Friday, March 13, 2009
The Stations of the Sorrowful Mother
We are all familiar with the Stations of the Cross but there is also a very ancient devotion called the Stations of the Sorrowful Mother. It is based on the Seven Sorrows of Our Blessed Mother: The Prophecy of Simeon, The Flight into Egypt, The Loss of Jesus in the Temple, Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary, Jesus Dies on the Cross, Mary Receives the Dead Body of Jesus in Her Arms, Jesus is Placed in the Tomb. Again, that Directory of Popular Piety speaks about this devotional practice.
As Christ and Our Lady of Dolours were associated in God's saving plan (Lk 2, 34-35), so too they are associated in the Liturgy and popular piety.
As Christ was the "man of sorrows" (Is 53, 3) through whom it pleased God to have "reconciled all things through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross" (Col 1, 20), so too, Mary is "the woman of sorrows" whom God associated with his Son as mother and participant in his Passion (socia passionis).
Since the childhood of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary's life was entirely lived out under the sign of the sword (cf, Lk 2, 35). Christian piety has signalled out seven particular incidents of sorrow in her life, known as the "seven sorrows" of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Modelled on the Via Crucis, the pious exercise of the Via Matris dolorosae, or simply the Via Matris, developed and was subsequently approved by the Apostolic See(140). This pious exercise already existed in embryonic form since the sixteenth century, while its present form dates from the nineteenth century. Its fundamental intuition is a reflection on the life of Our Lady from the prophecy of Simeon (cf. Lk 2, 34-35), to the death and burial of her Son, in terms of a journey in faith and sorrow: this journey is articulated in seven "stations" corresponding to the "seven dolours" of the Mother of Our Saviour.
This pious exercise harmonises well with certain themes that are proper to the lenten season. Since the sorrows of Our Lady are caused by the rejection of her Son (cf. John 1,11; Lk 2, 1-7; 2, 34-35; 4, 28-29; Mt 26, 47-56; Acts 12, 1-5), the Via Matris constantly and necessarily refers to the mystery of Christ as the suffering servant (cf. Is 52, 13-53, 12). It also refers to the mystery of the Church: the stations of the Via Matris are stages on the journey of faith and sorrow on which the Virgin Mary has preceded the Church, and in which the Church journeys until the end of time.
The highest expression of the Via Matris is the Pietà which has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Christian art since the middles ages.