Meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary


"When Jesus saw His Mother and the disciple whom he loved there He said to His mother: "Woman, behold thy son." 
Then He said to the disciple: "Behold thy mother.”


During this holy season of Lent we to turn our hearts back to the holy mysteries we dedicate our prayer to during this season.  And our hearts naturally turn to the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  There we see the culmination of Jesus’s mission on earth, there we see the Blessed Mother with her Son to the end.  Our Blessed Mother ever faithful to her Divine Son throughout His life and Mission on earth.  She teaches us the virtues we need for this holy time of the Church’s liturgy year.  The virtues of hope, faith, prudence, courage, and charity.

Our Blessed Mother begins Her life with Christ, at the Annunciation, where she accepts the Father’s will in her FIAT.  She shows us her humility, courage, faith, and submission of her will, obedience, and total giving of herself.  She also is an example to us of the contemplative life.  Her life always looking upon the Lord with love and waiting for Him to speak to her heart.  She always open to Him from the beginning her life with Him united to Him through the power of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation. 

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me as you have said."

"Our Lady listens attentively to what God wants, ponders what she doesn't fully understand and asks about what she doesn't know. Then she gives herself completely to doing the divine will: 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.'" (Christ is Passing By,173, 4)

Mary’s fidelity to her Son in constant.  We look in a particularly way at her faithfulness as Christ begins His public ministry at the Wedding at Cana.  This first miracle of our Lord is important to us because of its relation to our Lord’s sacred Passion.  In this mystery, Our Lady teaches us a way to pray.  In the gospel, the servers at the feast, have run out of wine.  Our blessed Mother tells Jesus, “they have no wine.”  She knows He will answer her request, her prayer to Him.  But Jesus says, “Woman how does your concern affect me?” “My hour has not yet come.”  Jesus seems as though He’s not going to answer the request, but our Blessed Mother does not lose hope.  Our blessed Lord, gives them new better wine.  In this gospel, our Blessed Mother is near our Lord, contemplating Him and interceding for men to Him.  Jesus refers to her as woman, which He will do on the Cross, when He gives her to his beloved disciple.  So, in this gospel we see the foreshadowing of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord.  We see the Sorrowful Mysteries.  Jesus in telling His Mother, “My hour has not yet come.” He speaks about the hour of His Suffering and Death, the hour of His glorification.  And in the wine, we see the foreshadowing of the Holy Eucharist. 

In the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus suffers His agony in the garden.  We don’t hear anything about Mary being with Jesus in the garden.  But we do know our Lord in His great suffering and torment is not far from our Lady’s heart.  We see in Him the human side of His Divine and Human nature, which the Church teaches is the hypostatic union; the two divine and human natures in the one person of Christ.  We can’t help but believe, our Blessed Mother was suffering with our Lord.  We know mothers have a deep sense of compassion and knowledge of when their children are in trouble or hurting.  They just know, something isn’t right.  Even more so, we might understand this in the Blessed Mother.  In Her most pure and Immaculate Heart is united in a more intimate way with the sufferings of Her Son.  How can our Blessed Mother forget the words of the Prophet Simeon?  “You yourself a sword will pierce…that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Lk. 2

Our Blessed Mother, later told the mystic Saint Bridget of Sweden centuries later that “she felt great anguish over what Simeon said after that. She said “On that day [of the Presentation, the day of the prophecy] my pain was increased. For though, by divine inspiration, I knew that my Son was to suffer, yet this grief pierced my heart more keenly at Simeon’s words when he said that a sword would pierce my soul [Luke 2:35], and that my Son should be set for a sign to be contradicted [Luke 2:34]”. She realized even more forcefully than before how much Jesus’ message would be rejected and how much He would suffer during His Passion for our redemption.

‘Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote poignantly and poetically of Simeon’s Prophecy, “from that moment on, every time she would lift infant hands, she would see them fall across them, the shadow of nails.”’

In the Second Sorrowful Mystery Jesus is taken before Pontus Pilate.  He is scourged by the Roman soldiers who were taunted by the angry mob. 

“Then Pilate released Barabbas unto them; and when he scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”  Mt 27.

Here our Lord begins to undergo His great sufferings for all of us.  In this mystery we meditate on our Lord’s love for us.  We pray during this mystery for the virtue of purity and goodness.  A purity of heart, to allow our Blessed Lord to come into our hearts and souls.  To be near Him as our Blessed Mother is so near to Jesus.  We can’t help but believe, the loving Mother was very near our Lord at this time.  She knew what was happening, the message of Simeon and the Angels were coming to fulfillment.  The Son of Man had been handed over. 

In the Third Sorrowful Mystery Jesus is crowned with thorns.

In this mystery, we recall Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns. After He had given Himself into the hands of His enemies to be a victim for our sins, He was condemned by the officials, presided over by the high priest, and brought before, Pontius Pilate. He was insulted, mocked, acclaimed king and ridiculed, scourged and crowned with thorns. The Gospel says Pilate, having recognized Jesus was innocent, gave Him over to be scourged: “Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him. And the soldiers gathered a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and dressed Him in a purple robe; they came up to Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck Him with their hands” (Jn 19:1-3).  Before ordering Him to be scourged. Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king. “Jesus answered, ‘My kingship is not of this world… I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice'” (Jn 18:36-37). It was this answer which gave the soldiers a pretext for making fun of Him as king.

The soldiers left Him in a pitiable state. Pilate, seeing Him like this and still wanting to save Him, brought Him out once more to the people, declaring Jesus was innocent: “‘Behold I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in Him.’… They cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Then he handed Him over to them to be crucified” (Jn 19:4,15-16).  We might see our Blessed Mother in the back of the crowd.  She sees Her Son disfigured and bruised like an animal.  She hears the lies and awful things the people speak in life of Her son from the bloodthirsty crowd.  She feels isolated but in her goodness and love is even more united to Her Son in His sufferings. 

In the Forth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus Carries His Cross.  In this mystery Jesus after suffering the scourging of the pillar and offering His himself for our sins, He now takes up the Cross for us. 

“Then therefore Pilot delivered Him to them to be crucified.  And they took Jesus and led Him forth, bearing His own Cross.”  Jesus is acting out of obedience to the will of the

Father.  He is following the example of the Blessed Mother, who was obedient to the will of the Father in asking Her to be the Mother of His Son.  She knew from the very beginning the sufferings He would have to undergo.  We can imagine the Blessed Mother following at a safe distance from Her Son.  In her agony watching Him being put to such sufferings.  Her Son, a loving Mother, wanting to go to Him, and console Him.  But she knows He must be put to the sufferings of the Cross for the salvation of the world.  She is being obedient in Her role as the Co-Redeemer of the human race.  We might reflect she is praying deeply for her Son the whole way to the foot of Calvary.  We reflect on Jesus bearing His Cross and falling beneath it, again opening the blows of the soldiers wounds with each fall.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus is Nailed to the Cross, 

"When Jesus saw His Mother and the disciple whom he loved there He said to His mother: "Woman, behold thy son." Then He said to the disciple: "Behold thy mother.”  From the Cross, when Jesus gives the Blessed Mother to the beloved disciple, Saint John He calls her woman just as He did at the miracle of the wedding at Cana.  Jesus sees His Mother and says something about the future continuation of His mission in the Church.  He uses this formula to teach something about the spiritual relationship between Him and His disciples.  Jesus hands on His life to the disciple to the universe, to all of us, through His Sorrowful Mother.  Jesus refers to our Blessed Mother as woman, in reference also to the Fall, where man lost Divine Grace.  Jesus isn’t only talking to His Mother but is giving His Divine Life to the whole world by referring to Her as mother.  From the Cross, Jesus is speaking about himself, Mary, and the beloved disciple as the divine family of God.  Our blessed Mother becomes the new Eve a spiritual mother to all the disciples of Christ.  Eve was the mother of, “all the living.”  Mary is the mother, “of all believers.” 

In spite of all these beautiful spiritual and theological realities, Mary stands beneath the Cross, watching her only Son suffer.  She has been with Him through it all.  There’s nothing she can do to change the reality.  All she can do is simply be present to her Son.  She looks on Him, “whom they have pierced.”  This powerful but sorrowful grace-filled image makes us think of the holy Mass.  During the Canon, we are reminded of this image of the Cross, we meditate on it.  We bring the sorrows and needs of our heart to it. The Canon is silent because of the reality of what is happening, we are in awe waiting for our Lord to come down upon the altar.  We also imitate Mary, as she was beneath the Cross, in sorrow for our sins and need of conversion, we adore the Lord in silence, by looking upon Him, our hearts are transformed by His grace, we receive the Divine Life lost at the Fall in our hearts.  Saint Padre Pio says, “If you want to assist at Mass with devotion and with fruit, think of the sorrowful Mother at the Feet of Calvary.”   We shall also by imitating the pain of the Sorrowful Mother, bring our pains and those we love to the sufferings of Christ on the Cross.  We ask our blessed Mother’s intercession that through Her prayers and her tenderness, we may find relief and consolation.




Aidan McDermott