September 15 – Feast of the Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Octave of the Nativity
“Praise and glory be to thee, O holy Trinity, who hast brought us all to this day’s solemnity. Praise be to thee also, O holy Mother of God, scepter of the orthodox faith: through thee the Cross triumphs, and man is called back to heaven; through thee the idols are overthrown, and the nations are brought to repentance.” Such words as these, which the Church borrows from her doctors to close the bright Octave, were doubtless sung in prophecy by the angels around the new-born babe Mary. And such, in the light of the ages since elapsed, must needs be our answer to the question so often repeated at the cradle side: What shall this child be?
The doctrine lately laid down to magisterially by the infallible successor of St. Peter, is this: Since the days of her mortal life, when Mary was, even in this world, truly the Mother of the Church, the Queen of the Apostles and their Mistress with regard to the divine oracles; but especially since she has received in heaven an almost infinite power for dispensing the fruits of redemption: the mighty helper of the Christian people, the restorer of the world, has not ceased to prove herself the impregnable rampart of the Church, the solid foundation of the faith, the fountain springing from God, whence the rivers of divine Wisdom pour out their pure waters, sweeping away heresy from all places.
May so glorious a past give us confidence for the future. “It is by Mary,” says the Blessed Grignon de Montfort, “ that the salvation of the world has begun, and it is by Mary that is must be consummated. Being the way by which Jesus Christ came to us the first time, she will also be the way by which he will come the second time, though not in the same manner. Mary must shine forth more than ever in mercy, in might, and in grace, in these latter times: in mercy, to bring back and lovingly receive the poor strayed sinners who shall be converted and shall return to the Catholic Church; in might, against the enemies of God, idolaters, schismatics, Mahometans, Jews, and souls hardened in impiety, who shall rise in terrible revolt against God to seduce all those who shall be contrary to them, and make them fall by promises and threats; and finally, she must shine forth in grace, in order to animate and sustain the valiant soldiers and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, who shall do battle for his interests. Mary must be terrible as an army ranged in battle, principally in these latter times. It is principally of these last and cruel persecutions of the devil, which shall go on increasing daily till the reign of Antichrist, that we ought to understand that first and celebrated prediction and curse of God, pronounced in the terrestrial Paradise against the serpent: I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed.
“God has never made or formed but one enmity; but it is an irreconcilable one: it is between Mary, his worthy Mother, and the devil; between the children and servants of the Blessed Virgin and the children and instruments of Lucifer. Satan fears Mary not only more than all Angels and men, but in some sense more than God himself. It is not that the anger, the hatred, and the power of God are not infinitely greater than those of the blessed Virgin, for the perfections of Mary are limited; but it is because Satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being beaten and punished by a little and humble handmaid of God, and her humility humbles him more than the divine power. The devils fear one of her sighs for a soul more than the prayers of all the Saints, and one of her menaces against them more than all other torments.”
A holy priest named Nicomedes is honored today. The Virgin Martyr St. Felicula, whose body he had buried, obtained for him in return the palm of martyrdom. Let us, together with the Church, implore his protection.
|Adesto, Domine, populo tuo: ut beati Nicomedis Martyris tui merita præclara suscipiens, ad impetrandam misericordiam tuam semper ejus patrociniis adjuvetur. Per Dominum.||Attend to thy people, O Lord, that having recourse to the splendid merits of blessed Nicomedes, thy martyr, they may ever be assisted by his patronage for obtaining thy mercy. Through, &c.|
Let us sing to Mary on her birthday feast this graceful Sequence of the fourteenth century.
|Nativitas Mariæ Virginis
Quæ nos lavit a labe criminis
Dies est lætitiæ:
De radice Jesse propaginis
Hanc eduxit Sol veri luminis
Templum suæ gratiæ.
|The Nativity of the Virgin Mary, who cleansed us from the stain of our crimes, is celebrated today: it is a day of joy! This is the branch produced from the root of Jesse by the Sun of true light; she is the handiwork of Wisdom, the temple of divine grace.|
|Stella nova noviter oritur
Cujus ortu mors nostra moritur,
Evæ lapsus jam restituitur
Ut aurora surgens progreditur,
Sicut luna pulchra describitur,
Super cunctas ut sol eligitur
|A new star newly rises, at whose rising our death dies; the fall of Eve is now repaired in Mary. The gentle Virgin comes forth as the rising aurora; appearing beautiful as the moon, chosen above all maidens as the sun outshines the stars.|
|Virgo mater et virgo unica,
Virga fumi sed aromatica,
In te cœli mundique fabrica gloriatur:
Te signarunt ora prophetica,
Tibi canit Salomon cantica
Canticorum, te vox angelica protestatur.
|Virgin-Mother and Virgin without peer, pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, both heaven and earth are justly proud of thee. Thee did the ancient seers prophesy; to thee sang Solomon his Son of songs; the Angel’s voice thy greatness did proclaim.|
|Verbum Patris processu temporis,
Intra tui secretum corporis,
In te totum et totum deforis simul fuit:
Fructua virens arboris,
Christus, gigas immensi roboris,
Nos a nexu funesti pignoris eripuit.
|In course of time, the Heavenly Father’s Word in thy chaste body took up his abode, at once wholly within, wholly without. Christ, the fair fruit of an unwatered tree, the giant of immeasurable strength, has freed us from the bond of the fatal pledge.|
|Condoluit humano generi
Virginalis filius uteri,
Accingantur senes et pueri
Ad laudem Virginis:
Qui poterat de nobis conqueri
Pro peccato parentum veteri,
Mediator voluit fieri
Dei et hominis.
|The Son of a Virgin Mother has taken pity on the human race: then let old men and children be prompt to praise the Virgin. He who might well have spoken against us, for that ancient sin of our first parents, chose to become the mediator between God and man.|
|O Maria, dulce commercium
Intra tuum celasti gremium,
Quo salutis reis remedium indulgetur:
O vera spes et verum gaudium,
Fac post vitæ præsentis stadium,
Ut optatum in cœlis bravium
|How sweet, O Mary, was the secret commerce carried on within thy bosom, whereby the remedy of salvation was mercifully given to the guilty! O our true joy and most assured hope, grant that, after the course of this present life, we may obtain in heaven the reward we so desire. Amen.|
O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow! Is this, then, the first cry of that sweet babe whose coming brought such pure joy to our earth? Is the standard of suffering to be so soon unfurled over the cradle of such lovely innocence? Yet the heart of mother Church has not deceived her; this feast, coming at such a time, is ever the answer to that question of the expectant human race: What shall this child be?
The Savior to come is not only the reason of Mary’s existence, he is also her exemplar in all things. It is as his Mother that the Blessed Virgin came, and therefore as the Mother of sorrows; for the God, whose future birth was the very cause of her own birth, is to be in this world a Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity. To whom shall I compare thee? sings the prophet of lamentations: O Virgin … great as the sea is thy destruction. On the mountain of the Sacrifice, as mother she gave her Son, as Bride she offered herself together with him; by her sufferings both as Bride and as Mother, she was the co-redemptress of the human race. This teaching and these recollections were deeply engraved on our hearts on that other feast of our Lady’s dolors which immediately preceded Holy Week.
Christ dieth now no more: and Our Lady’s sufferings are over. Nevertheless the Passion of Christ is continued in his elect, in his Church, against which hell vents the rage it cannot exercise against himself. To this Passion of Christ’s mystical Body of which she is also a Mother, Mary still contributes her compassion; how often have her venerated images attested the fact, by miraculously shedding tears! This explains the Church’s departure from liturgical custom by celebrating two feasts, in different seasons, under one title.
On perusing the register of the apostolic decrees concerning sacred rites, the reader is astonished to find a long and unusual interruption lasting from March 20th 1809 to September 17th 1814, at which latter date is entered the decree instituting on this present Sunday a second Commemoration of Our Lady’s Dolors. 1809-1814, five sorrowful years, during which the government of Christendom was suspended; years of blood which beheld the Man-God agonizing once more in the person of his captive Vicar. But the Mother of Sorrows was still standing beneath the Cross, offering to God the Church’s sufferings; and when the trial was over, Pius VII, knowing well whence the mercy had come, dedicated this day to Mary as a fresh memorial of the day of Calvary.
Even in the seventeenth century, the Servites had the privilege of possessing this second feast, which they celebrated as a double of the 2nd Class, with a Vigil and an Octave. It is from them that the Church has borrowed the Office and Mass. This honor and privilege was due to the Order established by Our Lady to honor her sufferings and to spread devotion to them. Philip Benizi, heir to the seven holy Founders, propagated the flame kindled by them on the heights of Monte Senario; thanks to the zeal of his sons and successors, the devotion to the Seven Dolors of the Blessed Virgin Mary, once their family property, now the treasure of the whole world.
The prophecy of the aged Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of the divine Child in Jerusalem, the carrying of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the taking down from the Cross, and the burial of Jesus: these are the seven mysteries into which are grouped the well-nigh infinite sufferings which made Our Lady the Queen of martyrs, the first and loveliest rose in the garden of the Spouse. Let us take to heart the recommendation of the Book of Tobias, which the Church reads during this week in the Office of the Time: Thou shalt honor thy mother: for thou must be mindful what and how great perils she suffered in giving thee birth.
The daily Sacrifice, though surrounded with all the pomps of the Liturgy, is substantially the same as that of Calvary. But the only assistants at the foot of the Cross were, as our Introit points out, one single man, and a few women weeping around the Mother of sorrows. The Gospel will repeat this Introit, and even its verse which, contrary to custom, is not taken from the Psalms.
|Stabant juxta Crucem Jesu Mater ejus, et soror Matris ejus Maria Cleophæ, et Salome, et Maria Magdalene.||There stood by the Cross of Jesus his Mother, and his Mother’s sister Mary of Cleophas, and Salome, and Mary Magdalene.|
|℣. Mulier, ecce filius tuus, dixit Jesus: ad discipulum autem: Ecce mater tua. Gloria Patri. Stabant.||℣. Woman, behold thy son, said Jesus; to the disciple however, Behold thy mother. Glory be. There stood.|
The honoring of our Lady’s Dolors does not distract our thoughts from the one Victim of salvation. On the contrary, its immediate result, as the Collect shows, is to cause the Passion of our Savior to bear fruit in our souls.
|Deus, in cujus passione, secundum Simeonis prophetiam, dulcissimam animam gloriosæ Virginis et Matris Mariæ doloris gladius pertransivit: concede propitius; ut qui dolores ejus venerando recolimus, passionis tuæ effectum felicem consequamur. Qui vivis.||O God, in whose Passion, according to the prophecy of Simeon, a sword of sorrow pierced the most sweet soul of the glorious Mary, Mother and Virgin: grant in thy mercy, that we who call to mind her sorrows with veneration, may obtain the happy effect of thy Passion. Who livest, &c.|
Then is added the Collect of the occurring Sunday.
|Lectio libri Judith.||Lesson from the Book of Judith.|
|Cap. xiii.||Ch. xiii.|
|Benedixit te Dominus in virtute sua, quia per te ad nihilum redegit inimicos nostros. Benedicta es tu, filia, a Domino Deo excelso præ omnibus mulieribus super terram. Benedictus Dominus, qui creavit cælum et terram, qui te direxit in vulnera capitis principis inimicorum nostrorum: quia hodie nomen tuum ita magnificavit, ut non recedat laus tua de ore hominum, qui memores fuerint virtutis Domini in æternum, pro quibus non pepercisti animæ tuæ propter angustias et tribulationem generis tui, sed subvenisti ruinæ ante conspectum Dei nostri.||The Lord hath blessed thee by his power, because by thee he hath brought our enemies to nought. Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth. Blessed be the Lord who made heaven and earth, who hath directed thee to the cutting off the head of the prince of our enemies. Because he hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord for ever, for that thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God.|
Oh, the greatness of our Judith among all creatures! “God,” says the pious and profound Father Faber, “vouchsafed to select the very things about him which are most incommunicable, and in a most mysteriously real way communicate them to her. See how he had already mixed her up with the eternal designs of creation, making her almost a partial cause and partial model of it. Our Lady’s cooperation in the redemption of the world gives us a fresh view of her magnificence. Neither the Immaculate Conception nor the Assumption will give us a higher idea of Mary’s exaltation than the title of co-redemptress. Her dolors were not necessary for the resurrection of the world, but in the counsels of God they were inseparable from it. They belong to the integrity of the divine plan. Are not Mary’s mysteries Jesus’ mysteries, and his mysteries hers? The truth appears to be that all the mysteries of Jesus and Mary were in God’s designs as one mystery. Jesus himself was Mary’s sorrow, seven times repeated, aggravated sevenfold. During the hours of the Passion, the offering of Jesus and the offering of Mary were tied in one. They kept pace together; they were made of the same materials; they were perfumed with kindred fragrance; they were lighted with the same fire; they were offered with kindred dispositions. The two things were one simultaneous oblation, interwoven each moment through the thickly crowded mysteries of that dread time unto the Eternal, out of two sinless Hearts, that were the Hearts of Son and Mother, for the sins of a guilty world which fell on them contrary to their merits, but according to their own free will.”
Let us mingle our tears with Mary’s, in union with the sufferings of the great Victim. In proportionas we do this during life we shall rejoice in heaven with the Son and the Mother; if our Lady is now, as we sing in the Alleluia-Verse, Queen of heaven and mistress of the world, is there one among all the elect who can recall sufferings comparable to hers?
After the Gradual follows the Stabat Mater, the touching Complaint attributed to the Franciscan, Blessed Jacopone de Todi.
|Dolorosa, et lacrymabilis es Virgo Maria, stans juxta Crucem Domini Jesu Filii tui Redemptoris.||Thou art sorrowful and worthy of tears, O Virgin Mary, standing near the Cross of the Lord Jesus, thy Son, our Redeemer.|
|℣. Virgo Dei Genitrix, quem totus non capitat orbis, hoc crucis fert supplicium, auctor vitæ factus homo.||℣. O Virgin Mother of God, he whom the whole world doth not contain, beareth this punishment of the Cross, he the author of life being made man.|
|Alleluia, alleluia.||Alleluia, alleluia.|
|℣. Stabat sancta Maria, cœli Regina, et mundi Domina, juxta crucem Domini nostri Jesu Christi dolorosa.||℣. Holy Mary, the Queen of heaven, and mistress of the world, stood by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, full of sadness.|
|Stabat Mater dolorosa
iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.
|At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.
|Cuius animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem
|Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
|O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta,
|O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.
|Quæ mærebat et dolebat,
pia Mater, dum videbat
nati poenas inclyti.
|Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
|Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?
|Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?
|Quis non posset contristari
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?
|Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother’s pain untold?
|Pro peccatis suæ gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum.
|Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
she beheld her tender Child
All with scourges rent:
|Vidit suum dulcem Natum
dum emisit spiritum.
|For the sins of His own nation,
saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
|Eia, Mater, fons amoris
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.
|O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:
|Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam.
|Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.
|Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.
|Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified:
|Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.
|Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.
|Fac me tecum pie flere,
donec ego vixero.
|Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live:
|Iuxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.
|By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.
|Virgo virginum præclara,
mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere.
|Virgin of all virgins blest!,
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine;
|Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.
|Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.
|Fac me plagis vulnerari,
fac me Cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii.
|Wounded with His every wound,
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away;
|Flammis ne urar succensus,
per te, Virgo, sim defensus
in die iudicii.
|Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die,
in His awful Judgment Day.
|Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriæ.
|Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
by Thy Mother my defense,
by Thy Cross my victory;
|Quando corpus morietur,
fac, ut animæ donetur
paradisi gloria. Amen.
|While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.
|Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Johannem.||Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. John.|
|Cap. xix.||Ch. xix.|
|In illo tempore: Stabant juxta crucem Jesu mater ejus, et soror matris ejus, Maria Cleophæ, et Maria Magdalene. Cum vidisset ergo Jesus matrem, et discipulum stantem, quem diligebat, dicit matri suæ: Mulier, ecce filius tuus. Deinde dicit discipulo: Ecce mater tua. Et ex illa hora accepit eam discipulus in sua.||At that time, there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.|
Woman, behold thy son.—My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Such are the words of Jesus on the Cross in our Gospel. Has he, then, no longer a Father in heaven, a Mother on earth? Oh! mystery of justice, and still more of love! God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son for it, so far as to lay upon him, instead of upon sinful men, the curse our sins deserved, and our Lady too, in her sublime union with the Father, did not spare, but offered in like manner for us all, this same Son of her virginity. If on this head we belong to the Eternal Father, we belong henceforth to Mary also; each has bought us at a great price: the exchange of any only Son for sons of adoption.
It is at the foot of the Cross that our Lady truly became the Queen of mercy. At the foot of the Altar, where the renewal of the great Sacrifice is preparing, let us commend ourselves to her omnipotent influence over the Heart of her divine Son.
|Recordare, Virgo Mater Dei, dum steteris in conspectu Domini, ut loquaris pro nobis bona, et ut avertat indignationem suam a nobis.||Be mindful, O Virgin Mother of God, when thou standest in the sight of the Lord, to speak good things for us, that he may turn away his anger from us.|
How many holy souls, in the course of ages, have come to keep faithful company with the Mother of sorrows! Their intercession united with Mary’s is a strength to the Church; and we hope to obtain thereby the effect of the merits of our Savior’s death.
|Offerimus tibi preces et hostias, Domine Jesu Christe, humiliter supplicantes: ut, qui Transfixionem dulcissimi spiritus beatæ Mariæ Matris tuæ precibus recensemus; suo, suorumque sub Cruce sanctorum consortium, multiplicato piisimo interventu, meritis mortis tuæ, meritum cum beatis habeamus. Qui vivis.||We offer to thee prayers and sacrifices, O Lord Jesus Christ, humbly beseeching, that we who pray in remembrance of the transfixion of the most sweet soul of blessed Mary thy Mother, by the multiplied and pious intercession of her and her holy companions under the cross, may have a reward with the blessed, by the merits of thy death. Who livest.|
A commemoration is then made of the Sunday.
The Preface is the same as on the 8th of September, except that for in Nativitate, on the Navitity is substituted in Transfixione, on the Transfixion of the Blessed Mary ever Virgin.
So great, it has been said (Bernardin of Siena, Pro festivit. V.M. Sermo xiii. De exaltatione B.V. in gloria, art ii. c. 2), was Mary’s grief on Calvary, that had it been divided among all creatures capable of suffering, it would have caused them all to die instantly. It was our Lady’s wonderful peace, maintained by perfect acquiescence and the total abandoment of her whole being to God, that alone was able to sustain in her the life which the Holy Ghost was preserving for the Church’s sake. May our participation in the sacred mysteries give us that peace of God which passeth all understanding and which keepeth minds and hearts in Christ Jesus!
|Felices sensus beatæ Mariæ Virginis, qui sine morte meruerunt martyrii palmam sub Cruce Domini.||Happy senses of the blessed Virgin Mary, which without dying deserved the palm of martyrdom beneath the cross of our Lord.|
As the Postcommunion points out, the loving memory of our Mother’s sorrows will powerfully assist us to find all good things in the holy Sacrifice of the Altar.
|Sacrificia, quæ sumpsimus, Domine Jesu Christe, Transfixionem Matris tuæ et Virginis devote celebrantes, nobis impetrent apud clementiam tuam omnis boni salutaris effectum. Qui vivis.||O Lord Jesus Christ, may the sacrifices of which we have parteken, in the devout celebration of the transfixion of thy Virgin Mother, obtain for us of thy clemency the effect of every salutary good. Who livest, &c.|
The Postcommunion of the occurring Sunday is added, and the Gospel of the same is read at the end of the Mass instead of the usual passage from St. John.
This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)