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Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Mary’s, Greenwich CT

The commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady on the Friday in Passion week provides for us the opportunity to prepare to enter through the threshold of the Church’s most solemn time in the company of she who is the Mother of Christ and, by his command, our mother also. In the example of Our Blessed Lady we are presented with a model of the Christian life in every aspect and virtue, but in a particular way we are shown how we must be configured to bear the weight of the Cross of Our Lord and Saviour, so that we might also enjoy the fruits of his sacrifice in the bliss of the beatific vision. That is to say, in the person of Our Lady we see how we should journey through the coming days of Holy Week, and in particular the Sacred Triduum, so that the Paschal celebrations might be for us more than an outward observation of the Church’s external life, but an internal and interiorly transforming experience of God’s grace: his divine mercy poured out for us in the blood of the Son of the eternal Father who has become the Priest, the Altar, and the Lamb of Sacrifice.

Interwoven into the Introit, the Tract, the Sequence, and the Gospel of this Mass is an indicator of how we are to imitate Our Lady in these coming days. The verb Sto, which we might recognize more readily in the first line of the Sequence—Stabat Mater dolorosa / Iuxta Crucem lacrimosa—but also in those other texts, does not simply mean that Our Lady stood at the foot of the Cross of her Son, but that she remained there; keeping her station as some translations put it. She was, we might say, steadfast at the foot of the Cross; in stasis, as the Greek cognate would have it; transfixed, as we will pray over the oblation of bread and wine in the Offertory, and in the Preface. She was resolute at the Cross of Christ, because she knew that, as we ourselves voice in the devotion of the Via Crucis, by the Cross Christ redeems the world. The Cross is our life, our hope, and our salvation; by it we are saved and made free.

That presence at the Cross foreshadowed by Our Lady is in some sense our lot in this life. We are called to walk in the valley of the shadow of death, to labour in hac lacrimarum valle—in this vale of tears. Yet we too know that we are placed here at the Cross, in a particular way, during the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice. It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that the reality of the Cross is re-presented, not as some vague reenactment but as a real entering-into the mystery of the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection, as we glimpse the eternal sacrifice made by Christ on the Cross; the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world. Our Lady, then, shows us that our place is here at the Eucharistic altar. It is here, truly and actively participating in the Sacred Liturgy—by our external participation, yes, but also by our interior union with God in the life of grace begun in us in the waters of baptism—that we are called to be. Here we enter into the mystery of the Lord’s Cross, but at the same time we are replenished with the fruits of his saving action, and given a glimpse of the spoils of his victory over sin and death. As Saint Thomas Aquinas puts it in his antiphon honouring the Most Blessed Sacrament: O sacred banquet! / in which Christ is received, / the memory of his Passion is renewed, / the mind is filled with grace, / and a pledge of future glory to us is given.

Conscious of the example given us in the steadfastness of Our Lady, then, let us make our stand here at the foot of the Cross: participants in the passion and death of Christ the Lord. Let us root ourselves, our lives and actions, in the life-giving sacrifice of Christ, united with Our Lady in the communion of the Church in order to seek the salvation of ourselves and, by our apostolic endeavours, the whole of mankind. And may we, who seek to offer our prayers and sacrificial oblations in commemoration of the sevenfold piercing of the Immaculate Heart of the Mother of Christ, by her manifold intercession receive the merits won by her beloved Son, that united to him in our worship and adoration in earth, we may be given a place at his side for all eternity in the kingdom of his eternal Father.