In Honor of the Sorrowful Heart of Mary
Something special for today, in honor of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, from the writings of Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., “The Mother of the Saviour: And Our Interior Life”.
The Cause of her Sorrows
What was the profound cause of Mary’s sorrows on Calvary? Every Christian soul for whom practice has made the Stations of the Cross familiar will answer: the cause of Mary’s sorrows, as of those of Jesus, was sin. Happy the souls for whom that answer is a vital truth, who experience true sorrow at the thought of their own sins—a sorrow that only grace can produce in them.
We understand but little of the sorrows of Mary, for little grieves us except what wounds our bodies, our self-love, our vanity, or our pride. We suffer too from men’s ingratitude, from the afflictions of our family or our native land. But sin grieves us but little. We have but little sorrow for our faults considered as offenses against God.
In theory, we admit that sin is the greatest of evils since it affects the soul itself and its faculties, and since it is the cause of the disorders which we deplore in society; it is only too evidently the cause of the enmity between classes and nations. But in spite of that we do not experience any great sorrow for the faults whereby we contribute more or less ourselves to the general disorder.
Sin and our superficiality
Our superficiality and our inconstancy prevent us from seeing what an evil sin is; precisely because it strikes so deep it cannot be known by those who look only at the surface. In its manner of ravaging souls and society, sin is like one of those diseases which affect vital but hidden organs, and which the sufferer is ignorant of even while they near a crisis.
To experience salutary grief, grief for sin, it is necessary truly to love God whom sin offends and sinners whom it destroys. The saints suffered from sin in the degree in which they loved God and souls. St. Catherine of Siena recognized souls in the state of mortal sin by the insupportable odor which they exhaled.
But to know just how far grief for sin can go, one must turn to the heart of Mary. Her grief sprang from an unequalled love for God, for Jesus crucified, and for souls—a love which surpassed that of the greatest saints, and even of all the saints united, a love which had never ceased to grow, a love which had never been restrained by the slightest fault or imperfection. If such was Mary’s love, what must her grief have been!
Unlike us who are so superficial, she saw with piercing clarity what it was that caused the loss of so many souls” the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, the pride of life. All sins combined to add to her grief; all revolts against God, all outbursts of sacrilegious rage, such as that which reached its paroxysm in the cry “Crucify Him” and in utter hatred of Him who is the Light Divine and the Author of Salvation.
Mary’s grief was deep as was her love, both natural and supernatural, of her Son. She loved Him with a virginal love, most pure and tender; loved Him as her only Son, miraculously conceived, and as her God. To understand Mary’s dolours, one would need to have received, as did the stigmatics, the impression of the wounds of the Saviour; one would need to have relived with the mystics His physical and moral sufferings, and to have shared with Him the hours of His Passion and Death.
We shall try once more to speak of this matter when considering Mary as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix, and the reparation which she offered with, and by, and in her Son. Mary’s love in her dolours was meritorious for us and for her also. By her sufferings she grew in charity as well as in faith, and hope, and religion; she grew in fact in all the virtues—those of humility, and meekness, and supernatural courage suggesting themselves especially to the mind. Her virtue in suffering was heroic in the highest degree.
Thereby she became Queen of Martyrs. On the hill of Calvary, grace and charity overflowed from the Heart of Jesus to the heart of His mother. He it was who sustained her, just as it was she who sustained St. John. Jesus offered up her martyrdom as well as His own, and she offered herself with her Son, who was more dear to her than her own life. If the least of the acts of Nazareth increased Mary’s charity, what must have been the effect of her participation in the Cross of Jesus!
Merit and Pain
A meritorious work becomes satisfactory (or one of reparation and expiation) when there is something painful about it. Hence, in offering His life in the midst of the greatest physical and moral sufferings, Jesus offered satisfaction of an infinite and superabundant value to His Father. He alone could make satisfaction in strict justice since the value of satisfaction like that of merit comes from the person, and the Person of Jesus, being divine, was of infinite dignity
Mary offered God a satisfaction which it was becoming that He should accept: Jesus satisfied for us in strict justice. As Mother of the Redeemer, Mary was closely united to Jesus by perfect conformity of will, by humility, by poverty, by suffering—and most particularly by her compassion on Calvary. That is what is meant when it is said that she offered satisfaction along with Him. Her satisfaction derives its value from her dignity as Mother of God, from her great charity, from the fact that there was no fault in herself which needed to be expiated, and from the intensity of her sufferings.
The Fathers treat of this when they speak of Mary “standing” at the foot of the Cross, as St. John says. (John 19:25). They recall the words of Simeon, “Thy own soul a sword shall pierce,” and they show that Mary suffered in proportion to her love for her crucified Son; in proportion also to the cruelty of His executioners, and the atrocity of the torments inflicted on Him Who was Innocence itself.
The liturgy also has taught many generations of the faithful that Mary merited the title of Queen of Martyrs by her most painful martyrdom of heart. That is the lesson of the Feasts of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin and of the Seven Dolours, as well as of the Stabat Mater. Leo XIII summed up this doctrine in the statement that Mary was associated with Jesus in the painful work of the redemption of mankind.
Pope St. Pius X calls her “the repairer of the fallen world” and continues to show how she was united to the priesthood of her Son: “Not only because she consented to become the mother of the only Son of God so as to make sacrifice for the salvation of men possible, but also in the fact that she accepted the mission of protecting and nourishing the Lamb of sacrifice, and when the time came led Him to the altar of immolation – in this also must we find Mary’s glory. Mary’s community of life and sufferings with her Son was never broken off.
Mary’s sufferings have the character of satisfaction from the fact that like Jesus and in union with Him, she suffered because of sin or of the offence it offers to God. This suffering of hers was measured by her love of God Whom sin offended, by her love of Jesus crucified for our sins, and by her love of us whom sin had brought to spiritual ruin. In other words, it was measured by her fulness of grace, which had never ceased to increase from the time of the Immaculate Conception.
NOTE: By meditating on her Sorrowful Mysteries, we, as her children, learn to share in our beloved Mother’s suffering for sin – in fact, we are called to do so. In further point of fact, it is only by this means. by her Rosary, that we shall be able to make the essential reparation for sin! Think on this! Then, you may see why I am so strident in this regard. We do not need more self-important people bustling about, full of their own importance, proclaiming “truths” of their own devising. No, we need to humble ourselves to the anonymous work of offering the loving reparation that the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His Immaculate Mother have so patiently been pleading for.
Mary’s Greater Love
Already Mary had merited more by the easiest acts than the martyrs in their torments because of her greater love. What must have been the value of her sufferings at the foot of the Cross, granted the understanding she then had of the mystery of the Redemption! In the spiritual light which then flooded her soul, Mary saw that all souls are called to sing the glory of God. Every soul is called to be as it were a ray of the divinity, a spiritual ray of knowledge and love, for our minds are made to know God and our wills to love Him.
But though the heavens tell God’s glory unfailingly, thousands of souls turn from their Creator. Instead of that divine radiation, instead of God’s exterior glory and His Kingdom, there are found in countless souls the three wounds called by St. John — the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life — living as if there were no desirable love except carnal love, no glory except that of fame and honor, and no Lord and Master, no end, except man himself. Mary saw all that evil, all those wounds in souls, just as we see the evils and wounds of bodies.
Her fulness of grace had given her an immense capacity to suffer from the greatest of evils, sin. She suffered as much as she loved God and souls: God offended by sin and souls whom it rendered worthy of eternal damnation. Most of all did Mary see the crime of deicide prepared in hearts and brought to execution: she saw the terrible paroxysm of hatred of Him who is the Light and the Author of salvation.
To understand her sufferings, we must think too of her love, both natural and supernatural, of her only Son Whom she not only loved but, in the literal sense of the term, adored since He was her God. She had conceived Him miraculously. She loved Him with the love of a virgin—the purest, richest and most tender charity that has ever been a mother’s. Nor was her grief diminished by ignorance of anything that might make it more acute. She knew the reason for the crucifixion.
All for sinners
She knew the hatred of the Jews, His chosen people—her people. She knew that it was all for sinners. From the moment when Simeon foretold the Passion—already so clearly prophesied by Isaias—and her compassion, she offered and did not cease to offer Him Who would be Priest and Victim, and herself in union with Him. This painful oblation was renewed over years. Of old, an angel had descended to prevent Abraham’s immolation of his son Isaac. But no angel came to prevent the immolation of Jesus.
In his sermon on the Compassion of our Lady, we read the following magnificent words of Bossuet:
“It is the will of the Eternal Father that Mary should not only be immolated with the Innocent Victim and nailed to the Cross by the nails that pierce Him, but should as well be associated with the mystery which is accomplished by His death. . . Three things occur in the sacrifice of Our Saviour and constitute its perfection. There are the sufferings by which His humanity was crushed. There is His resignation to the will of His Father by which He humbly offered Himself. There is the fruitfulness by which He brings us to the life of grace by dying Himself. He suffers as a victim who must be bruised and destroyed. He submits as a priest who sacrifices freely; voluntarie sacrificabo tibi. (Ps. 53:8). Finally He brings us to life by His sufferings as the Father of a new people. . . .
“Mary stands near the Cross. With what eyes she contemplates her Son all covered with blood, all covered with wounds, in form now hardly a man! The sight is enough to cause her death. If she draws near to that altar, it is to be immolated there: and there, in fact, does she feel Simeon’s sword pierce her heart. . . . “But did her dolors overcome her, did her grief cast her to the ground? Stabat juxta crucem: she stood by the Cross. The sword pierced her heart but did not take away her strength of soul: her constancy equals her affliction, and her face is the face of one no less resigned than afflicted.
“What remains then but that Jesus who sees her feel His sufferings and imitate His resignation should have given her a share in His fruitfulness. It is with that thought that He gave her John to be her son: Woman, behold thy son. Woman, who suffer with me, be fruitful with me, be the mother of my children whom I give you unreservedly in the person of this disciple; I give them life by my sufferings, and sharing in the bitterness that is mine your affliction will make you fruitful.”
“(Mary) is the Eve of the New Testament and the mother of all the faithful; but that is to be at the price of her Firstborn. United to the Eternal Father she must offer His Son and hers to death. It is for that purpose that providence has brought her to the foot of the Cross. She is there to immolate her Son that men may have life. . . . She becomes mother of Christians at the cost of an immeasurable grief . . . We should never forget what we have cost Mary. The thought will lead to true contrition for our sins. The regeneration of our souls has cost Jesus and Mary more than we can ever think.
Mary the Co-Redemptrix has given us birth at the foot of the Cross by the greatest act of faith, hope and love that was possible to her on such an occasion. One may even say that her act of faith was the greatest ever elicited, since Jesus had not the virtue of faith but the beatific vision. In that dark hour when the faith of the Apostles themselves seemed to waver, when Jesus seemed vanquished and His work annihilated, Mary did not cease for an instant to believe that her Son was the Saviour of mankind, and that in three days He would rise again as He had foretold. When He uttered His last words “It is consummated” Mary understood in the fulness of her faith that the work of salvation had been accomplished by His most painful immolation.
Consoler of the Afflicted
Mary’s heart suffered in sympathy with all the agony of the Sacred Heart to such a point that she would have died of the experience had she not been especially strengthened. Thereby she became the consoler of the afflicted, for she had suffered more than all, and patroness of a happy death. We have no idea how fruitful these sufferings of hers have been during twenty centuries. (Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., Reverend Reginald. “The Mother of the Saviour: And Our Interior Life”.
For our long-time favorite post on the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, please see: “The Seven Sorrows of Mary“.; which focuses more on each of the Seven Sorrows.
Remember – Our Lady needs us to obey: First Saturdays of Reparation, daily rosary, at least 5 mysteries, wear her brown scapular and live your Total Consecration to her Immaculate Heart, offering daily duties in reparation and for the conversion of poor sinners.
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of our hearts, Mother of the Church, do thou offer to the Eternal Father the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the conversion of poor sinners, especially our Pontiff.
† Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come! Viva Cristo Rey!
† St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families, protect our priests.
† St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Please pray for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary!
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, King.
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!