Shared by Sue Cifelli:
September is the month of Our Lady of Sorrows. In his fourth meditation on the "Seven Sorrows of Our Lady," St. Alphonsus Liguori describes the pain, horror, and pity that the Blessed Virgin Mary experienced as she anticipated Christ's crucifixion, and encountered him on his way to Calvary:
All mothers feel the sufferings of their children as their own. Hence, when the Canaanite woman entreated our Saviour to deliver her daughter from the devil that tormented her, she asked Him rather to pity her, the mother, than her daughter: "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David, my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil." But what mother ever loved her son as Mary loved Jesus?
Let us only imagine what a flame He must have enkindled in that pure heart of His holy Mother, void as it was of every earthly affection. In fine, the Blessed Virgin herself told Saint Bridget, "that love had rendered her heart and that of her Son but one." That blending together of Servant and Mother, of Son and God, created in the heart of Mary a fire composed of a thousand flames.
But the whole of this flame of love was afterwards, at the time of the Passion, ranged into a sea of grief, when Saint Bernardine declares, "that if all the sorrows of the world were united, they would not equal that of the glorious Virgin Mary." Yes, because, as Richard of St. Lawrence writes, "the more tenderly this Mother loved, so much the more deeply was she wounded." The greater was her love for Him, the greater was her grief at the sight of His sufferings; and especially when she met her Son, already condemned to death, and bearing His cross to the place of punishment.
The Blessed Virgin revealed to Saint Bridget, that when the time of the Passion of our Lord was approaching, her eyes were always filled with tears, as she thought of her beloved Son, whom she was about to lose on earth, and that the prospect of that approaching suffering caused her to be seized with fear, and a cold sweat to cover her whole body.
Saint Bonaventure, contemplating Mary on that night, says: "Thou didst spend it without sleep, and whilst others slept thou didst remain watching." In the morning the disciples of Jesus Christ came to this afflicted Mother, the one to bring her one account, the other another; but all were tidings of sorrow, verifying in her the prophecy of Jeremias: "Weeping, she hath wept in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; there is none to comfort her of all them that were dear to her."
Mary goes with Saint John, and by the blood with which the way is sprinkled, she perceives that her Son has already passed. This she revealed to Saint Bridget: "By the footsteps of my Son, I knew where He had passed: for along the way the ground was marked with blood."
Alas, what a scene of sorrows then presented itself before her! the nails, the hammers, the cords, the fatal instruments of the death of her Son, all of which were borne before Him. And what a sword must the sound of that trumpet have been to her heart, which proclaimed the sentence pronounced against her Jesus! But behold, the instruments, the trumpeter, and the executioners, have already passed; she raised her eyes, and saw, O God ! a young man covered with blood and wounds from head to foot, a wreath of thorns on His head, and two heavy beams on His shoulders.
On the one hand she desired to behold Him, and on the other she dreaded so heart-rending a sight. At length they looked at each other. The Son wiped from His eyes the clotted blood, which, as it was revealed to Saint Bridget, prevented Him from seeing, and looked at His Mother, and the Mother looked at her Son. Ah, looks of bitter grief, which, as so many arrows, pierced through and through those two beautiful and loving souls.
The Mother would have embraced Him, as Saint Anselm says, but the guards thrust her aside with insults, and urged forward the suffering Lord; and Mary followed Him. Ah, holy Virgin, whither goest thou? To Calvary. And canst thou trust thyself to behold Him, who is thy life, hanging on a cross?
"We even pity wild beasts," as Saint John Chrysostom writes; and did we see a lioness following her cub to death, the sight would move us to compassion. And shall we not also be moved to compassion on seeing Mary follow her immaculate Lamb to death? Let us, then, pity her, and let us also accompany her Son and herself, by bearing with patience the cross which our Lord imposes on us.
Saint John Chrysostom asks why Jesus Christ, in His other sufferings, was pleased to endure them alone, but in carrying His cross was assisted by the Cyrenean? He replies, that it was "that thou mayest understand that the cross of Christ is not sufficient without thine."