Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our Lady of Sorrows

          During my annual retreat last month, while speaking with my director about my reading list, we shared a bit about some of our favorite authors. Come to find out my director is quite high on Peter Kreeft and was surprised that I had never read any of his books. Subsequently, I picked up two titles at random on Kindle: “Prayer for Beginners”, which I read and liked, and “A Refutation of Moral Relativism”, which I am still working on. I don’t think I will become a Kreeft fan, but he’s good. Anyway, the book on moral relativism is doing what a book should do and setting off all sorts of thoughts; it’s getting the “wheels” turning.
          This little preface is meant to explain or excuse my rather odd meditation for today’s memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Read St. Bernard or anyone else on the mystery of the Sorrowful Mother and you will know that the primary direction of this day invites us to pause to contemplate her compassion, her share in the sufferings of her Son. Today’s liturgy is one of those few in the calendar which has kept its Sequence, albeit an optional one, the Stabat Mater.
STABAT Mater dolorosa
iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.
AT, the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.
Cuius animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta,
mater Unigeniti!
O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.
Quae maerebat et dolebat,
pia Mater, dum videbat
nati poenas inclyti.
Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.
Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?
Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ's dear Mother to behold?
Quis non posset contristari
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?
Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother's pain untold?
Pro peccatis suae gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum.
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
she beheld her tender Child
All with bloody scourges rent:
Vidit suum dulcem Natum
moriendo desolatum,
dum emisit spiritum.
For the sins of His own nation,
saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
Eia, Mater, fons amoris
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.
O thou Mother! Fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam.
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.
Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.
Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified.
Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
poenas mecum divide.
Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.
Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live.
Iuxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.
By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgo virginum praeclara,
mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere.
Virgin of all virgins blest,
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.
Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.
Fac me plagis vulnerari,
fac me Cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii.
Wounded with His every wound,
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away.
Flammis ne urar succensus,
per te, Virgo, sim defensus
in die iudicii.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die,
in His awful Judgment Day.
Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriae.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
be Thy Mother my defense,
be Thy Cross my victory.
Quando corpus morietur,
fac, ut animae donetur
paradisi gloria.
While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.

Blame it on Peter Kreeft or whatever but, with the Stabat Mater foremost in my mind, my head is swimming today with reservations and objections to this island’s present mantra: “multiculturalism”. Proceeding along the pattern of my thoughts from yesterday, my concern focuses on today’s all too frequent apostasies from Catholic faith, as they contrast to the Sorrowful Mother who kept her station at the foot of the Cross.
          The multicultural thing is perhaps only so acute because of a music evening I attended which offered an enjoyable introduction to classic Japanese drums, flutes and strings before attempting a “musical fusion” with steel pan and percussion, a seemingly embarrassed sitarist being thrown in for ample measure and to ensure a politically seamless coverage of the “multi” part of the cultural landscape. I guess I was supposed to applaud indiscriminately the various original compositions and improvisations without really knowing the classical greats of the Far East which should be their measure. All of a sudden not only moral values are relative, but everything short of racing against the stopwatch becomes “fine to very fine”, just like those silly public schools years ago which banned all forms of evaluation of a student’s accomplishment so as not to stifle creativity or the unfolding person. Maybe it is only because of the stopwatch or the scoreboard that competitive sports remain recognizable; everything else becomes a smear on the canvas of life. In any case, with this type of virtuosity which nobody else dare judge we are far from embracing the Cross or sharing in Mary’s compassion for Christ’s suffering. My evening was spent in a realm which either never knew or has apostatized from the faith of our fathers and mothers. “Multi” excludes priority, hierarchy, yes, value.
          Most of us as children in parochial school sang the Stabat Mater at the Stations of the Cross on Fridays during Lent. Most of us would have understood even as children that the real world of baptized people saw their place with Mary at the foot of the Cross. Some of those children, as the years went by, balked for themselves and in their own personal lives at the humiliations Mary suffered while keeping her station. A big or little insult or pain, a situation which could no longer be faced except as clothed as a penitent, became easier to flee, and any number of folk out of pride and a measure of hurt turned their back on Mother Church and went over to brethren who would embrace them for the cut of their wallet or their social respectability. They left the Sorrowful Mother to keep watch alone.
          The people in the wilderness yearned for old Egypt, but by God’s merciful love were given a chance to approach the Tree of Life and be caught up in the embrace of the One Who was delivered up for our sins. Choosing life is not an epic saga; we need not be dashing knights on a cinematographic quest in HD, 3D and surround sound; we need but hold tight to our Mother’s hand, to her whose soul as Simeon had foretold was pierced through, as she beheld her tender Child.
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.

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