Following from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross Yesterday, it is fitting that today we remember 'Our Lady of Sorrows' as we look down with St. Michael and St Gabriel holding the cross at the image of Our Lady. Today we remember the the sword that pieced her heart as she stood at the foot of the cross on which hung her son. Here we can contrast the image of the Mother of God interceding for us in our icon, with an icon of the lamenting Virgin. The subject of Mary's sorrow has been well explored by many artists over the centuries. But I find this Byzantine icon dated 1280 especially and profoundly moving. Compare her hands with those of Mary in our icon. They are not held out in prayer, but curved inwards in pain. It is as if she is holding herself - something we all do when we are in pain. But also it makes you think of the nature of her loss. Where is her baby? Her dearest baby has just been crucified. Is she remembering the joy she had when she held Him to her breast? At the same time, she looks out to us and is showing us that she feels our pain and loss. She knows what sorrow is. But although the Virgin is nursing a terrible grief, she still looks out to us and to our sorrows. She is not self-absorbed in her pain as we can often be, she is responding to her sorrow and our sorrows as she did the day when the Angel Gabriel invited her to be the Mother of God: with a completely open heart. Wounded, but still open to love and compassion. One cannot help think of how many people over the centuries have looked at this icon with tears in their eyes and their hearts full of sorrow and prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of Sorrows.
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