Fourth Sorrow of Mary – A Meditation

Icon of the Seven Sorrows of Mary

Icon of the Seven Sorrows of Mary

The seven swords in the icon each designate one of the following sorrows:

1. The prophecy of Simeon
. 2. The flight into Egypt
, 3. The  Boy Jesus leavng his parents to visit the Temple in Jerusalem
. 4. The Mother of God’s meeting her Son on the Via Dolorosa
. 5. The Crucifixion of Christ. 6. The deposition from the Cross
. 7. The Entombment of Jesus.

The first three sorrows afflicted Mary during Our Blessed Lord’s Infancy, and the last four were her deep sorrows during her Beloved Son’s Passion, Crucifixion and Death. Today’s meditation is on the  fourth sorrow of Mary: “The Mother of God’s meeting with her Son on the Via Dolorosa”.

“O all you that pass by the way, look and see, was there ever a sorrow to compare with my sorrow!” (Lam 1:12).


In the narrow streets of old Jerusalem, with the crowds shouting and pushing each other as they hurry by, it was here that tradition tells us that Mary came face to face with her Son. Simeon’s prophecy has been fulfilled: “thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Luke 2:35). She sees him now – a Man despised, the One whom the people can’t bear to look at so disfigured does He look. She is not now listening to the Rabbi reading the prophet who speaks of the Suffering Servant. No here before her eyes that prophecy is being fulfilled. In this moment, wordless in their grief for each other that “there is a ceaseless and incomprehensible breathing between them” – just as the air receives the rays of sunlight so Mary, because of her oneness with Him was able to penetrate His Heart with courage and love. No words were spoken – they would have only been an intrusion. They were conscious only of each other. Mary the mother longing to spare Him from the torture that awaited Him on the hill. No she must not do this, her place was to help Him to carry on, in spite of His weakness, in spite of the prods the soldiers gave him with their spears.  She must strengthen Him to fulfill the Father’s will to the bitter end. She knows that her Son has need of her and she is there waiting. Devotion St. Thomas tells us means the will to give oneself readily to God’s service. Mary you have surpassed all in your readiness to say again, though in very different circumstances, “Here I am Lord I come to do your will”.

“We too are asked to take up as readily and as devotedly as possible the little crosses that come our way, to bear them with Him and for Him, and to go on unflaggingly – to go on if necessary to the mountain of myrrh, to the darkness and the burial: that is the way to know something of the inexpressible joy of that other, later meeting of Son and mother, when the day indeed had broken, the dawn indeed had come, and there was only joy for them now, and the shared happiness of their love, the love that, having gone down in silence together to the very depths of human agony, now rose together to the heights of more than human glory, to that joy of which no tongue can tell, but which is promised in degree in God’s mercy to all those who, in company with Mary, try to love and follow and serve her Son to the end.” Gerald Vann OP

“There is a law that is not in nature, at least, not in raw nature, namely, we who are strong should bear the infirmities of the weak and not please ourselves. It is here that Christianity makes its most unique and distinctive pronouncement and gives the supreme example of divinity, dying for the weakness and sinfulness of humanity. The Christian law is not the survival of the fittest, but the survival of the unfit!” (From ‘Guide to Contentment’ by Ven. Fulton J. Sheen.


I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the consternation

of thy heart at meeting Jesus as He carried His Cross.

Dear Mother, by thy heart so troubled,

obtain for me the virtue of patience and the gift of fortitude.

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5 Responses to Fourth Sorrow of Mary – A Meditation

  1. GEOFF KIERNAN says:

    As a retired sandy walloper I have witnessed first hand the self inflicted pains people impose on themselves by the bad decisions they make in life. Both the Mother and the Son knew in advance the agonies they would experience in their human lives and yet they freely chose to endure them because we needed to be redeemed and because of the love they had for us. Makes me wonder with absolute awe the extent to which they would go for us. As a species, I wonder too at the depths of depravity and sin to which we sink, and yet they both still have great love and concern for us. I have been saying/ meditating on the seven sorrows of Our Lady for a touch over two years now so I am pleased Kathleen has chosen to write on this subject. It is a powerful meditation.
    Thanks Kathleen (again) Geoff Kiernan West Australia


  2. GEOFF KIERNAN says:

    ADDENDUM… The icon suggests that this an old spiritual practice. I had no idea it was so old.
    Its survival to the present day only adds to its efficacy. More on its History anyone…?? Geoff Kiernan West Australia


  3. kathleen says:

    Thank you so much for your kind words Geoff, and for your lovely thoughts on Our Blessed Lord and His Holy Mother Mary’s great love and generosity towards us, to save us from sin and death.


  4. mkenny114 says:

    Beautiful piece Kathleen, thank you for posting it. And I concur with Geoff – the seven sorrows are a powerful meditation indeed.


  5. kathleen says:

    Thank you Michael. Yes, meditating on the Seven Sorrows of Mary brings us close to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

    Thank you for your interesting question of the history Geoff; I have enjoyed looking into this.

    Honouring the Seven Sorrows of Mary has long been a devotion in the Catholic Church with images similar to the lovely icon above of seven swords, three on one side, three on the other, and a seventh one below, all piercing her Immaculate heart. I’m really not sure when it first originated, but I would not be surprised if it were in Spain, where there is strong devotion to the image of “La Virgen de Dolores” in almost every town or village. According to some sources however, the first altar to the Mater Dolorosa was set up in 1221 at the monastery of Schönau (Germany), but this was later destroyed at the time of the Reformation when the monastery was dissolved. It is also a popular feast among the Eastern Christians, in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches there.
    With six of the seven “sorrows” being based on accounts in the Holy Gospel, there is no reason to doubt that this might always have been a devotion among the early Christians, long before it was established as such.

    The “Servite rosary”, (or the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary), originating naturally with the Servite Order, has also encouraged this pious practice of meditating on Our Lady’s pain and sorrow through her Divine Son to Whom her heart is so closely linked.
    “This devotion, which brings to mind the seven sorrows of Mary has a long history which began with the Servites (Servants of Mary) in Monte Senario, Italy about the time the order was started (1233), feast of the Assumption…” More interesting information about it on this link:

    As perhaps everyone knows, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows is 15th September (approved by Pope Pius VII in 1815) but in many places it is also celebrated on the Friday before Holy Week, i.e. next Friday. This is one of the reasons I thought it would be an appropriate topic for this week. It is beautiful I think, and enables us to see our own suffering in a new light. By uniting ourselves with both the Passion of Our Blessed Lord and His holy Mother, we enter into Jesus’ Sacred Heart and honour Him.


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