“Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35
The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin is the earliest known altarpiece by Albrecht Dürer. The central panel depicts the sorrowful Mother after the Crucifixion. Around her are seven panels with detailing the scenes from the life of the Christ that make up the Seven Sorrows of Mary (from top left): The Circumcision and Prophecy of Simeon; the Flight into Egypt; Loss of Child Jesus for Three Days, Jesus on his Way to Calvary; the Crucifixion, Body of Christ and Lamentations; the Burial of Christ
Dürer highlights Our Lady of Sorrows intense sufferings in his astonishing altarpiece. As foretold by Simeon, she was pierced by the sword of sorrow as she stood at the foot of the Cross.
Each month of the liturgical year is devoted to a particular Catholic tradition, usually centered on a Feast during that month. As August is the Month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, September follows as the Month of Our Lady of Sorrows.
We see this theme of joy followed by affliction mirrored in the liturgical calendar in two September Feasts – the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14 and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15. Happy the heart of the blessed Virgin Mary! She, without dying, earned the treasure of martyrdom beneath the Cross of our Lord for her anguish. Dürer has forever memorialized this event.
The name of Our Lady of Sorrows centers on the extraordinary and bittersweet suffering the Blessed Mother experienced during Christ's Passion. As seen in the artwork above, her agony is composed of “The Seven Dolors,” that pierced the Heart of Mary. Dürer’s portrayal of each event encompasses the central figure of Christ's sorrowful Mother.
During this month of September, we are drawn into the spiritual martyrdom that the Blessed Mother experienced during the physical martyrdom of Jesus. The evils of sin are manifest but conquered through intense suffering. The Blessed Mother's tears of anguish reflect God's washing away of sin. If you haven't ever prayed the Seven Sorrows chaplet, you might want to consider exploring this devotion.