The celebration of the memory of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, which represents something unique to the city of Jerusalem, marks the beginning of Holy Week. Mass was celebrated on 31st March on Calvary at the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows, which separates the Chapel owned by the Greek Orthodox from the Latin Chapel of the Crucifixion. The wooden half-bust of Mary, given to the Holy Sepulchre in 1778 by Mary the Pious, Queen of Portugal is here: the Virgin Maryhas her chest pierced by a sword, a reference to the passage in the Gospel according to Luke, where the old Simeon speaks to her, “and you yourself a sword will pierce" (Luke 2, 35).
According to tradition, it was the Vicar of the Custody, fr. Ibrahim Faltas, who presided the celebration in which the Seven Sorrows of Mary are remembered and which form a sort of path of suffering, of which the Mother of the Lord was the main character during her terrestrial life: the prophecy of Simeon on her son (Luke, 2, 34-35), the flight with Joseph and the child to Egypt (Matthew, 2, 13-21), losing Jesus when he was twelve to find him in the Temple (Luke, 2, 41-51), the encounter with Jesus on the Via Crucis (Luke, 23, 27-31), her suffering at the foot of the cross (John, 19, 25-27), the moment when she holds her dead son in her arms (Matthew, 27, 57-59) and lastly, when she was present at the deposition of Jesus in the Tomb (John, 19, 40-42).
In his homily, Fr. Faltas invited the faithful to pray for all mothers who, here as in the rest of the world dominated by injustice and war, like Mary are tormented by the death of their children: “Today on this feast-day of Our Lady of the Sorrows, in this place of Calvary, unique in the world, we carry in our hearts and in our prayers the suffering and the pain of so many mothers who on this land, as in the rest of the world, have lost their children, in absurd wars and conflicts: let us put ourselves at the foot of the cross to invoke God the Father so that peace can return to the earth and the celebration of Our Lady of the Sorrows can help us understand the great gift that we have received from the cross of Jesus.”
In the face of the greatest sorrow there can be, the death of a child, there is something severe and very deep. “But this son of hers,” continued fr. Ibrahim Faltas, “will save men, will give the “new wine” to men and will give his Spirit to men. So Mary must accept being able to lose her son for the love of men. In a certain sense, we can say that in this moment Mary is experiencing motherhood at its deepest, because she is the mother of Christ and now she becomes the mother of the whole body of Christ, of the Church, that is, of all Christians.”
The cult of the Virgin Mary of Sorrows and of her Seven Sorrows is a very ancient devotion, which already existed at the end of the 11th century: fixed then for the Friday before Palm Sunday by Benedict XIII in 1727, it was established on 15th September during the Second Vatican Council. But here, at the Holy Sepulchre, the pre-Council solemnity is also alive, greatly loved by pilgrims and the faithful, recalled as the solemnity of the Septem Dolorum Beatae Mariae Virginis (the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary).