At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
The 13th century Stabat Mater is the renting Latin hymn played in a minor key at each Station of the Cross – it echoes across the centuries on September 15, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The Stations of the Cross are a commemoration of Jesus’ walk to the Crucifixion at Calvary, the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Sorrows”). At each Station, the priest accompanied by an altar server, usually carrying a Cross atop a pole, and another server (or two) carrying a lighted candle(s) and incense, recite the familiar, “We adore You, Oh Christ, and we praise You. Because, by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.” The priest then narrates a description of the events of each Station, along with an invocation of how the faithful may embrace the sufferings (and the graces) of the happenings in their daily lives. As the group moves to the next Station, a refrain of the Stabat Mater accompanies them.
Only one week ago was the celebration of the Birth of Mother Mary (September 8th), then the Feast of Her Most Holy Name on September 12. These joyous events are no more significant that today’s commemoration of Our Lady’s suffering, particularly of Her presence at the foot of the Cross at the death of Jesus.
The Blessed Mother gratefully accepted both the sorrows (foretold by Simeon) and the joys of Her earthly life as the Mother of Jesus. She understood that life holds both good and bad, and that she would experience the most devastating event that a mother can experience – the death of a child. Nonetheless, at the Annunciation she said, “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Today’s commemoration is not only about Our Lady’s sorrows, but also about her acceptance – without conditions. Fully on display at the foot of the Cross, when Jesus says, “Behold, your mother” (John 19: 25-27), are her sorrows, and her loving trust. Although sinless, this is a fully human model for all in the face of sufferings, and joys.