On the day after the Exaltation of the Cross, the Church celebrates “Our Lady of Sorrows.” This feast links Mary explicitly with the cross of the Lord, and invites us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Mary’s motherhood as the Theotokos, the “birther of God.” Mary does not merely “give birth to God” in a physical way, at Jesus’ birth. Mary is just as much a spiritual mother to her Son as she is a mother in the flesh. This reality is revealed in Luke 2:33-35, in which Simeon foretells, in the Holy Spirit, not only that Jesus will be a sign of contradiction, but that, together with this, Mary’s own soul would be “pierced by a sword” (Lk 2:35).
The alleluia verse for today’s feast proclaims, “Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary; without dying you won the martyr’s crown beneath the Cross of the Lord.” Alleluias are sung on this day! It is not a Lenten feast, but a cause for rejoicing! Why? Because as we celebrated yesterday the Exaltation of the Cross, which, in the light of the resurrection reveals the glory of the eternal Love that gives itself in Christ’s crucifixion, so also we see the glory of that purely human love of the maiden who gave birth to God and remains God’s mother, even as she stands underneath the cross. As he suffers for the salvation of all humankind on the cross, she suffers the birth-pangs of a mother in the most painful spiritual labor, even as she, too, is saved by her Son. Out of love, Mary would not trade the sorrow that she experiences under the cross for any lesser joy, for her greatest joy—one devoid of any superficial or felt happiness in this moment—is to suffer with the Son whom she so loves, who is dying for her and for the whole world. Just as the Son could, at any moment, call upon the Father and his passion would be over, but instead chooses, in every moment, to suffer to the end out of love (Cf. Mt 26:53), so also the Mother’s unique privilege is to suffer with the Son to his death, out of love, without for an instant ceasing to be the Theotokos, the one who gives birth to God. This is her unique privilege, by God’s grace, but through her it is one into which we are all called, one which manifests humanity as being called to a love that is the true created likeness of God’s own uncreated love.
Let us sing the “alleluia,” for the great glory of love that God reveals to us today in this sorrowful lady. Through her, we know that the glory of this love is indeed shared with all of humankind, and by God’s grace and through her intercession, we ask that we, too, might love in a way that triumphs over our mediocrity and finds its joy in accompanying the crucified body of Christ as far as he will permit us to go. May we so love Christ that we, too, may know the joy of this sorrow.