Mary, Mother of Sorrows

Soon we hear the story of the announcement of the angel to Mary today, a a teenager of no standing who lived in a town of little consequence. “Rejoice, you highly favored one!” (v. 28a).

Mary is “theotokos,” a Greek word that means “God-bearer,” and she is being asked to use her body to birth Jesus in the world. Any mystic will tell you that we are all called to hold space for the Divine and to be conscious of what is being birthed in our world through our words, our compassion, our creativity, our friendship, our actions for justice, our struggle, our suffering, our joy, our anticipation, our wakefulness. Something new is being born. And we are part of it. 

I saw lots of Mary in my time in Israel. From the convent in Ein Kerem where I volunteered, it was a short walk up a steep hill to the Church of the Visitation, named after Mary’s visit with Elizabeth. I loved the view over the valley dotted with Olive trees,  the quiet grotto and the art depicting Mary and Elizabeth leaning into each other in their greeting.

I spent a weekend in Nazareth by myself and wandered the town and its biblical sites,  accompanied in my imagination, by Mary. I saw her as an older woman. In my experience of her, she endured much, and yet is lively and gracious in her wisdom. 

It is Mary, Mother of Sorrows, who accompanies me this Advent. The sword is still piercing her heart as she looks out upon the world God loves and sees the suffering of peoples, of people, of our own heart. 

She is Mother of Sorrows, remembering her own flight into Egypt as she attends to the journey of refugees still fleeing south, still on the road, still living in camps, still displaced, still fleeing violence, domestic and political.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, still singing her revolutionary song.

Mary, Mother of Sorrows, her yes is bold and fierce. 

With courage and determination, we say — Yes.

Here I am. 

Art: Miller, Mary Jane. A Mother’s Love Holds the World, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved December 14, 2023]. Original source:

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you Janice for this sharing of your trip to Israel. My mind seen it as you walked the streets and I liked that you seen it through the eyes of an old woman who had seen much in her lifetime. I also seen it in my mind as war continues in the photos shown on the news of what war can do to a beautiful country. Made me think of the places you visited and what they might look like today. Mary must be very sad today watching from above, the on-going, seemingly never-ending struggles of her people during constant war and hate. Our world is a mess and I get sad sometimes thinking what my great-grandchildren are growing up in. Mostly I just try not to listen to news and concentrate on family and help where I can to let them know they are loved and not alone in today’s world. I too step forward with courage and determination and say yes, Here I am.

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