Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

 

The Seven Sorrows of Mary
(A seven station devotion by Maria L. Evans)

Also known as the Seven Dolors, the Seven Sorrows incorporate four of the Stations of the Cross and three other episodes in the lives of Jesus and Mary, namely:

The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35)
The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45)
Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary
Jesus Dies on the Cross (John 19:25)
Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb (John 19:40-42)

In particular, this devotion is written to call attention to issues related to women's empowerment and the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, particularly the ones involving women and children.

Each station opens with a stanza from a version of the Stabat Mater ( the tune is #159 in The Hymnal, 1982;) Stanzas in each of the stations come from various sources of Anglican hymnody (The Hymnal 1982The Hymnal 1940, and The 1906 English Hymnal;) so that the opening lines of each station can be either spoken or sung.  Times for silent meditation are provided at each station.  Intercessory prayers and petitions may be added as part of the Concluding Prayers.

The First Sorrow--Simeon's Prophecy to Mary

At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus at the last,
Through her soul, of joy bereavèd,
bowed with anguish, deeply grievèd,
now at length the sword had passed.


Simeon told Mary, "“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.""

Each day during school terms, mothers all over the world send their children off to school--some on buses or in cars, some on foot.  Some wearing crisply ironed colorful uniforms, others toting the ubiquitous oversized backpack.  On each of those days, a mother's hope is that her child learns not just the things that will make them happy and successful as adults, but will also make the world a better place.  In the photos of first grade classes, we see dreams of future firefighters and doctors, farmers and merchants, teachers, nurses, veterinarians, merchants.  None of those children at age six are dreaming of being a sex worker, a drug dealer, a petty thief, or a gun-runner.  Yet, that is exactly who some of these sweet children will be when they grow up.

Each school day, mothers let their children leave the safety of home to be entrusted in the safety of school--but school is not always as safe as our hopes would like it to be.  Every day, all over the world, the safety of school is violated somewhere--school shooters, bombings, wars, coups.  Children are killed on the way to and from school by vehicles, land mines, drive-by shooters, and car bombings.  Children are abducted.  Children are molested.  These crimes against children remind us daily that the world is far from being a safe place.

The Mother of Jesus knew the sorrow of Simeon's prophesy.  Mothers throughout the world know the sorrows of the statistical probabilities in a dangerous and deadly world.  Some mothers know this more deeply than others, in the places of the world with shortened life expectancy, high infant mortality, and high maternal childbirth-related deaths.

Let us pray.  (silence)

Comforter God, the Blessed Mother of Jesus suffered the piercing sword of Simeon's prophecy; you know the swords that pierce our hearts also.  You know our fears for our children, and the fears of mothers all over the world for their children.  Hold our children and our fears in your loving embrace.  When we want so badly to draw ourselves inward and pull our children closer, aid us in letting them go forth in the world to learn and grow, despite the risks.  Help us to remember the mothers in the places where danger is more imminent.  Especially be present with the families whose child does not come home; the families whose children are lost or abducted, missing, or killed.  Help them to find hope and grace in the places that seem too full of hatred and grief.  We pray all these things in the name of your son, Jesus. Amen.

The Second Sorrow--The Flight into Egypt

O, that blessed one, grief-laden,
blessed Mother, blessed Maiden,
Mother of the all-holy One;
O that silent, ceaseless mourning,
O those dim eyes, never turning
from that wondrous, suffering Son.


It must have been a tense time for the Holy Family as they prepared to leave Nazareth in light of the angel's instructions to abandon their home.  How does one prepare to escape without attracting much attention?  Knowing they had to leave the security of home and possessions carried its own stress and fear.  As they fled, each person they represented on the road represented a potential hidden danger.  It must have felt quite troublesome to seek refuge in the land where their ancestors found only bondage.

Each day, mothers and their children flee danger.  Some flee to escape flooding, storms, hurricanes, typhoons.  Some flee because of war and oppression.  Some flee abusers within their own households--people they love.  Others flee from economic bondage in the form of sweatshops and exploitative work arrangements.  Just as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to avoid a certain death for their son in the Slaughter of the Innocents, families all over the world pack their bags and seek a new home, a new country, for shelter and sanctuary.  Some hope for a new life and new prosperity.  Many only have the clothes on their backs and a few treasured possessions.  Many risk being "illegal."  Sometimes they suddenly find themselves in exile because governments dissolve or the ruling powers are overthrown, and situations dictate that they can no longer return home.

In times of natural disaster and war, families sometimes return home to find they no longer have one.  Sometimes they return to find a physical shell of what they called home, but the rest of their family dead. Towns and villages can be wiped from a map, but the memory of those who once lived there can only be wiped off the map if we choose to forget them.  Painful as it might be, may we remember.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of sanctuary, just as Mary and Joseph chose to flee in order to spare the life of young Jesus, families flee every day to save the lives of their children.  They risk new and present dangers to escape the dangers of the world they already know.  They choose to accept the ambiguities of the unknown rather than be swallowed up by the dangers in their immediate present moments.  Illumine their path as they seek new homes, permanent and temporary.  Comfort them when they mourn those who die in the whirlwind of violence; assuage them from the sense of guilt that sometimes comes with the mercy of survival.  Give them the courage to start over.  We ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

The Third Sorrow--The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple

With what pain and desolation,
With what grief and resignation,
Mary watched her dying son.
Deep the woe of her affliction,
when she saw the crucifixion
of the sole begotten one.


Imagine Mary's fear and apprehension when young Jesus was nowhere to be found. Even though no one can watch her child every minute of every day, Mary certainly must have blamed herself.  Perhaps she had cross words with him just prior to his slipping away unnoticed, or she had disciplined him, and she regretted it.  Perhaps she and Joseph blamed each other, or they were caught in the uneasy web of wanting to console each other, yet there was no time, because they needed to keep searching for their son.

Each day, thousands of sons and daughters go missing.  Some have left home of their own accord.  Others have been abducted.  Families of missing children find each day, each hour, a torment.  They have searched in vain for their children, trying the same avenues over and over, until they are so weary, they simply want to stop.  Yet they cannot--to stop searching feels like resigning to their child's death.  Their lives are hung in a state of suspended animation--is their child alive?  Or dead?   Some mothers will go to their grave never knowing.  When the phone rings, does it bring relief?  Or will it bring grief?

Let us pray.  (silence)

Omniscient and omnipresent God, you call the stars by name and can count the number of raindrops in a thundercloud.  No one is absent from your sight.  Attend to the fears and grief of the families who mourn their separation from their missing children. Incline the ears of the runaway to hear your small still voice.  Lend your aid and protection to the missing children who are in danger and cannot defend themselves. When the lost are found, when the absent become present, help us to ponder these things in our hearts in the same way the Blessed Virgin Mary did, upon discovering Jesus in the temple. In the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, finder of lost sheep, we pray.  Amen.

The Fourth Sorrow--Mary Meets Jesus on the Way to Calvary

Who, on Christ's dear mother gazing,
in her trouble so amazing,
born of woman, would not weep?
Who, on Christ's dear Mother thinking,
such a cup of sorrow drinking,
would not share her sorrows deep?


Nothing could have consoled Mary when she saw her son on the way to Calvary--whipped and scourged, the crowds mocking, taunting and jeering.  Perhaps they also scorned her for approaching him, mocking her cries and moans as she beheld the horror of what had been done to Jesus.  But perhaps also in that crowd there were silent mothers whose stomach churned at the thought, "This could be my child.  I could be that woman."

Each day, mothers travel long distances to see their children in prison and in police stations.  Some behold the horror of their children beaten by authorities.  In some countries, brutality at the hands of police and soldiers is typical and expected, rather than unusual and deplorable.  Some of these mothers will discover that their daughters will have been raped by those who swore to uphold and protect the laws.  Some mothers will see their children's limbs blown off by land mines and IED's, or visit them in the hospital following such events.  Some mothers will weep at the side of their children dying on the battlefield.

Let us pray. (silence)

Liberator God, when we view the carnage of the world news through media sources, remind us that these could be our children, our parents, our siblings.  Help us to see the pain of the Blessed Virgin Mary beholding her son at Calvary, rather than to pass judgment on the situation or the politics.  Fill our eyes with her tears, our hearts with her sorrow, our stomachs with her aching love for her Son.  Place your words in our mouths so we can find the voice to speak out on behalf of the oppressed; animate our hands and feet to work for justice and peace.  We ask this in the name of your Son, the Prince of Peace.  Amen.

The Fifth Sorrow--Jesus Dies on the Cross


In the passion of my Maker,
be my sinful soul partaker,
may I bear with her my part;
of his passion bear the token,
in a spirit bowed and broken
bear his death within my heart.


Certainly the biggest heartbreak of all for Mary was the prolonged agony she had to witness as Jesus died.  Crucifixion is a long, slow, painful form of death.  It can take hours or days before hypovolemic shock, sepsis, or dehydration sets in.  It was a death so horrible that it was usually not used in executing Roman citizens.  To see her son humiliated in this way must have been emotional torture.

Each day, mothers all over the world watch their children die slowly of diseases such as malaria, malnutrition, and HIV.  They see their children die from war, genocide, and land mines.  They see their children tortured in front of their very eyes during interrogations and imprisonment. They watch the slow spiral of their children falling victim to addictions.  Mary's grief at Jesus' death is repeated every day worldwide because of disease, famine, addiction, and political unrest. 

Let us pray. (silence)

Faithful God, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary steadfastly remained at the feet of Jesus till the end, you abide with us through our tribulations and sorrows.  Some of the greatest sorrows in our lives are not our own afflictions, but the wounds that are borne by those we love, and all we can do is watch helplessly.  Reveal your presence to us to the dying as well as to us, as we keep vigil.  Open our eyes to the plight of those dying from conditions or situations we cannot even imagine.  We pray these things in the name of the One who had to suffer and die before he could be raised again in glory. Amen.

The Sixth Sorrow--Mary Receives the Body of Jesus in Her Arms

Jesus, may thy cross defend me,
and thy saving death befriend me,
cherished by thy deathless grace:
when to dust my dust returneth,
grant a soul that to thee yearneth
in thy paradise a place.


Although it might not seem like a gift for Mary to have received the lifeless Jesus in her arms, in reality it was a tremendous gift.  Normally, victims of crucifixion were not taken down from the cross--they were left on it to rot after the vultures had picked around on the soft parts.  They could remain there weeks, months--even so long as a year.  They remained, scarecrow-like, in the hopes that the local population saw it as a potential deterrent.  Families were generally not allowed to take their loved ones down from the cross.  Mary was given one last sacred moment with her son when most families would still have to endure the sight of their loved ones on a cross.

Each day, all over the world, families face moments of closure, even though the news is bad.  Mothers with missing children are notified that, although their child is dead, their child has been found.  They accept the reality that their loved one will never return.  Although closure so often follows bad news, it is a necessary component of the grieving process.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of all truth, you reveal all things in your time, not ours.  Not all of your revelations give us the answer we desire. Just as Mary accepted her dead son in her arms, help us to accept the answers we are given, and to willingly embrace them, even if they are not the answer of our heart's desire. Lead us into the path of simply taking one step in front of another, as opposed to wallowing in the past.  Imbue us with the courage to accept our heartbreaks as they are, not as we would have them to be.  We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who triumphed over death and the grave.  Amen.

The Seventh Sorrow--The Body of Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb

Jesus, may her deep devotion
stir in me the same emotion,
Fount of love, Redeemer kind;
that my heart fresh ardor gaining,
and a purer love attaining,
may with thee acceptance find.


Any of us who have buried a loved one--particularly a young person who never had the chance to live what we'd consider a full lifespan--knows what certainly must have been Mary's lament--"Why him, God? Why could you have not spared him and taken me instead?"

Each day, all over the world, mothers weep for the lives that will never be lived fully because they were snuffed out prematurely by the gangster's stray bullet, the indifferent car bomb, and the drunk driver. Lives that ended because of a mosquito's sting, the swing of an executioner's hand, or the calculated, executive decision of a general halfway across the world. Whether one is wicked or noble, in death they are all the same, and a mother's tears flow with equal force. We too often forget that someone's hopes and dreams for the future often go in that tomb, as well.  But tomorrow will come, and each of us, in our own way, and in our own spaces, will be faced with the task of walking away from the tomb and leaving those old hopes buried, to see new hopes in tomorrows yet to come, in the presence of each other.

Let us pray. (silence)

God of all the tomorrows not yet lived, we do not always understand why we are left to live on while those we love die prematurely.  We can fathom no purpose for why these things happen in our sometimes torn and desolate world.  We are grieved over what we would have done, had we known better.  We lament what we should have done and didn't.  Forgive us for our blindness to what we could have done.  Grant us strength to hold our arms out wide enough to accept your embrace, and the embrace of those around us acting in your stead.  Rouse us in our inertia, to be able to walk away from the tomb despite our desire to crawl inside it ourselves.  In the name of He Who Rolled Away The Stone, something no one could dare ask or imagine, we pray.  Amen.


Concluding Prayers:

God of all mercies, we thank you for the witness of Mary, the mother of Jesus, God-bearer for us all;
who witnessed not by acts of mighty power, but by tears of deepest sorrow.

We thank you for her witness of trust in God despite Simeon's prophesy that her own soul would be pierced;
help us to trust in God's mercy even when our lives look uncertain.

We thank you for her witness despite fear during the Holy Family's flight into Egypt;
keep us ever mindful that you are present even in our own deepest fears.

We thank you for her witness of perseverance as she searched for the lost child Jesus and found him in the temple;
uphold us in our own times of searching.

We thank you for her witness of presence as her son traveled the Via Dolorosa;
grant us serenity and grace in those times we are impotent to help those we love.

We thank you for her witness of faithfulness unto death as her son died on the cross;
strengthen us in the times we feel unable to bear any more sorrow.

We thank you for her witness of acceptance as she received the body of Jesus;
steady our hands as we accept the things we cannot change.

We thank you for her witness of grief as the stone rolled over the tomb;
empower us to put away what is dead, and await the Resurrection, though we cannot yet imagine it.

Hear our petitions, Lord, as we reflect on these seven sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
(the people add their petitions as desired.)

We fly, O God, to the witness of Mary, the God-Bearer;
in your mercy hear the petitions and sorrows of our heart,
and deliver us from all danger.
In the name of the Father who loves us, the Son who redeems us,
and the Holy Spirit who comforts us,
we humbly pray.  Amen.

1 comments:

Thank you for one of the most inspiring, beautifully written meditations on the Seven Dolors of Mary!

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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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