Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our Lady of Sorrows

Disclaimer: I have no desire to alienate my Protestant readers further (who I realize are 100% of my original readership), nor to say anything unknowingly offensive to the Catholic readers that seem to have trickled in recently. But today is the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, and so if there’s ever a right day for this post it’s today. Receive my apologies for all my inevitable heresies, and I’ll try to be brief.

August 15 had been the Feast of the Assumption, the day the Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate Mary rising from the dead and being assumed into heaven where she would be crowned Queen of Heaven. I hadn’t been especially looking forward to the prayers of that particular solemnity in the Daily Office, so when I talked to one of the seminarians the day before he recommended I read Pius XII’s declaration about the Assumption in the Apostolic Constitution, and a document Catholics and Anglicans wrote together about Mary.

The former, which was a bit disorganized and written with a different audience in mind, made me ponder some esoteric things about eschatology. The latter, which was kind and carefully written with a mutual longing for understanding, made me sad.

For Catholics, it is a day of hope fulfilled, of the Arc of the New Covenant entering Jerusalem with rejoicing, of the New Creation that Christ began already gathering the momentum of redemption, of the world suspended between the Already and the Not-Yet being ever so slightly closer to the Already. For a Protestant trying to suspend disbelief, it nevertheless felt stupid.

From any angle you look at it, it certainly seems a dark irony that Mary, whom Catholics believe is the one who draws us to Jesus, is the most repellent point of Catholic theology for Protestants. I’m sure someone in a dark abyss out there gets a good laugh out of that one at both of our expenses. Struck by the sorrow of the impasse, I was ready to solicit the prayers of anyone, even if it felt a little stupid. For better or worse, this is what came out of that.
Oh Mother of our Brokenness, please nod
From where you sit as Queen of all our tears,
The junction of humanity and God
From which your children’s rich division veers.
And Mother of our Sorrow, keep in mind
The sword that pierces the mosaic of
Our souls, for we your brood that trails behind
Have never been immaculate in love.
I do not envy you your crown, because
The price of it has been too great, the steel
That still is piercing, for the serpent was
Within our spirit as upon his heel.
But barren wombs have leapt in Nazareth,
So pray for us the hour of our death.


Chestertonian Rambler said...

Maybe this is because I've read far too much Irish poetry, but I find that poem truly beautiful.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

And re-reading, I like it any more. So accept this Protestant's thanks.

Em the luddite said...

I am truly flattered by the suggestion that an immersion in Irish poetry would give someone an appreciation for mine! Really, you have no idea how much that makes my day...

Kathy said...

I found you a while back through Jen's 7 Quick Takes thing, so I guess that makes me one of your "new Catholic readers."

I love the poem. I grew up Catholic, but never appreciated or even liked Mary, at least as she was usually presented. It took a long time for me to relate to her as a person, not just a theological discussion. Once that happened, though, the theology made sense to me.

Mary was a problem for my husband when he was converting, too. She is for many people. And, yes, I think you hit it on the head: someone in the dark abyss is snickering at us for that.

I love what she said to Juan Diego at Guadalupe: "Am I not here, who is your mother? Are you not in the crossing of my arms?"

Em the luddite said...

Good to hear from you, Kathy, and to have some indication that I haven't managed to commit any heresies on your end (and to see that I'm linked on your blog... you seem to have given me my own category)!

I'm interested in the concept of knowing Mary as a person (doesn't that just sound like a terribly problematic statement!). Growing up Protestant, I have been praying to God and Jesus since before I can remember, and so knowing Christ as a person was as automatic as knowing my brother as a person. I never had to get to know him as a person... so Mary is completely uncharted territory. Maybe I know what people who convert from atheists to Christians experience when they approach prayer for the first time.