Our month named “seventh” of the year, September, is now our ninth month ever since an ancient Roman reform of the calendar that added January and February. September ushers in the beginning of meteorological autumn in the northern hemisphere, spring in the southern. During September we Roman Catholics honour beautiful saints, ancient and modern: for example, Gregory the Great (3), Teresa of Calcutta (5), John Chrysostom (13), Robert Bellarmine (17), Pio of Pietrelcina (23), Vincent de Paul (27), and the brilliant curmudgeon Jerome (30).
September has its Marian dimension. The 12th is the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Indeed, the whole month is given to devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, whose Feast falls on the 15th, the day after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
Our Lady of Sorrows is depicted as pierced with seven swords, which image is inspired by the words of Simeon to Mary during Our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Lk 2:34-35). An unusual Greek word, rhomphaia, was chosen for this “sword”, a curved blade on a long handle or pole used especially by the Thracians. It forced the Romans to reinforce their armour.
The Seven Sorrows are: Prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:34–35), Flight into Egypt (Mt 2:13), Loss of the Child Jesus (Lk 2:43–45), Meeting of on the Way to Calvary (tradition), Standing at the Cross (Jn 19:25), the Deposition (Mt 27:57–59), Burial of Jesus (Jn 19:40–42).
Fr Frederick Faber, in The Foot of the Cross, wrote: “Mary’s sorrows were not necessary for the redemption of the world, but in the counsels of God they were inseparable from it. They belong to the integrity of the divine plan. Are not Mary’s mysteries Jesus’s mysteries, and His mysteries hers? The truth appears to be that all the mysteries of Jesus and Mary were in God’s design as one mystery. Jesus Himself was Mary’s sorrow, seven times repeated, aggravated sevenfold.”
Here is the traditional Collect for Our Lady of Sorrows: “O God, in Whose Passion the sword, according to the prophecy of blessed Simeon, pierced through the soul of Mary, the glorious Virgin and Mother, mercifully grant that we, who reverently commemorate her piercing through and her suffering, may, by the interceding glorious merits of all the saints faithfully standing by the Cross, obtain the abundant fruit of Your passion.”
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