Friday, 3 April 2009

Our Lady of Sorrows - the last Friday of Lent.

There is a custom in the Holy Land and in many places to keep this day holy by the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Above is a photo of the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows which is between the place where Jesus was nailed to the cross and the place of crucifixion itself. This altar is looked after by the Latins. It is a wonderful devotion to focus today on the mother who stood by the cross and entrust to her our journey of Holy Week.
In a world of great turmoil, the presence of the Sorrowful Mother near the suffering Christ and his body, is as significant as ever. The vocation of Our Lady, faithful companion ever at His side has inspired people in every age, giving them comfort amid affliction, courage, sure Hope, strength to be involved in human anguish, and the generosity to put the needs of others before one's own. What seems particularly poignant is Our Lady's helplessness. She is most obviously present, and yet quite unable to do anything, other than be there. Of course just "being there" could be taken as an excuse for "doing nothing" towards eradicating the causes of human anguish. But many "anti suffering" activities just create more sufferings, like starting one war to stop another one. The first requisite for genuine "activity against suffering" is actual compassion, an almost silent presence, which becomes part of the anguish long before being able to do anything about it. It's easy to talk like this, but very difficult to truly suffer with those who suffer. Our Lady of Sorrows offers us the most encouraging demonstration of the supreme vocation of the Suffering Servant of God himself, who impoverishes himself for us, emptying himself until he has literally nothing left to lose. The silent presence of Our Lady in the middle of human anguish of both Christ and the Body of Christ is of great inspiration to us.The silent presence of Our Lady in the suffering of Christ can reassure us when we feel powerless in the face of human suffering (our own or others). It will encourage us not to look away from the pain and sorrow of people, even if we can little or nothing. It will purify our motives when we actually do something for the alleviation and eradication of suffering, so that we don't replace one form of patronising oppression with another. And it will enhance in us that unique peace of Christ "which surpasses all understanding", successfully combining within us the gifts of humility, unlimited compassion and tenderness, great clarity in matters of justice, and firmness for doing whatever we can for others with detachment, with confidence and with far more Christ like zeal than we ever believed possible. Our service and our prayers can help people to be close to the suffering and glorious Saviour, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sorrowful Mother.

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