“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 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, not at a distance but close by, not afraid to see, not absorbed in her own suffering, not disengaged from her Son or his sufferings. She enters into this mystery through compassion. Compassion doesn’t experience another’s suffering exactly, but enters that suffering to break the isolation suffering causes. Compassion helps someone bear their burden. The sword, the spear, pierces both hearts, but in different ways.
Compassion is part of the mystery of the cross.
The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated 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 eight days after the day we celebrate 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.
Standing by his cross, Mary was led to share in his ‘ 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.