the temporal sphere, she cradles not so much her Son’s physical, personal Body as his ecclesial Body, the Church, sore-wounded by the world, and worse, by too many of her shepherds.

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From Caswell’s translation of the Stabat Mater, we find these words worthy if our prayerful use:

For his people’s sins chastised,
she beheld her Son despised,
scourged, and crowned with thorns entwined;
saw him then from judgement taken,
and in death by all forsaken,
till his spirit he resigned.

O good Jesu, let me borrow
something of thy Mother’s sorrow,
fount of love, Redeemer kind,
that my heart fresh ardour gaining,
and a purer love attaining,
may with thee acceptance find.

Pax.

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