The Church commemorates by two Feasts the martyrdom suffered by Our Lady, one of two feasts devoted to this same devotion in union with the Passion of Her Divine Son Jesus and His Holy Cross. The First Feast, kept on Passion Friday before Palm Sunday especially commemorates “the Compassion of Mary;” while the second, kept today on September 15, the devotion to the Seven Sorrows.
This feast commemorates the seven sorrows (Seven Dolors) of the Blessed Mother of God which are documented in Sacred Scripture beginning with the prophecy of Simeon (cf. Luke 2:34), the flight into Egypt (cf. Matthew 2:13), losing the child Jesus in Jerusalem (cf. Luke 2: 46), meeting her Divine Son on the way to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Pieta, and laying Jesus in the Sepulchre (cf. Luke 23: 49-56).
This feast was first introduced by Saint Anselm and various Benedictines in the 11th Century which took on steam in the following century but did not get promoted universally until the 14th and 15th centuries when the Cistercians and Servites emphasized its importance and relevance in Church liturgy and in devotion to Mary’s role in the Church. In 1482 Pope Sixtus IV, who also instituted the feast of Mary’s spouse Saint Joseph on March 19, established it in the Roman Missal as the feast of Our Lady of Compassion. In 1727 Pope Benedict XIII declared it as the feast of the Seven Dolors of Mary to be celebrated on the Friday prior to Palm Sunday, though the Servites had been celebrating it on the Sunday after the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross in September since 1668. In 1814 Pope Pius VII made it a universal feast in the Roman Calendar and Pope Saint Pius X established the date in 1913 as the fixed date. It was fitting this holy saint set the date for this feast where he did because it further emphasized Mary’s importance and vital role in co-redemption as well as reminding Catholics everywhere of Mary’s suffering during the Passion and Death of her Divine Son whose cross is venerated the day before. Two icons bring home this fact, first the magnificent Pieta sculptured by the master Michelangelo and which resides behind glass at the back right side of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and the moving hymn “Stabat Mater” employed during Lent and during the Stations of the Cross to reflect Our Lady’s grief and tribulations. She is often depicted with seven swords piercing her Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart as described by Simeon in Luke 2: 34, “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The Marian abbot and Doctor of the Church Saint Bernard wrote “Truly…He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known; she died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His.”
There is a commemoration today for the feast of Saint Nicomedes, a Roman priest, was scourged to death in the persecution under Domitian, in the life-time of St. John the Evangelist. He suffered his martyrdom about the year 90.
The Seven Sorrows (or Dolors) are events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary which are a popular devotion and are frequently depicted in art.
- The Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:34-35) or the Circumcision of Christ
- The Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
- The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple. (Luke 2:43-45)
- Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary.
- Jesus dies on the cross. (John 19:25)
- Mary receives the body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57-59)
- The body of Jesus is placed in the tomb. (John 19:40-42)
Originating in the seventeenth century, the feast was extended to the whole of the Latin Church in 1727. It was originally celebrated on Friday in Passion Week, one week before Good Friday.
Simeon in Luke 2: 34, “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The Marian Saint, Bernard wrote “Truly… He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known; she died in spirit through a love unlike any other since His.”
INTROIT St John 19: 25
There stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother, and His mother’s sister Mary of Cleophas, and Salome, and Mary Magdalen. (John 19: 26, 27) “Woman, behold thy son,” said Jesus; to the disciple, however, “Behold thy mother.” v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat There stood by the cross of Jesus, His mother…
Let us pray. Grant us Thy servants, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, to enjoy perpetual health of mind and body; and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary ever Virgin, to be delivered from present sorrows and to enjoy everlasting gladness. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ: Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
Commemoration Collect of St. Nicodemus
Let us pray. Be present with Thy people, O Lord, that, receiving the reward of the merits of blessed Nicomedes, Thy martyr, it may ever be assisted by his patronage to obtain Thy mercy. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ: Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen.
EPISTLE Judith 13: 22-25
The Lord hath blessed thee by His power, Who by thee 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, 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 forever; 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.
Sorrowful and tearful art thou, O Virgin Mary, standing by the cross of the Lord Jesus, thy Son and Redeemer. V. O Virgin Mother of God, He Whom the whole earth containeth not, the Author of life, made man, beareth this anguish of the cross. Alleluia, alleluia. V. Holy Mary, queen of heaven and mistress of the world, stood by the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, sorrowing.
SEQUENCE Stabat Mater dolorosa
1. At the cross her station keeping, Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last.
2. Through her heart, His sorrow sharing, All his bitter anguish bearing, Now at length the sword had pass’d.
3. Oh, how sad and sore distress’d Was that Mother, highly blest Of the sole-begotten One!
4. Christ above in torment hangs; She beneath beholds the pangs of her dying glorious Son.
5. Is there one who would not weep Whelmi’d in miseries so deep Christ’s dear Mother to behold.
6. Can the human heart refrain From partaking in her pain, in that Mother’s pain untold?
7. Bruis’d, derided, curs’d, defil’d, She beheld her tender child: All with bloody scourges rent.
8. For the sins of His own nation, Saw Him hang in desolation, Till His spirit forth He sent.
9. O thou Mother! Font of love! Touch my spirit from above; Make my heart with thine accord.
10. Make me feel as thou hast felt; Make my soul to glow and melt With the love of Christ our Lord.
11. Holy Mother! Pierce me through; In my heart each wound renew Of my Savior crucified.
12. Let me share with thee His pain, Who for all my sins was slain, Who for me in torments died.
13. Let me mingle tears with thee, Mourning Him who mounr’d for me, All the days that I may life.
14. By the cross with thee to stay, There with thee to weep and pray, Is all I ask of thee to give.
15. Virgin of all virgins best, Listen to my fond request: Let me share thy grief divine.
16. Let me, to my latest breath, in my body bear the death Of that dying Son of thine.
17. Wounded with His every wound, steep my soul till it hath swoon’d In His very blood away.
18. Be to me, O Virgin, nigh, Lest in flames I burn and die, In His awful Judgment day.
19. Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence, Be Thy Mother my defense, Be Thy cross my victory.
20. While my body here decays, May my soul Thy goodness praise, Safe in Paradise with Thee. Amen.
GOSPEL St John 19: 25-27
Now 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.
Remember, O Virgin Mother of God, when thou standest in the presence of the Lord, that thou speak good things for us and turn His wrath from us.
We offer Thee prayers and sacrifices, O Lord Jesus Christ, humbly entreating that we, who commemorate in our prayers the piercing of the most dear soul of blessed Mary, Thy Mother, may, through the multiplied intercession of her and of her holy companions under the cross, by the merits of Thy death, receive our portion with the blessed. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever. R.Amen.
Commemoration Secret of St. Nicodemus
Graciously receive, O Lord, the gifts offered to Thee, and may the prayer of Thy blessed martyr Nicomedes commend them. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ: Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.
PREFACE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God. That on the Festival of the blessed Virgin Mary, we should praise, bless and proclaim Thee. For she conceived Thine only-begotten Son by the over-shadowing of the Holy Ghost; and losing not the glory of her virginity, gave forth to the world the everlasting light, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise Thy majesty, the Dominions worship it, and the powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the heavenly Hosts, and the blessed Seraphim join together in celebrating their joy. With these we pray Thee join our voices also, while we say with lowly praise: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY…
COMMUNION Hebrews 9: 15
Happy the senses of the blessed Virgin Mary, which without death earned the palm of martyrdom beneath the cross of our Lord.
May the sacrifices of which we have partaken, O Lord Jesus Christ, devoutly celebrating the piercing of Thy virgin Mother’s soul, obtain for us with Thy clemency the effect of every salutary benefit. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, For ever and ever. R. Amen.
Commemoration Postcommunion of St. Nicodemus
Let us pray. May the sacraments we have received purify us, O Lord, and, by the intercession of blessed Nicomedes, Thy martyr, cause us to be absolved from all sin. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ: Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R.Amen.