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LOOK AND SEE IF THERE HAS EVER BEEN A SUFFERING LIKE MINE

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The title is drawn from the Book of Lamentations 1:12  . The wording varies slightly depending which translation of the bible we may be using, but the sentiment expressed remains unchanged.


In the Vatican website's New American Bible , the passage is rendered thus:




"Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering, which has been dealt me. . . "

 
The Douay Rheims version of the Holy Bible, says it this way:




"O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. . . "


While the origin of the text is located in the Book of Lamentations, holy Tradition tells us its fulfillment occurs through and during the Passion of Our Blessed Lord . The passage is always associated with Our Lady of Sorrows - the Sixth Sorrow of the Seven Sorrows of Mary to be more precise . We can trace our present day's Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows all the way back to 1817  when it was  extended to the whole Church by Pope Pius VII . . . and well beyond . . . back to where its roots lay : with those who were living the Cistercian charism,  and, in significantly large part, to the Seven Servite Founders who, in 1239, five years after they established themselves on Monte Senario, took up the Sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principal devotion of their order. Our Lady of Sorrows continues to be the patroness of their order (and of many subsequent orders  as well).

Some writers attribute that particular "Sorrow" expressed in Lamentations to Jesus during His Passion , some attribute it to Our Blessed Mother during Jesus' Passion. In my limited opinion, we gain the most insight into the mystery of this suffering , when we consider how intimately the Sacred Heart of Jesus is united to the Immaculate Heart of Our Blessed Mother, and vice versa. Simple logic tells us that the Heart of Mary is united to the Heart of Jesus in such a profound way that we cannot fully comprehend it as long as we dwell on this earth



A basic fact is that sin is what separates us from God. Our Blessed Mother had no sin , so her Heart could be united with her Son's Heart perfectly ; not only in His joys and in His triumphs, but more tangibly to us, in His sorrows - sorrows which always reverberated in a unique way in the Heart of His Mother.





The Collect for the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in the New Roman Missal helps us to pray what we ponder:





O God, who willed that, when your son was lifted high on the Cross,

His Mother should stand close by and share his suffering,

grant that your Church, participating with the Virgin

Mary in the Passion of Christ,

may merit a share in his Resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the

Holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


The wording is worth noting : It does not say Mary suffered alongside or beside Christ, but rather: She shared His suffering .


“See if there is any suffering like my suffering” . . .  hmmm  . . . A glimpse at several short excerpts taken from The Glories of Mary, Part II , by St. Alphonsus Liguori , can sometimes  reveal a particular sorrow lived by our Blessed Mother that we may not have encountered before :



Selected Excerpts From THE GLORIES OF MARY- PART II
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori  [pp 139-142]

The Sixth Sorrow
 
The Piercing of the Side of Jesus and His Descent From  the Cross


O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow (Lam 1:12) . O devout souls, hear what our sorrowful Mother has to say to us today: “My beloved children, I do not ask you to comfort me , for my soul is no longer capable of being consoled now that my Jesus has died. But if you wish to commiserate with me, look at me and see if there has ever been a sorrow like mine in the world, for the one I love so much has been torn from me with such great cruelty.”   . . .


We must now consider the sixth sorrow which weighed upon the heart of our Blessed Lady. Listen attentively and weep. Until now, Mary’s sorrows have tortured her one by one. But now they converge, as it were, to assail her all at once.
It is enough to tell a mother that her son is dead to arouse in her heart all her love for the dead child . . .



But O my Queen , if I wished to lighten your grief for the death of Jesus , what reprehensible things could I remind you of that He had ever done to you ? There are none. He always loved you, always obeyed you, always respected you. Now that you have lost Him , who can ever hope to describe your grief ? You alone can describe it, you who have experienced it . . .


The Jews wanted the body of Jesus taken down from the cross so that the joy of the following paschal Sabbath might not be disturbed. But since this could not be done until it was certain that the criminals were dead, men came with iron bars to break Our Lord’s legs, as they had already done to the two thieves crucified with Him. Mary was still weeping over the death of her Son when she saw these armed men advancing towards Jesus. At first she trembled with fear, then she said: “ My Son is already dead. Do not harm Him anymore. Do not torment me anymore; I am His poor Mother.”  According to St. Bonaventure, she begged them not to break his legs. But while she was speaking , a soldier rode up brandishing a lance and plunged it through the side of Jesus. One of the soldiers with a spear opened His side and immediately there came out blood and water (Jn 19:34)


The Cross shook when the lance pierced the body of the Saviour and, as was later revealed to St. Bridget, the heart of Jesus was divided in two. Blood and water came out, for only a few drops of blood remained. Yet even these our Saviour was pleased to shed, that we might understand that He had no more blood to give us. The blow of the centurion’s lance injured the body of Jesus, but Mary suffered its pain. “Christ,”  says the devout Lanspergius, “shared this wound with His Mother. He received the hurt ; but His Mother endured the pain.”
The Fathers maintain that this was actually the sword foretold by St. Simeon- a sword, not of iron, but of grief ; a sword that pierced her blessed soul in the heart of Jesus where her soul always dwelt. That is why St. Bernard and others have said: “The lance which pierced His side passed through the soul of the Blessed Virgin, a soul that could never leave her Son’s heart.”  Mary revealed the same thing to St. Bridget : “ When the spear was drawn out, the point was red with blood. It was then, when I saw the heart of my own dear Son pierced,  that I felt as though my own heart were also pieced.”  An angel told the same saint: “ Mary’s sufferings were so great that it was only by a miracle on God’s part that she did not die from them.” When she suffered before , she at least had her Son to pity her ; but now she had no Son to commiserate with her.


Fearing that still other frightful things might be done to Jesus, Mary begged Joseph of Arimathea to obtain the body from Pilate so that it could be guarded and spared from further outrage. Joseph went and explained to Pilate the sorrow and the wish of the Victim’s Mother. St. Anselm believes that pity for Mary softened the heart of Pilate and moved him to grant the request . . .
“Oh how many swords,” says St. Bonaventure, “pierced that poor Mother’s soul” when she received the body of her Son from the cross !  Just think of the anguish it would cause any mother to receive in her arms the lifeless body of her tortured son . . .
. . . But what would she say now if she were capable of sorrow ? How pained would she be to see men continue to torment and crucify her Son by their sins even after His death. Let us resolve not to torment our sorrowful Mother any longer. And if we have saddened her in the past by our sins , let us now do what she wants us to do. 




In his Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem - written in 1988 , Blessed John Paul II , when considering Our Lady of Sorrows , extended his meditation to encompass the suffering of all the women in the world - reminding us of particular prayer intentions which shouldn't be neglected :




"As we contemplate this Mother, whose heart a sword has pierced  (cf. Luke 2:35), our thoughts go to all  the suffering women in the world, suffering either physically  or morally. In this suffering  a woman's sensitivity plays a role,  even though she often succeeds in resisting suffering better than a man.


It is difficult to enumerate these sufferings; it is difficult to call them all by name. We may recall her maternal care for her children, especially when they fall sick or fall into bad ways;  the death of those most dear to her;  the loneliness of mothers forgotten by their grown-up children; the loneliness of widows; the sufferings of women who struggle alone to make a living; and women who have been wronged or exploited. Then there are the sufferings of consciences as a result of sin,  which has wounded the woman's human or maternal dignity: the wounds of consciences which do not heal easily. With these sufferings too we must place ourselves at the foot of the Cross."
 
Blessed  John Paul II
(Mulieris Dignitatem, 19)





At the foot of the Cross is precisely where we place ourselves when we contemplate the sufferings of Our Blessed Mother- which naturally orients us towards contemplating those sufferings Our Blessed Lord underwent for our sake, and draws us closer to both of them.



Because Mary is the Mother of Sorrows , and  her Heart  is so intimately united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus her Son , we may be certain that as our Mother, she is attentive to our own sufferings as well. Jesus wants us to be sure of this – He gave our Blessed Mother to each of us individually at the foot of the Cross: “Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother.” [John 19-27]

Subsequently, it now becomes our own personal sorrows which reverberate in a unique way in the tender Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother ; and she knows how to pray for her children when they are in difficult situations.


May your Mother intercede for us O Lord.

Mary, Hope of Christians and our Mother , please pray for us.



Amen.


_________________
    " . . . you should know that there is present with you the angel whom God has appointed for each man . . . This angel, who is sleepless and cannot be deceived, is always present with you; he sees all things and is not hindered by darkness. You should know, too, that with him is God " . . .   - St. Anthony the Great   

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