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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stabat Mater dolorosa

Sometimes I forget that Jesus was crucified between two thieves and that a crowd would assemble to watch those dying. Only John's Gospel speaks of the women at the foot of the cross of Jesus. "Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala." (Jn 19:25)
In the next verse we see that the "beloved disciple" is with them. The rest of the Apostles had fled and left Jesus alone and they are too afraid to be there. The women have courage. I had forgotten that John speaks of Mary's sister. I had five aunts (my Dad was the oldest and spoiled by his five sisters). They were an important part of my life. I wonder how much influence the aunt of Jesus had on him when he was a child? I am glad she was there with Mary at the foot of the Cross.

I learned something new from the Little Black Book today. I knew that some feasts had a sequence,like Pentecost, Easter, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. What I did not realize was that the verses sung with the Alleluia before the Gospel were extended into a lengthy poem for these feasts and this is called a sequence. The sequence for Our Lady of Sorrows, which dates back to the 13th century, is called the "Stabat Mater" and draws upon John's description of Mary at the foot of the cross. Those of us who remember making the Stations of the Cross during Lent would remember how we sang verses of the "Stabat Mater" as the priest moved from one station to the next. I still find myself singing the poetic translation of the first stanza:
"At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last."

Let us stay with Mary as she stays with her Son and follows him to his death on the cross.

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