*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 15th of September 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. When you hear “our lady,” you might think that this is a “Catholic thing,” and that is fair. “Our lady” in Latin is Notre Dame- or Notre Dame (the team that got stomped by Marshall last weekend…).
Mary is venerated with many, many names. Sometimes after a location where a miracle or apparition took place, e.g., Our Lady of Guadalupe and sometimes Mary is referred to in terms of her supposed standing, e.g., Queen of Angels, or even with Old Testament imagery, e.g., the “Tower of David” or the “Ark of the Covenant.” When the Roman Catholic Church officially placed this day in the missal in 1482, it surrounded what had come to be known as the seven sorrows of Mary. The primary text used for this comes from Luke 2:34 and 35. This is when Simeon blesses the Holy Family and says of Jesus, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
From the time of Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century, many have attempted to identify the “sword” that pierced Mary’s own soul. In good Medieval Christian fashion, they decided that there should be 7 “swords” or sorrows (that’s a good Biblical number), and what they consist of is pretty static, while there is disagreement as to how we number them.
They are the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; the loss and finding of the child Jesus in the Temple; Mary's meeting of Jesus on His way to Calvary; Mary's standing at the foot of the cross when our Lord was crucified; her holding of Jesus when He was taken down from the cross; and then our Lord's burial.
The feast- and solemnities that accompany it was believed to be first celebrated in 1414 in response to the Catholic Church’s problem with the Hussites- you might remember them. Their leader Jan Hus was burnt at the stake for his doctrines which presaged the Reformation a hundred years later.
After entering the Missal in 1482 (the Missal is like a hymnal meets a book of prayer meets an Almanac) it was officially placed on the calendar in 1727 by the Pope. But regionally, there were other feasts for Mary, and they were celebrated on different days. Hence, in 1913 Pope Pius X made the 15th the official date for this feast as it falls the day after the Feast of the Cross (we talked about that last year on this show)- this made sense as the final sorrows took place at the cross.
In the Gospel of John, this is where Jesus commits her to his disciple John and claims that she is now John’s Mother. This is central to Roman Catholic Marian theology- she is the mother of the church- our Mother, our Lady.
Of course, the Reformation would shake things up in the West, and the veneration given to Mary would disappear in some parts. It is a good example of how some Protestants and Catholics understand the place of church tradition.
Since 431 and the Council of Ephesus, Mary has been called “the Mother of God”- this is on account of Jesus being fully human and divine. Thus, she is the mother of the God-Man and thus worthy of honor. When it comes to some Marian doctrines, think: of the immaculate conception (that she was born without sin) or the Assumption (that she didn’t suffer a normal death). These are doctrines in the Catholic church. A Protestant might say, “but that’s not in the Bible!” And a Catholic would say- “the church has the right to codify doctrine,” and then the two can have a longer conversation about the place of authority… that’s for another time.
It is unquestioned amongst all Christians that Mary was blessed by Simeon, told that she would suffer on account of Jesus, and in fact, was at the crucifixion. Her sorrows are especially remembered with a feast- the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated on this the 15th of September.
The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Psalm 79:
Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need.
Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 15th of September 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite feasts always come with unlimited breadsticks. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who will try to keep the football references to a minimum. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.