Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday in Passiontide: Remembering the Compassion of Mary

Today--the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent--is a day traditionally set aside to honor to Seven Sorrows of Mary. Although the reforms of the Church's Calendar after Vatican II elimitated this duplicate celebration of the Mary's "Dolours," opting to focus on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15, the liturgy does include an optional collect (opening prayer) for today's Mass which reminds us of the special role Mary played in the Passion.

And so, today, we remember Mary as the Woman of Compassion.

Madonna in Sorrow
by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

In our culture, compassion is often equated with kindness or even with mercy, but there is a much more dynamic meaning to this word. It comes to us from two Latin words (cum=with and passio=to suffer) and literally means "to suffer with." And so, to be a person of compassion means that we literally share in the sufferings of another person. This isn't simple empathy, either. Compassion means that we see the other as an extension of ourself and so, if they are suffering, we, too, feel experience their pain.

The Gospel of John tells us that Mary stood by the Cross of Jesus as a witness to everything that was happening to her Son. She heard his cries and she saw the wounds that had been inflicted upon him. Simeon had prophesied years before that a "sword of sorrow" would pierce her heart and that prophecy had been proven true. And so, we contemplate Mary standing by her Son, sharing in everything he experienced, loving him as only a mother can.

Today, on this Friday of "Passiontide," we stand with Mary and sharing her sorrows as we contemplate the self-gift of her Son offered for our sakes. I think that today marks a fitting prelude to the liturgies and devotions of Holy Week.

The devotion of this day also reminds us that we are also called to compassion, to sharing in the suffering of those other Christs who experience the pain of rejection, abuse, and neglect in so many parts of the world, including in our own communities and families.

Thank you to all of you who took part in the novena honoring Our Lady of Sorrows I had shared last week. May God bless you as we enter into Holy Week and continue our journey to the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

A Prayer for Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent +
O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
- from The Roman Missal
Alternate Collect for Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

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