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Today, Sept. 15, is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows or Our Lady of Dolours. Based on the New Testament, the image of Mary's suffering has been depicted in paintings and sculptures since at least the Middle Ages. Church Militant's William Mahoney looks a little deeper at today's feast.
"And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother: Behold, this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; and thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34–35).
Recorded in Luke's Gospel, Simeon's prophecy reveals a key aspect of Mary's unique role — suffering with her Son for the Kingdom of God.
As Christians reflected on this prophecy over the centuries, they began enumerating Our Lady's sorrows surrounding Our Lord's work on earth.
By the Middle Ages, the list of Mary's sorrows settled at seven, namely:
The prophecy of Simeon
The flight into Egypt to escape Herod
The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple
Mary's meeting Jesus on the way of the Cross, the Fourth Station of the Cross, which interestingly coincides with the Fourth Commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother"
The crucifixion of Jesus
The taking down of Jesus' body from the Cross and
Saint Paul wrote he rejoiced in his sufferings, filling up those things wanting in Christ's sufferings "for His body, which is the Church."
Christ, as the head of the Church, suffered perfectly, once and for all, but the members of His body must have some share in His suffering so that they may share in His glory.
As seven is the biblical number for perfection and completion, the traditional list of Mary's seven sorrows suggests her sufferings in union with her Son are perfect and complete, continuing to reveal out of hearts the thoughts of many.
Pope Pius VII introduced Our Lady of Sorrows into the official calendar of the Universal Church in 1814, and Pius X moved the feast day to Sept. 15 in 1913.