The Seven Sorrows, or Seven Dolors of Mary is a devotion dating back to the fourteenth century. This meditation on Our Lady’s sufferings was given to St. Bridget in the fourteenth century, but was not as widespread until it was approved centuries later by Pope Pius VII in 1815. It is a wonderful way for us during Lent, a time for reflection and penance, to consider what Jesus and His mother have both suffered because of our sins, and to make reparation by joining our sufferings to theirs, shedding tears with them, and making their sorrows our own.
This devotion focuses specifically on Mary’s trials throughout her life, many of them revealed to us through Scripture. They are in order: The prophesy of Simeon, The flight into Egypt, losing Jesus in the Temple, Jesus meeting His mother on the road to Calvary, Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus’ body is taken down from the Cross, and Jesus’ burial. Each Sorrow is reflected while praying a Hail Mary, so by the time you have finished the meditation, you have prayed seven Hail Marys, one for each Sorrow.
I encourage you to pray this devotion through Lent this year, as reflection on the sufferings of the Blessed Mother will certainly bring you closer to her, and she will bring you ever more to her Son. Today, let’s reflect especially the First Sorrow of Our Lady: The Prophecy of Simeon.
You may recall that the Presentation is a Joyful Mystery of the rosary. So why is it one of Mary’s sorrows? If you look deeper, Simeon’s prophecy holds not only joy, but sorrow. After rejoicing over the Child Jesus, Simeon tells Mary, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted.” If that didn’t sadden her enough, what Simeon said next surely did, “And thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” What could all this mean?
Of course, we know Mary was never stabbed with a physical sword, but a spiritual one. Our Lady told St. Bridget, when she gave her the Seven Sorrows devotion, that after Simeon’s prophesy she felt great pain at the thought of how her Child would suffer when it came time for him to save the world on the cross. Imagine the pain of knowing the person you love most would have to suffer for you and everyone else. Then imagine not just suffering but dying the most ignominious death possible, for a world which is ungrateful. Then you will have glimpsed the sorrow our Blessed Mother endured when gazing upon her Holy Son, remembering His mission on earth.
We should try our best not only to meditate on this Sorrow but feel it, turning our hearts from the sin which has caused our Blessed Mother and our Savior so much pain. Show your love and gratitude by being willing to take their pain and sorrow upon yourself. Then remember that once the trials of this world are over, we may enjoy Heaven where there is no tears, no death, and no pain. It is only by suffering here that we will truly appreciate Christ’s gift of redemption and demonstrate our gratitude for it.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!