Eia, Mater, Fons Amoris

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STPSevenSorrows.jpg

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Commemoration of the Sorrowful Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Virgin of Sorrows is the Portress of the Holy Mysteries, the Keeper of the Door of Christ's Pierced Heart, the Mother of our Joy. The last edition of the Missale Romanum, published in 2002, contains two modifications, discreet touches that will leave in the Missal of Paul VI the unmistakable imprint of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II.

The first of these concerns the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent, the Friday before Palm Sunday. The 2002 edition of the Missal restores the Commemoration of the Compassion of the Virgin Mary formerly celebrated on the Friday of Passion Week, and offers for the Fifth Friday of Lent the following collect:

O God, who during this time
graciously grant to your Church
devoutly to imitate blessed Mary
in contemplation of the Passion of Christ,
grant us, we pray,
through the intercession of the same Virgin,
to cling each day more firmly to your Only-Begotten Son,
and to come at length to the fullness of his grace.


The second touch is in a rubric concerning the chants during the Good Friday adoratio crucis: it suggests that after the traditional chants given in the Missal and the Graduale Romanum the Stabat Mater also be sung in commemoration of the Blessed Virgin’s sorrowful compassion. In this way, a thirteenth century text, presumed to be of Franciscan origin -- it is attributed to Jacopone da Todi --takes it place alongside the ancient antiphon Crucem tuam, the Improperia, and the hymn to the Cross of Venantius Fortunatus.

The Stabat Mater is strong medicine for those who, being of a more abstract or cerebral disposition, would approach the Passion of Christ without getting bloodied, without being set ablaze, without feeling a melting in their breast.

Stabat Mater Dolorosa
Translated by Denis Florence MacCarthy (1817-1882)

Although I grew up with the beautiful Caswell translation of the Stabat Mater, my favourite English translation was done by the Irish author, poet, and translator Denis Florence MacCarthy. Three strophes are particularly noteworthy:

Sancta Mater, istud agas
Blessed Mother of prediction,
Stamp the marks of crucifixion
Deeply on my stony heart,
Ever leading where thy bleeding
Son is pleading for my needing,
Let me in his wounds take part.

Virgo virginum praeclara
Queen of virgins, best and dearest,
Grant, oh, grant the prayer thou hearest.
Let me ever mourn with me;
Let compassion me so fashion
That Christ’s wounds, his death and passion,
Be each day renewed in me.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire
May that cross be my salvation;
Make Christ’s death my preservation;
May his grace my heart make wise;
And when death my body taketh,
May my soul when it awaketh
Ope in heaven its raptured eyes.

The complete text follows:

By the cross, on which suspended,
With his bleeding hands extended,
Hung that Son she so adored,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
She whose heart, its silence keeping,
Grief had cleft as with a sword.

Oh, that Mother’s sad affliction--
Mother of all benediction--
Of the sole-begotten One;
Oh, the grieving, sense-bereaving,
Of her heaving breast, perceiving
The dread sufferings of her Son.

What man is there so unfeeling,
Who, his heart to pity steeling,
Could behold that sight unmoved?
Could Christ’s Mother see there weeping,
See the pious Mother keeping
Vigil by the Son she loved?

For his people’s sins atoning,
She saw Jesus writhing, groaning,
'Neath the scourge wherewith he bled;
Saw her loved one, her consoler,
Dying in his dreadful dolour,
Till at length his spirit fled.

O thou Mother of election,
Fountain of all pure affection,
Make thy grief, thy pain, my own;
Make my heart to God returning,
In the love of Jesus burning,
Feel the fire that thine has known.

Blessed Mother of prediction,
Stamp the marks of crucifixion
Deeply on my stony heart,
Ever leading where thy bleeding
Son is pleading for my needing,
Let me in his wounds take part.

Make me truly, each day newly
While life lasts, O Mother, duly
Weep with him, the Crucified.
Let me, 'tis my sole demanding,
Near the cross, where thou art standing,
Stand in sorrow at thy side.

Queen of virgins, best and dearest,
Grant, oh, grant the prayer thou hearest.
Let me ever mourn with me;
Let compassion me so fashion
That Christ’s wounds, his death and passion,
Be each day renewed in me.

Oh, those wounds, do not deny me;
On that cross, oh, crucify me;
Let me drink his blood, I pray:
Then on fire, enkindled, daring,
I may stand without despairing
On that dreadful judgment-day.

May that cross be my salvation;
Make Christ’s death my preservation;
May his grace my heart make wise;
And when death my body taketh,
May my soul when it awaketh
Ope in heaven its raptured eyes.

3 Comments

Don Marco

Do you have a good translation of the Stabat Mater in Spanish? I found one but the meter is off.

Vincent Capuano,sj

Dear Fr. Mark,

My name is Philip Carl Smith and I am a student studying music and philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. I am currently preparing a paper on the relationship between music and love in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, with a particular focus on Deus Caritas Est and the Spirit of the Liturgy. I was having a discussion with an architecture student at the University this afternoon who heard your talk on acoustics at a Mundeline conference recently, and said encouraged me to get in touch with you regarding some issues related to my paper, etc. If you would have the leisure, I would appreciate it if you might be able to email me at philipcarlsmith@gmail.com.

Yours in Christ,

Philip Carl Smith

Just going to bed now...after risng at 3AM to pray the Rosary of the Seven Dolors...
(The picture is not me at my blog. :)

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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