Friday, 22 April 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows by Adraien Isenbrant

This extraordinary painting is in the church of Our Lady Vrouwekerk in Bruges. I discovered it by accident when I was walking around Bruges shortly after the Beatification of Fr. Damien in Rome (I was not there). It is a large painting, and I had the experience of almost immediately being drawn into contemplation with Our Lady.

To me, one of the most powerful statements in the New Testament is that Our Lady stood at the foot of the Cross (John 19); she did not swoon, fall to her knees, lean on St. John - she stood. This expression of the strength of her motherhood and her fidelity as a disciple of the Lord is one of the chief arguments - in my view - for the proposed dogma of Our Lady Co-redemptorix. It is also a wonderful encouragement for us to trust in her maternal love and guidance in all our trials.


  1. Some thoughts-

    "... she did not swoon, fall to her knees, lean on St. John - she stood."

    Yes this is a tremendous encouragement and a supports the proposed dogma. I like, however, to balance this with her perfectly natural humanity in her motherly role. She was concerned at the Annunciation, puzzled at times.
    As any mother she was alarmed when her young son was lost in Jerusalem. She lived in the knowledge that a sword would pierce her heart and, at the Cross, she had no certainty that any good would come out of his crucifixion.

    How important it is that we have also have evidence of Our Lord's human emotions. How else could we appeal to Him for comfort in pain and bereavement.

    "Jesus wept".. For a moment He felt the searing pain when we learn of the death of a loved one. Later, in full confidence that His Father hears him always, Lazarus is raised, yet, in God's providence He learned,yes learned, for the briefest of moments,the desolation of bereavement. "Like unto us in all things"

    So with Our Lady.
    Not always surely the dignified detached love of the Co-redemptorix but the young Jewish maiden who grew in knowledge, in patience,watching her son in life and death and, with the other disciples, finally learning exactly Who she had been given the mighty grace to bear.

    At this hour two thousand+ years ago, I suspect she was shedding many tears as she yearned for the comforting presence of her executed son.

  2. For something any Jewish man and woman in occupied Jerusalem would have known SEE historians' research on the dreadful reality of Roman torture and crucifixion.

    You will have even greater respect after this for Our Lord's forgiveness and his His Mother's pain.

    “Crucifixion, State Terror, and Sexual Abuse,” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 53, Nos. 1-2 [1999]: 89-109).

  3. Yes, Terry, I recognise the truth of what you say. In Fr. Faber's book about Our Lady "At the Foot of the Cross" he makes the point, made by other theologians, that she was given the grace to withstand the dreadful suffering of Our Lord's Passion. Without that grace she may well have died of grief and, at least, been completely unable to stand as she did. I think that grace was already promised her as she accepted the invitation to be the Mother of God. In other words, the grace came with her motherhood.

  4. Happy Easter Father John

    A comment relevant to your words on the strength of Our Lady.

    I am not happy this morning after listening to the Sunrise Service from Liverpool Cathedral.
    Why was reference made to the Gospel Of John's version of the Resurrection with the inference that Mary Magdalene ran away leaving the other,more "courageous" disciples to enter the tomb. The sermon suggested she did not, or could not "see".

    Matthew's version shows women of strength, "full of joy", given the instruction to tell the others.

    Am I right to feel aggrieved?

  5. It wasn't Liverpool Cathedral, it was St. George's Chapel, Windsor. Apologies to you and Liverpool.

    Nevertheless, I am still aggrieved!