One of my favorite Lenten devotions is the Stabat Mater. Whether I’m praying this beautiful prayer or listening to its musical composition either by Giovanni Pergolesi or in the traditional Gregorian Chant, I always find that my soul is uplifted as I contemplate my sorrowful Mother. Today on the second Saturday of Lent, I am going to use this post to reflect upon our sorrowful Mother and her radical response to the Call to be the “Stabat Mater Dolorosa.”
As we gaze upon the crucifixion scene and see Our Blessed Lord hanging from the Cross “all with bloody scourges rent,” we cannot help but to empathize with Mary. Standing at the foot of the Cross and witnessing Christ’s entire gruesome martyrdom, one cannot possibly begin to imagine the depth of dear Mary’s anguish.
If any other ordinary mother were made to witness the scene from the perspective of The Blessed Mother, the trauma would incapacitate her. Yet as we continue to contemplate the Crucifixion, we see Mary neither tearing out her hair nor pleading with Our Lord’s tormentors nor hallucinating. In contrast, she remains prayerfully calm drinking in the passion of her Divine Son with excruciating composure. She continues to stand with miraculous courage at the foot of the Cross, silently weeping, praying for her dying Son and uniting her heart to His.
Where does this miraculous strength come from? What special grace has she received? The answer lies in her vocation as a virgin.
The French Carmelite priest and martyr Comite Pere Jacques explains this mystery best in Conference 6 (“Virginity in God and in Mary”) of his 1943 retreat which he gave to the Carmelite Sisters at the Carmel of Pontoise. He says:
“Let us gaze upon Mary especially during the tragic hours of the Passion. You will not see her dramatically displaying her sorrow, as many mothers would. The Virgin Mary is there, walking along her Son and sharing all His sorrow, but utters not a word, not a rebuke, not a plea aimed at diminishing the suffering she sees. She totally embraces the will of God, as it unfolds in the brutal treatment of her child. She acts in complete accord with her role as a creature and does not try to alter the divine plan. She is a creature, pure and simple; she is a virgin. Although time does not permit us to dwell on the point, this virginity and this characteristic of a pure creature, grounded in obedience, is Mary’s special grace of prayer (Listen to the silence: a retreat with Pere Jacques, Trans. & Edt. Francis J. Murphy, P. 43).”
Mary’s grace comes in response to her vocation as a virgin. Her purity and simplicity allow her to fully exercise her role as the “Stabat Mater Dolorosa.” She accepts this role with the same radical obedience with which she accepted the Call, from the Angel Gabriel, to be the Mother of the Incarnation in the first place.
We are not all called to a life of virginity, but we are all called to live lives of pure and simple obedience to the voice of God – just like our Blessed Mother. We often view this sacred season of Lent as a time of “giving up” yet it is also a time for “doing.” Let us strive to use this Lenten Journey to grow in our obedience to our Loving God. May we too be given the grace to say with Mary: “Let it be done unto me according to thy Word.” May we too be given the grace to say with Our Lord: “Not my will but Thine be done.”