Monday 3 April 2017

First Sorrow of Mary: Simeon's Prophecy

Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.
(Luke 2:34-35)

Hail Mary, who accepted that your own soul would be pierced by a sword for love of your Son.

There are forty days between Christmas and the Presentation in the Temple. Out of the thirty-three years that Mary was mother to Jesus on earth these were the only days of unalloyed joy. After that she could never be entirely clear from the shadow of the Cross. Doubtless there were many moments, perhaps whole weeks when the shadow was only at the back of her mind but it never departed entirely. She knew. She could not help but know. Her beautiful Son would be a source of scandal to the world and because she loved Him so entirely everything which fell upon Him would fall upon her also.

Since humans are weakened by sin and by their vulnerability to temptation human love is an imperfect thing. If we examine it closely we see it is a compound made up of a mixture of emotions and desires, some selfless some demandingly selfish. Mary was sinless so her love was pure and therefore perfect. She loved her Son as no other mother could love a son. This meant that the pain she felt when He was hurt is something beyond the scope of our sinful human imagination to grasp in its entirety. This applies also to the pain by anticipation which she would have experienced when she heard the words of old Simeon and on the many occasions afterwards when she would have pondered them in her heart.

When Mary uttered her fiat to Gabriel "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38) she did not know in detail what it would entail but she did commit herself freely and completely to do the will of the Father in everything concerning the mission He had entrusted to her. From Simeon she had now learnt in part what this would mean. This did not cause her to retreat from or to regret her commitment. Flesh and blood might not be able to face up to such an ordeal, it would seek to escape or be crushed by despair. But Mary, like all of us, was more than mere flesh and blood she was spirit too and in her case spirit full of Grace. God who sent her both the gift and the trial also sent her, in the Holy Spirit, the means to endure and to triumph. Her obedience to the Father, love of the Son and strength from the Spirit would help her in her sorrow. If we, now, today, in the 21st century gaze upon the Blessed Virgin as a mirror for ourselves then, learning from her, imitating her and imploring her intercession we too can fulfil our particular missions relying not upon ourselves but upon Mary's Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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The painting is The Presentation in the Temple by Alvaro Pirez from the Met Museum

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