Wednesday September 15, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier†† Our Lady of Sorrows
Reading (Hebrews 5:7-9)††† Gospel (St. Luke 2:33-35)
Today as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, it comes the day after the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Even though we know that Our Lord has triumphed victoriously through His Cross and Resurrection, nonetheless, the pain and the anguish in which Our Lady would have been suffering as she stood at the foot of the Cross is certainly recognized and celebrated. It is celebrated for a very particular reason, first of all, because she became our mother at the foot of the Cross. It was there, as Simeon had foretold, that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. And in piercing her heart, her heart was opened so that she would be able to give birth to all the children she had conceived at the moment of the Annunciation.
Recall that at the Annunciation she conceived the fullness of Christ. As the Fathers tell us, she had to conceive first in her heart before she could conceive in her womb. And by the fullness of Christ conceived in her heart, we mean the Mystical Christ of which we are each a part. As a mother will do when she conceives, the baby remains within until there is the opening for the baby to be born. Well, the same had to happen for us. We were conceived in her heart on the day of the Annunciation, but we were not born from her heart until the day her heart was opened, the day she stood at the foot of the Cross, the day upon which Our Lord looked down and said to her, Woman, behold your son. It was in the suffering at the foot of the Cross that we have been given life, not natural life but supernatural life. And that supernatural life comes from the Cross of Christ through His blood which was shed for us. As any mother will have to do in giving birth, Our Lady had to suffer for the birth of her children. There was no suffering in the birth of Christ because it was a miraculous birth without the normal opening of the womb. So the only time Our Lady suffered in giving birth, as we see in the Book of Revelation, is when she gave birth to us, when there was the opening so that we could be born.
But it is even more than that for us because Our Lady suffering at the foot of the Cross shares in the suffering of Christ. It is there at the foot of the Cross in her agony that she unites herself perfectly with the work of her Son, not only to give new life to us who would be born from her but also to share in the work and the suffering of Christ. And so it is in this giving of birth that we see just how intimately she shared in that work of Christ because it was on the Cross that He obtained for us the grace that we could have life, but we have life through Our Lady. So the two cannot be separated. In fact, it is through the blood which was shed upon the Cross that life is given to us. The water and the blood which came forth from Our Lordís heart when it was pierced becomes the means for us to have life through Baptism and the Eucharist. But when Our Ladyís heart was pierced, it was then that that life was given to us. And so it was won for us in the piercing of the heart of Christ, and we were born in that new life through the piercing of the heart of Our Blessed Lady.
As she has shared then in the suffering of Christ, she, more than any, has fulfilled what Saint Paul told us we are all called to do and what he himself does as he tells the Colossians that he makes up in his body for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of the Body of Christ, the Church. That is exactly what Our Lady was doing, uniting herself perfectly with the suffering of Christ so that we would have life, and giving to each one of us the example that we are to do the same. For each one of us, being the Bride of Christ, we also are to share in that maternity of the Church, to bring forth new children for God. Certainly, this is something which is far more natural to a woman to a man, that spiritual maternity which is shared in by all of those who are called to a consecrated life of virginity and of chastity; those women are to share in a special way in that spiritual maternity. But each and every one of us, because we are a member of Christ, are to share in His suffering to bring about new life, and as we heard in the first reading, to be perfected through suffering. There is no other way. Our Lord has commanded us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, and there is only one way to become perfect. That is through suffering, through our sharing in the Cross, and through our sharing in the new life which was won for us by Christ and applied to us in our spiritual rebirth through the piercing of the heart of our Blessed Mother.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.