The account of Jesus’ passion and death in St. Mark’s gospel has these interesting lines. “There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.” (Mark 15,40-41)
John’s gospel brings some of those women closer, and puts Mary, his mother, first among those standing by the cross of Jesus. Mary follows her Son into the mystery of the cross as a disciple.“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
She stands, close by, not at a distance, not afraid to see, not absorbed in her own suffering, not disengaged from him or his sufferings. She enters into the mystery of the cross through compassion, which cannot reproduce or understand another’s suffering exactly, but breaks the isolation suffering causes and bears some of its burden. The sword, the spear, pierces both hearts, but in a different way.
Compassion is a necessary part of the mystery of the cross.
The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, which we celebrate in the Roman calendar on September 15th, was placed after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) only recently, in the 20th century by Pope Pius X. He took the feast, formerly the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and placed it on this date which is the octave of Mary’s birth (September 7).
This feast has a special meaning for the Passionists. It tells us who we are.