“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.” That’s how Mark’s gospel describes some onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion. (Mark 15,40-41)
John’s gospel brings some of the women closer. He places Mary, the Mother of Jesus, standing at the cross itself. “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 doesn’t experience his suffering exactly, but enters it to break the isolation suffering causes and helps someone bear their 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 Triumph 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).
The prayer for today’s feast says that when her Son “was lifted high on the Cross” his mother stood by and shared his suffering, but as yesterday’s feast of the Triumph of the Cross makes clear, Jesus lifted high draws all to himself to share in his resurrection.
Compassion leads to a share in Jesus’ resurrection.
For a commentary on John’s Gospel see here.
For a study on Mary on Calvary see here.
For readings for the feast and the Stabat Mater see here.