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Our Lady’s Good Friday


Sorrow is knowledge, those that know the most must mourn the deepest, the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life.” ~ Lord Byron

Like many of you, every year I supplement my Lenten Journey with The Little Black Book. These seemingly ubiquitous pamphlet-sized books with the blank black bound covers are made readily available in many Catholic Churches, typically in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday. The content of this year’s Lenten edition is based largely on the writings of Bishop Ken Untener and put together by Catherine Haven, editor of the Little BooksSeries, with the help of Sister Nancy Ayotte, who works with the catechesis of the Good Shepherd. They are an invaluable resource, and I urge you to seek one out, perhaps for the upcoming Easter Season.

In any event, I came across something very interesting in today’s Little Black Book entry with regard to the Friday before Good Friday. In the early days of the Church, the sorrows and compassion of the Blessed Mother during the passion and death of her son were commemorated during the week before Palm Sunday. In fact the Friday before Good Friday became known as “Our Lady’s Good Friday.”

In 1482, the feast was added to the Roman Missal under the title of Our Lady of Compassion. In 1814, Pope Pius VII changed the feasts name to Our Lady of Sorrows in thanksgiving for his release from prison in France where he had been held by none other than Napoleon. In addition, the Holy Father extended the feast to the entire Church. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows was eventually moved to September 15th by Pope Pius X in 1913

The principal biblical references detailing Mary’s sorrows can be found in the second chapter of Luke (2:35) and the nineteenth chapter of John (19:26-27). The passage in Luke is Simeon’s prophecy wherein he speaks of a sword piercing Mary’s soul. The passage from John relates Jesus’ words from the cross to Mary and to “the disciple that he loved” (John).

Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary’s sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus suffer and ultimately die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment. “If all the sorrows of the world were united,” Saint Bernardine once said, “they would not equal that of the glorious Virgin Mary." Saint Ambrose sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the foot of the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. She gazed upon her Son’s wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear for her life but instead offered herself to her persecutors.

Behold your mother. In the previously aforementioned verse from John 19:26-27, Jesus gives us his mother, doing so from the very instrument of his torture no less. Yet many reject her. They fail to venerate and give thanks for her. They refuse to accept the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which states that she was preserved from the stain of original sin from the beginning of time They mock her in songs, movies, and elsewhere. I can’t help but wonder if all of this is perhaps Mary’s eighth and greatest sorrow.

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Let us always give thanks to Mary for her yes. For with this yes came many sorrows, all of which she bore for her children. Mary reminds us that sorrows is merely temporary. Her eventual Queenship in the Kingdom that will have no end is proof of that. For as we approach Palm Sunday, I’m reminded of the words of William Penn, who said “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory….no cross, no crown.”

I leave you with a prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows, a prayer that I urge you to offer generously in memory of and thanksgiving for the woman who altered the universe by way of her yes to God:

“O most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ: by the overwhelming grief you experienced when you witnessed the martyrdom, crucifixion and death of your divine Son, look upon us with eyes of compassion, and awaken in our hearts a tender commiseration for those sufferings, as well as a sincere detestation of our sins, in order that being disengaged from all undue affection for the passing joys of this earth, we may sigh after the eternal Jerusalem, and that henceforward all our thoughts and all our actions may be directed towards this one most desirable object. Honor, glory, and love to our divine Lord Jesus, and to the holy and immaculate Mother of God.” Amen.

“Those wounds that were scattered all over the body of our Lord were all united in the single heart of Mary.” ~ Saint Bonaventure

“Those wounds that were scattered all over the body of our Lord were all united in the single heart of Mary.” ~ Saint Bonaventure

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