Saint Theodora prayed unceasingly. One of her favorite prayers was the Stabat Mater. The language is somewhat archaic, having been written before the 13th century, but vivid in the emotions experienced by Jesus’ mother, Mary.
Stabat Mater literally means the mother was standing, a reference to Mary’s standing beneath her crucified son. Based on the prophecy of Simeon, who told Mary that a sword would pierce her heart (Luke 2:35), the Stabat Mater describes Mary’s sorrows at the crucifixion and is often associated with the Stations of the Cross. Authorship of this great Latin hymn is uncertain but commonly attributed to Pope Innocent III, St. Bonaventure, and Jacopone da Todi.
The prayer has found its way into numerous musical arrangements. Those by Franz Joseph Haydn are highly regarded.
©2015, Mary K. Doyle
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.
Oh how sad and sore distressed
Was that mother highly blessed
Of the sole-begotten one!
Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious son.
Is there one who would not weep
Whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?
Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender child,
All with bloody scourges rent,
For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.
O thou mother, fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above.
Make my heart with thine accord:
Make me feel as thou hast felt:
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.
Holy mother pierce me through.
In my heart each wound renew
Of my savior crucified.
Let me share with thee his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with thee.
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgin of all virgins best
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share thy grief divine:
Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body hear the death
Of that dying son of thine.
Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swooned
In his very blood away;
Be to me, O virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.
Christ, when thou shalt call me hence,
Be they mother my defense,
Be thy cross my victory;
While my body here decays
May my soul thy goodness praise,
Safe in paradise with thee.
V. Pray for us, virgin most sorrowful.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, thy mother, through whose most holy soul, in the hour of thine own passion, the sword of sorrow passed, may intercede for us before, the throne of thy mercy, now and at the hour of our death, through thee, Jesus Christ, savior of the world, who livest and reignest, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, now and forever. Amen.