|Is there any grief like a mother’s when she loses her child? Stabat Mater, a Latin hymn that can also be recited in prayer, immerses us in the Blessed Mother’s intense sorrow at seeing her beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the cross in His Passion so that we might have Eternal Life! Its title comes from its first line in Latin “Stabat Mater dolorosa” (roughly translated “the sorrowful mother stood”). |
A Franciscan friar named Jacopone da Todi is said to have written the original text of the Stabat Mater in the 13th century, although some scholars have attributed it to Pope Innocent III, among others.
There are over 60 English translations of the Stabat Mater. It has been so popular that numerous composers including Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, Schubert, and Verdi have set the original Latin text to music.
The Stabat Mater was used frequently in the Liturgy for centuries before it became a sequence (a hymn spoken or sung before the Gospel) in 1727 for the feast of the Seven Sorrows [or Dolors] of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 15th. Its use as a sequence is optional now on that feast day (now called the feast for Our Lady of Sorrows), but the hymn is often prayed with the Stations of the Cross at Lent.
The Stabat Mater brings to mind front and center just how fully our Blessed Mother suffered along with Jesus, like Him on our behalf! St Alphonsus Liguori once wrote that “two hung upon one cross.”
While she wasn’t crucified, of course, her heartbreak was just as intense! After all, as we read in the seventh stanza of the twenty that comprise the Stabat Mater she saw her beloved Son “bruised, derided, cursed, defiled…all with bloody scourges rent.”
Imagine seeing a loved one, a very special loved one, in fact, undergoing such physical and emotional agony. Now add to that the thought that you can’t do anything to help that person, who’s suffering all the more to see your anguish!
Is it any wonder that we have devotions and prayers to our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Sorrows? St Bonaventure wrote of Mary’s sorrow at her Son’s death that “no grief was more bitter than hers, because no son was as dear as her Son.”
From what tradition tells us, the Blessed Mother had a strong sense of what was coming way before Christ’s Passion. When she presented her little baby Jesus in the Temple, fulfilling Mosaic law, a “just and devout” (Lk 2:25) man named Simeon, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, foretold both our Lord’s greatness, saying He would be “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for thy people, Israel,” calling Him “a sign that shall be contradicted” (Lk 2:32 and 34).
He told Mary that she would suffer along with her Son as well, saying that “thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Lk 2:35). Her wounds would be figurative but just as painful! St Bernard once noted that “Love inflicted on the heart of Mary the same tortures caused by the nails in the body of Jesus.”
When the Blessed Mother experienced, along with her Son, such an intense, bitter martyrdom of love that awful day at Calvary, could anyone present there have imagined that anything good would come out of it? Yet something quite wonderful did occur! Christ, in His death and resurrection, paved the road for our salvation and “life everlasting” with Him in Heaven.
When we offer up our sorrows to Jesus on the Cross, bearing our own cross with patience, and truly seek to follow in His footsteps in our daily lives, we say to both Him and His Blessed Mother, “your efforts on my behalf weren’t in vain!”
|Adapted from Our Catholic Prayers|
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blest,
Of the sole begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs.
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His spirit forth He sent.
O thou Mother: fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ my Lord.
Holy Mother, pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torment died.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the Cross with thee to stay;
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share thy grief divine.
Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swooned
In His very blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defense,
Be Thy Cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee. Amen.