The Via Matris
The Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows pray the The Via Matris first Saturday of each month. By praying the Via Matris “we meditate on the sorrows of Our Lady who was intimately associated with the Passion of her Divine Son.” (Constitution of the Congregation)
As Christ and Our Lady of Dolours were associated in God’s saving plan (Luke 2, 34-35), so too they are associated in the Liturgy and popular piety.
As Christ was the “man of sorrows” (Is 53, 3) through whom it pleased God to have “reconciled all things through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross” (Col 1, 20), so too, Mary is “the woman of sorrows” whom God associated with his Son as mother and participant in his Passion (Socia Passionis).
Since the childhood of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s life was entirely lived out under the sign of the sword. Christian piety has signalled out seven particular incidents of sorrow in her life, known as the “seven sorrows” of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Modelled on the Via Crucis, the pious exercise of the Via Matris dolorosae, or simply the Via Matris, developed and was subsequently approved by the Apostolic See. This pious exercise already existed in embryonic form since the sixteenth century, while its present form dates from the nineteenth century. Its fundamental intuition is a reflection on the life of Our Lady from the prophecy of Simeon, to the death and burial of her Son, in terms of a journey in faith and sorrow: this journey is articulated in seven “stations” corresponding to the “seven dolours” of the Mother of Our Saviour.
Since the sorrows of Our Lady are caused by the rejection of her Son, the Via Matris constantly and necessarily refers to the mystery of Christ as the suffering servant. It also refers to the mystery of the Church: the stations of the Via Matris are stages on the journey of faith and sorrow on which the Virgin Mary has preceded the Church, and in which the Church journeys until the end of time.
The highest expression of the Via Matris is the Pietà which has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Christian art since the middles ages. (Directory of Popular Piety and Liturgy)
First Sorrow: The Prophecy of Simeon
He came to the temple now, inspired by the Spirit, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him the customary ritual of the law, he took him in his arms and blessed God… and he said to Mary his mother: This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed—and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword—that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.
Obedience to the law led Mary to an understanding of her mission. Mary, that day, and all the days of her divine motherhood, meditated on these things in her heart, in the light she received from her submission to God’s revelation. In the same way, our loving, diligent, joyous observance of obedience places us in an attitude of listening to the Spirit, whether his message comes from God directly or from one who represents him to us … and if that message foretells a cross for us, we will be better disposed to accept it in faith, supported by Mary.
Pray for us, Virgin most sorrowful.
That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray, Lord Jesus, at your passion, a sword of sorrow pierced the loving soul of Mary, glorious Virgin and Mother, just as Simeon had prophesied. Grant that we may remember her sufferings with reverence, and so obtain the spiritual benefits of your passion. You who live and reign forever. Amen.
Second Sorrow: The Flight Into Egypt
The angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph with the command: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Herod is searching for the child to destroy him.” Joseph got up and took the child and his mother and left that night for Egypt.
We must also accept our consecrated life in a spirit of faith. God may conceal himself, but he is present. Human needs are pressing, but God sees and will provide. Genuine obedience gives us this advice from heaven: “Get up, go… ask nothing more. Step by step you will see where to place your feet.” Believe in God. Believe in the love of God, even if sorrow overwhelms you. We discover here a truth of faith: certitude in the divine call is what made the saints.
Pray for us, Virgin most sorrowful.
That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray, We turn, O Lord, to your goodness; grant that, in calling to mind the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may become, like her, open to the mysteries of our redemption. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Third Sorrow: The Loss of Jesus in the Temple
As they were returning at the end of the feast, the child Jesus remained behind unknown to his parents. On the third day they came upon him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When his parents saw him they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? You see that your father and I have been searching for you in sorrow.” He said to them: “Why did you search for me? Did you not know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not grasp what he said to them.
This even recalls the pain of Mary’s search, as well as her sorrowful wonder at the behavior of Jesus. We are, like Mary, searching for Jesus, searching for a greater understanding of daily events, trying to discover the will of God and submit to it. It is difficult and painful, at times, to accept in trust the will of God as it is revealed through events or human actions. Mary herself did not understand but accepted. We also say: “Lord, I do not understand, but I accept.”
Through your sufferings, Virgin Mary.
Obtain for us the joys of the kingdom of heaven.
Let us pray, Lord Jesus, may our sharing in the sufferings of your Virgin Mother obtain for us through your mercy the graces necessary for our salvation. You who live and reign forever. Amen.
Forth Sorrow: The Journey to Calvary and the Crucifixion
Pilate first had Jesus scourged; then he handed him over to be crucified. A great crowd of people followed him, including women who beat their breasts and lamented over him. When they came to Skull Place, as it is called, they crucified him there, and the criminals as well, one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”
All the sufferings prophesied for Mary culminated in Jesus’ condemnation to death; she had been preparing for this hour for thirty years. Following the example of our Mother Foundress, we should not continue to weigh the crosses that burden us, but turn our eyes to Christ and gain from him the strength and grace to carry them with love, becoming sharers in his redemptive work.
Who can give you comfort, O virgin daughter of Sion?
Great as the sea is your sorrow.
Let us pray, God of goodness, support our weakness, and, as we recall the sufferings of the holy Mother of your Son, grant that, through her intercession, we may rise again from our guilt. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fifth Sorrow: The Agony and Death of Jesus
Seeing his mother there with the disciple whom he loved, Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, there is your son.” In turn he said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” Around midday,… Jesus, uttered a loud cry and said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” After he had said this, he died.
On Calvary Jesus shaped the heart of Mary, giving her a universal motherhood. Jesus said: “Father, forgive them…” and Mary forgave. He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” and the repentant thief turned his sorrowful gaze on Mary after Jesus died. He told her, “Woman, there is your son” – and Mary received everyone. Each of us is called to mourn our sorrows in the same way Mary did. Like Mary at the foot of the cross, we join the offering of all our being to the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of our neighbors, with heroic obedience and love, until we, too, say, “It is finished.”
Queen of martyrs, pray for us.
You who remained fearlessly at the cross of Jesus.
Let us pray, Almighty and merciful God, you willed that Mary remain near your Son on the cross. Grant that your Church may be united with her in the passion of Christ so that we may share in the life of the risen Lord, who is God, and lives and reigns with you forever. Amen.
Sixth Sorrow: Jesus Is Taken Down from the Cross
As it grew dark, Joseph from Arimathea arrived. He was bold enough to seek an audience with Pilate and urgently requested the body of Jesus. Pilate summoned the centurion and released the corpse to Joseph, and Joseph took the body down from the cross.
The pierced heart of Jesus showed Mary how much he gave to atone for our sins. The sorrowing Virgin Mother, with maternal tenderness, washed the blood from the wounds of Jesus, preparing the body for burial. We would have helped Mary had we been there, so let us help her today as members of the mystical body of Christ, so that his blood may continue to wash away the sins of the world.
Virgin Mary, help us find our salvation
Through the wounds of Christ.
Let us pray, O Lord Jesus Christ, may the Blessed Virgin Mary, your Mother, whose soul was pierced by the sword of sorrow at your passion, implore your mercy for us now and at the hour of our death. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Seventh Sorrow: The Burial of Jesus
Take the body, Joseph wrapped it in fresh linen and laid it in his own new tomb which had been hewn from a formation of rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene came with the other Mary to inspect the tomb. They did not find the body of Jesus.
Mary, overwhelmed by grief, left the tomb to await the fulfillment of the divine promise. She lived those two days in the fullness of faith and in the contemplation of the mystery of love and suffering foretold from the beginning of the world. May the Holy Virgin help us to live generously the commitment of our consecration, to imitate her faith, her abandonment, her fidelity to God, in humble acceptance of the divine will in the present moment, in understanding the mystery of love and suffering that God has willed for each of us.
Mary, mother of mercy, pray for us,
And we will be forgiven and blessed.
Let us pray, God, by the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, you have willed to make glad the whole world. Grant, we beseech you, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may obtain the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the intentions of the Holy Father:
Glory to the Father…
We meditate on the sorrows of Our Lady who was intimately associatedwith the Passion of her Divine Son. By praying the Via Matris, we contemplate the life of Our Lady, from the Annunciation and the prophecy of Simeon to the death and burial of her Son that she may give us a true repentance for our sins and a total conformity the will of God.
Constitutions of the Congregation