Friday, January 12, 2007

Our Lady's First Sorrow

The Prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:25-35)
(First of Seven prayers offered in honor or Mary's Seven Sorrows - this devotion was approved by Pope Pius VII in 1815)
According to Jewish law, the firstborn son of every family must be presented to God in the Temple.
Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the temple, according to the law of Moses for this presentation as well as for her own purification (by bathing) according to the law, even though she was immaculate and never became unclean, nevertheless the law was fulfilled by her. While in the temple, Simeon approached the Holy Family. He beheld the infant and knew, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that this was truly the Messiah, the fulfillment of God's covenant with His people. And he uttered the words of the Canticle of Simeon, which Holy Mother Church prays every night in Compline, "Now, Lord, you may dismiss Thy servant in peace, according to Thy word, for my eyes hath seen the salvation which Thou hath wrought for Thy people."

Then, after praising God for the Messiah, Simeon turns to Mary, so modest, so humble, and utters words, which she held, pondering in the pure vessel of her heart: "This Child is destined to be the downfall and rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be rejected - thou thyself shalt be pierced with a sword so the thoughts of many may be revealed" (Luke 2: 34).

Her sorrows then began. But at her side she had the support of her beloved chaste husband Saint Joseph, Guardian of the Holy Family. Simeon's prophecy was the first of her sorrows, for keeping these things silently in her immaculate heart, she contemplated them, receiving enlightenment from her Heavenly Spouse the Holy Spirit, while leaning on the strength of Joseph.
One can picture St. Joseph taking Mary's hand reassuringly in his and with a familiar look telling her in the chaste way: "We will face this together." It was St. Joseph who had to with great haste flee with Mary and the Holy Child in the dark of the night, after an angel had appeared to tell him they must flee Herod who sought the life of the Child. Joseph would have recognized the angel as from God for the same angel appeared to him to assure him Mary carried the Messiah and he was to take her into his home. A pious tradition holds this angel to be none other than the great Archangel Gabriel, who is the same angel of the Annunciation.
I grieve for thee, O Mary most sorrowful, in the affliction of thy tender heart at the prophesy of Simeon. Dear Mother, by thy heart so afflicted, obtain for me the virtue of humilty and the gift of the holy fear of God.
Hail Mary...
(Source: Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother by TAN Books, available for purchase here.)
May Mary's prayers go with you always!

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