Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Our Lady of Sorrows

In contrast to many homespun images of the saints and Our Savior, traditionally, these images and icons have been very dour as a rule, almost emotionless. When emotions are displayed, it is of sadness or wonder/shock. Unfortunately, modernity has to put a smiley face on everything. This is source, in my opinion, of the death of Western culture, a denial of the transitory nature of things and the rejection of Christian faith. So you see all these images of Our Lord smiling or kicking a soccer ball like he was trying out for World Cup 2006. This world we pass though is a lovely place, created in goodness and destined for goodness, but it is passing away. The death of each one of us is a world passing away, an hour that the Lord has come to visit and bring His truthful judgment.

Yesterday, we celebrated the Exultation of the Holy Cross. Today, we celebrate the icon of the Church who participates in this wonderous Cross, Our Blessed Mother. In a certain sense, every form of holiness that the Church can demonstrate to the world is found in the Glorious Virgin. She is evangelist and missionary when she carries the Word to Elizabeth. She is "pastor" when she tends her child and rears him in wisdom and charity. She is the Premier Doctor of the Church when she illuminates all truths surrounding the Christ with the humble words, "Do whatever He tells you." She is virgin without parallel; she is mother without equal amongst all the women on earth. She is even a martyr, although in the "white" sense rather than the literal "red," shedding of her blood sense. The following comes from St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted. He went on to say to Mary: And your own heart will be pierced by a sword.Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus - who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours - gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son, not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.

She is a woman full of sorrows as well. The earthly life of the Blessed Virgin must have been perplexing at best. In Faith, Humility, and Obedience, she comes forward and gives herself to every working of this plan of salvation. Only a course intellect could not help but see how this sorrow of the Mother continues today. Just as Christ can be said to suffer in and through the members of the Body, so too the Mother wails and mourns and intercedes for those in whom her Son is being brought to full maturity. All those people who are baptized but have aborted the gift of grace by never learning more about or loving more perfectly in this life the One who saved them must cause our Blessed Mother such sadness. What of us who profess the Faith but refuse its penetration into the craggy, foul, rotten, bone shopped hearts of ours? She sees one coming so close and then veering away back into darkness.

But confidence can be found here as well. Mary remained at the foot of the Cross. She remains at the foot of our Cross. If we entrust ourselves to her maternal care, we can find our way back to Christ.

When a well-meaning Protestant walks up and asks, "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?", you can respond, "Yes. Have you accepted Mary as your personal Mother and Intercessor?"

My apologies if this is too long. I am down with allergies assault or a late summer cold. I didn't get the chance to preach today and some of this occurred to me in prayer. It should go without saying that incomplete thoughts and typos are the fault of Nyquil...for a change.

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