Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: 3rd Sun After Shunoyo, Ettu Nomb Spl - St. Mary's Suffering
Volume 8 No. 497 August 31, 2018
III. Ettu Nomb Special - St. Mary's Suffering

Virgin Mary's Martyrdom Was Longer and Greater Than That of All The Martyrs

by St. Alphonsus Liguori

In this excerpt from his monumental work "The Glories of Mary," St. Alphonsus Liguori considers the depths of sorrow experienced by the Blessed Virgin Mary during her earthly life, and the ways in which they reveal her role in salvation history:

Mary was the Queen of Martyrs, for her martyrdom was longer and greater than that of all the Martyrs.

Who can ever have a heart so hard that it will not melt on hearing the most lamentable event which once occurred in the world? There was a noble and holy Mother Who had an only Son. This Son was the most amiable that can be imagined—innocent, virtuous, beautiful, Who loved His Mother most tenderly; so much so that He had never caused her the least displeasure, but had ever shown her all respect, obedience, and affection: hence this Mother had placed all her affections on earth in this Son. Hear, then, what happened. This Son, through envy, was falsely accused by His enemies; and though the judge knew, and himself confessed, that He was innocent, yet, that he might not offend His enemies, he condemned Him to the ignominious death that they had demanded. This poor Mother had to suffer the grief of seeing that amiable and beloved Son unjustly snatched from her in the flower of His age by a barbarous death; for, by dint of torments and drained of all His blood, He was made to die on an infamous gibbet in a public place of execution, and this before her own eyes.

Devout souls, what say you? Is not this event, and is not this unhappy Mother worthy of compassion. You already understand of whom I speak. This Son, so cruelly executed, was our loving Redeemer Jesus; and this Mother was the Blessed Virgin Mary; Who, for the love she bore us, was willing to see Him sacrificed to Divine Justice by the barbarity of men. This great torment, then, which Mary endured for us—a torment which was more than a thousand deaths deserves both our compassion and our gratitude. If we can make no other return for so much love, at least let us give a few moments this day to consider the greatness of the sufferings by which Mary became the Queen of martyrs; for the sufferings of her great martyrdom exceeded those of all the martyrs; being, in the first place, the longest in point of duration; and, in the second place, the greatest in point of intensity.

"The passion of Jesus," as Saint Bernard says, "commenced with His birth". So also did Mary, in all things like unto her Son, endure her martyrdom throughout her life. Amongst other significations of the name of Mary, as Blessed Albert the Great asserts, is that of "a bitter sea." Hence to her is applicable the text of Jeremias : "great as the sea is thy destruction." For as the sea is all bitter and salt, so also was the life of Mary always full of bitterness at the sight of the passion of the Redeemer, which was ever present to her mind. "There can be no doubt, that, enlightened by the Holy Ghost in a far higher degree than all the prophets, she, far better than they, understood the predictions recorded by them in the sacred Scriptures concerning the Messias." This is precisely what the angel revealed to St. Bridget; and he also added, `that the Blessed Virgin, even before she became His Mother, knowing how much the Incarnate Word was to suffer for the salvation of men, and compassionating this innocent Saviour, who was to be so cruelly put to death for crimes not His own, even then began her great martyrdom."

Her grief was immeasurably increased when she became the Mother of this Saviour; so that at the sad sight of the many torments which were to be endured by her poor Son, she indeed suffered a long martyrdom, a martyrdom which lasted her whole life. This was signified with great exactitude to Saint Bridget in a vision which she had in Rome, in the church of Saint Mary Major, where the Blessed Virgin with Saint Simeon, and an angel bearing a very long sword, reddened with blood, appeared to her, denoting thereby the long, and bitter grief which transpierced the heart of Mary during her whole life. When the above named Rupert supposes Mary thus speaking: "Redeemed souls, and my beloved children, do not pity me only for the hour in which I beheld my dear Jesus expiring before my eyes; for the sword of sorrow predicted by Simeon pierced my soul during the whole of my life: when I was giving suck to my Son, when I was warming Him in my arms, I already foresaw the bitter death that awaited Him. Consider, then, what long and bitter sorrows I must have endured."

Moreover, says Saint Antoninus, "while other martyrs suffered by sacrificing their own lives, the Blessed Virgin suffered by sacrificing her Son's life, a life that she loved far more than her own; so that she not only suffered in her soul all that her Son endured in His body, but moreover the sight of her Son's torments brought more grief to her heart than if she had endured them all in her own person. No one can doubt that Mary suffered in her heart all the outrages which she saw inflicted on her beloved Jesus. Any one can understand that the sufferings of children are also those of their mothers who witness them. Saint Augustine, considering the anguish endured by the mother of the Maccabees in witnessing the tortures of her sons, says, "she, seeing their sufferings, suffered in each one; because she loved them all, she endured in her soul what they endured in their flesh." Thus also did Mary suffer all those torments, scourges, thorns, nails, and the cross, which tortured the innocent flesh of Jesus, all entered at the same time into the heart of this Blessed Virgin, to complete her martyrdom. "He suffered in the flesh, and she in her heart," writes that Blessed Amadeus. "So much so," says Saint Lawrence Justinian, "that the heart of Mary became, as it were, a mirror of the Passion of the Son, in which might be seen, faithfully reflected, the spitting, the blows and wounds, and all that Jesus suffered." Saint Bonaventure also remarks that "those wounds—which were scattered over the body of our Lord were all united in the single heart of Mary."

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Mother Mary - Our Lady of Sorrows
Reading (Hebrews 5:7-9)

Gospel (St. Luke 2:33-35)

Even though we know that Our Lord has triumphed victoriously through His Cross and Resurrection, nonetheless, the pain and the anguish in which Our Lady would have been suffering as she stood at the foot of the Cross is certainly recognized and celebrated. It is celebrated for a very particular reason, first of all, because she became our mother at the foot of the Cross. It was there, as Simeon had foretold, that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. And in piercing her heart, her heart was opened so that she would be able to give birth to all the children she had conceived at the moment of the Annunciation.

Recall that at the Annunciation she conceived the fullness of Christ. As the Fathers tell us, she had to conceive first in her heart before she could conceive in her womb. And by the fullness of Christ conceived in her heart, we mean the Mystical Christ of which we are each a part. As a mother will do when she conceives, the baby remains within until there is the opening for the baby to be born. Well, the same had to happen for us. We were conceived in her heart on the day of the Annunciation, but we were not born from her heart until the day her heart was opened, the day she stood at the foot of the Cross, the day upon which Our Lord looked down and said to her, Woman, behold your son. It was in the suffering at the foot of the Cross that we have been given life, not natural life but supernatural life. And that supernatural life comes from the Cross of Christ through His blood which was shed for us. As any mother will have to do in giving birth, Our Lady had to suffer for the birth of her children. There was no suffering in the birth of Christ because it was a miraculous birth without the normal opening of the womb. So the only time Our Lady suffered in giving birth, as we see in the Book of Revelation, is when she gave birth to us, when there was the opening so that we could be born.

But it is even more than that for us because Our Lady suffering at the foot of the Cross shares in the suffering of Christ. It is there at the foot of the Cross in her agony that she unites herself perfectly with the work of her Son, not only to give new life to us who would be born from her but also to share in the work and the suffering of Christ. And so it is in this giving of birth that we see just how intimately she shared in that work of Christ because it was on the Cross that He obtained for us the grace that we could have life, but we have life through Our Lady. So the two cannot be separated. In fact, it is through the blood which was shed upon the Cross that life is given to us. The water and the blood which came forth from Our Lord’s heart when it was pierced becomes the means for us to have life through Baptism and the Eucharist. But when Our Lady’s heart was pierced, it was then that that life was given to us. And so it was won for us in the piercing of the heart of Christ, and we were born in that new life through the piercing of the heart of Our Blessed Lady.

As she has shared then in the suffering of Christ, she, more than any, has fulfilled what Saint Paul told us we are all called to do and what he himself does as he tells the Colossians that he makes up in his body for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of the Body of Christ, the Church. That is exactly what Our Lady was doing, uniting herself perfectly with the suffering of Christ so that we would have life, and giving to each one of us the example that we are to do the same. For each one of us, being the Bride of Christ, we also are to share in that maternity of the Church, to bring forth new children for God. Certainly, this is something which is far more natural to a woman to a man, that spiritual maternity which is shared in by all of those who are called to a consecrated life of virginity and of chastity; those women are to share in a special way in that spiritual maternity. But each and every one of us, because we are a member of Christ, are to share in His suffering to bring about new life, and as we heard in the first reading, to be perfected through suffering. There is no other way. Our Lord has commanded us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, and there is only one way to become perfect. That is through suffering, through our sharing in the Cross, and through our sharing in the new life which was won for us by Christ and applied to us in our spiritual rebirth through the piercing of the heart of our Blessed Mother.

Source: Homilies on Our Lady of Sorrows

Hymn: Sea of Sorrow
Oh! on what a sea of sorrow
Was the Virgin-Mother cast,
When her eyes with tears o'erflowing
Gazed upon her Son aghast,
From the bloodstained gibbet taken,
Dying in her arms at last.

In her bitter desolation,
His sweet mouth, His bosom too,
Then His riven side beloved,
Then each hand, both wounded through,
Then His feet, with blood encrimsoned,
Her maternal tears bedew.

She, a hundred times and over,
Strains Him closely to her breast
Heart to Heart, arms arms enfolding,
Are His wounds on her impressed:
Thus, in sorrow's very kisses,
Melts her anguished soul to rest.

Oh, dear Mother! we beseech thee,
By the tears thine eyes have shed,
By the cruel death of Jesus
And His wounds' right royal red,
Make our hearts o'erflow with sorrow
From thy heart's deep fountainhead.

To the Father, Son, and Spirit,
Now we bend on equal knee:
Glory, sempiternal glory,
To the Most High Trinity;
Yea! perpetual praise and honor
Now and through all ages be.

Perfected Through Suffering

by Father Gary

"…For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son or daughter he acknowledges. So endure your trials as ‘discipline;' God treats you as his sons. At the time, all discipline seems a cause for pain and not for joy, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness in those trained by it."
from Hebrews 12:5-13

Sometimes the things that God permits in our lives can seem like a scourging; we feel we don't deserve it. Yet scripture tells us that unless God disciplines us, we are not sons or daughters of God! We do tend to forget that we are in training while we live on earth, that paradise cannot be truly found here. Whether our lives at the moment are filled with much happiness or great suffering, this too will pass, for everything on earth lasts only for a time. Life is a series of trials and difficulties intermixed with joy, and this is intended for spiritual growth. God has all of that in mind though it does not always seem so. God will not leave us in our trials!

The more I submit to God's plan for my life, the more fruitful my life can be. What may seem like terrible suffering at the beginning, according to the letter of the Hebrews, God will work later into great fruits of righteousness if I submit to the great plan the Holy Spirit has prepared for my life! Hebrews notes that while discipline seems at first not a cause for joy, but for pain, yet paradoxically it later brings righteousness and good fruitfulness.

I have to admit I don't usually appreciate being disciplined by God, at least not at first! I recently read a story about a young man who credited his great success at 27 years old to the fact that his parents disciplined him by cutting off his financial assistance when he was 18. I don't know what caused them to do this to him, but he said that while he resented it at the time it was the source of his success later on. He now thanks his parents profusely for this "tough love!"

It does seem to many of us that sometimes God has cut us off somehow, but the whole idea of it is so that we will grow in an area we never would have without the trial which came first. This reading ties in well with the image of a runner which precedes this passage (Hebrews 12:1-4) who perseveres in a race, heedless of his suffering, because he has his eye on the prize, Christ Jesus!

When faced with many trials or a difficult decision, a good question to ask oneself would be what good things will never be unless I am willing to suffer a little bit now? Sometimes it is as simple as a bad habit to be overcome, or as tough as a sacrifice one must make for a sick loved one. We can see this in the sufferings and sacrifices we have all made together to build a new church. Even in the loss of a loved one, one of the most difficult things God can ask of us, there is the hoped joy of a reunion at the end of our lives, when all will be explained.

Source: Pastor's Column

Love Mary

by St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother

Love Mary!... She is loveable, faithful, constant.
She will never let herself be outdone in love, but will ever remain supreme.

If you are in danger, she will hasten to free you.
If you are troubled, she will console you.
If you are sick, she will bring you relief.
If you are in need, she will help you.

She does not look to see what kind of person you have been.
She simply comes to a heart that wants to love her.

She comes quickly and opens her merciful heart to you, embraces you and consoles and serves you.

She will even be at hand to accompany you on the trip to eternity.

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