The Virgin of Sorrows is the Portress of the Holy Mysteries, the Keeper of the Door of Christ’s Pierced Heart, the Mother of our Joy. On the Friday of Passion Week, the Church keeps the Solemn Commemoration of the Sorrows and Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a Proper Mass.
The sequence of tomorrow’s Mass, the Stabat Mater, is a thirteenth century text, attributed to the Franciscan friar, Jacopone da Todi. The Stabat Mater is strong medicine for those who, being of a more abstract or cerebral disposition, would approach the Passion of Christ without getting bloodied, without being set ablaze, without feeling a melting in their breast.
Stabat Mater Dolorosa
Translated by Denis Florence MacCarthy (1817-1882)
Although I grew up with the beautiful Caswell translation of the Stabat Mater, my favourite English translation was done by the Irish author, poet, and translator Denis Florence MacCarthy. Three strophes are particularly noteworthy:
By the cross, on which suspended,
With his bleeding hands extended,
Hung that Son she so adored,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
She whose heart, its silence keeping,
Grief had cleft as with a sword.
Oh, that Mother’s sad affliction–
Mother of all benediction–
Of the sole-begotten One;
Oh, the grieving, sense-bereaving,
Of her heaving breast, perceiving
The dread sufferings of her Son.
What man is there so unfeeling,
Who, his heart to pity steeling,
Could behold that sight unmoved?
Could Christ’s Mother see there weeping,
See the pious Mother keeping
Vigil by the Son she loved?
For his people’s sins atoning,
She saw Jesus writhing, groaning,
‘Neath the scourge wherewith he bled;
Saw her loved one, her consoler,
Dying in his dreadful dolour,
Till at length his spirit fled.
O thou Mother of election,
Fountain of all pure affection,
Make thy grief, thy pain, my own;
Make my heart to God returning,
In the love of Jesus burning,
Feel the fire that thine has known.
Blessed Mother of prediction,
Stamp the marks of crucifixion
Deeply on my stony heart,
Ever leading where thy bleeding
Son is pleading for my needing,
Let me in his wounds take part.
Make me truly, each day newly
While life lasts, O Mother, duly
Weep with him, the Crucified.
Let me, ’tis my sole demanding,
Near the cross, where thou art standing,
Stand in sorrow at thy side.
Queen of virgins, best and dearest,
Grant, oh, grant the prayer thou hearest.
Let me ever mourn with me;
Let compassion me so fashion
That Christ’s wounds, his death and passion,
Be each day renewed in me.
Oh, those wounds, do not deny me;
On that cross, oh, crucify me;
Let me drink his blood, I pray:
Then on fire, enkindled, daring,
I may stand without despairing
On that dreadful judgment-day.
May that cross be my salvation;
Make Christ’s death my preservation;
May his grace my heart make wise;
And when death my body taketh,
May my soul when it awaketh
Ope in heaven its raptured eyes.