Lessons iv - ix from Matins of the Feast
A sermon of St. Bernard, Abbot, On the twelve stars
The martyrdom of the Virgin is set before, us both in Simeon's prophecy, and in the narrative of the Lord's Passion. "This Child is destined," the holy old man said of the child Jesus, "for a sign that shall be contradicted; and thine own soul," he said to Mary, "a sword shall pierce." And, in truth, O Blessed Mother, thy soul was pierced. Unless the sword had passed through thy soul, it would not have pierced the flesh of thy Son. And after thy Jesus had sent forth His spirit, clearly the cruel lance that had opened His side could not reach His soul, but it pierced thine. For His soul was no longer there, but thine could not be torn away.
The full force of sorrow pierced thy soul. It is, therefore, correct to call thee more than martyr; thou in whom the love of compassion went far beyond the feeling of bodily suffering. And, was not that word more than a sword to thee, indeed piercing thy soul, and reaching, even, to the division of soul and spirit, "Woman, behold thy son"? What a change! John is given thee instead of Jesus; the servant for the Lord, the disciple for the Master, the son of Zebedee for the Son of God, a mere man for the true God! How could your most affectionate soul not have been pierced at this hearing, since even our hearts, which are like stone, which are like iron, are torn by simply remembering it?
Do not wonder, brethren, that Mary is called a martyr in soul. We may wonder if we do not remember the words of Paul, saying that among the greatest crimes of the gentiles was that they were without affection. Far is this from the heart of Mary, and it should be far from her servants. But, perhaps someone will say, "Didn't she know that He was going to die?" She did. "Did she not hope that He would soon rise again?" This she did with all steadfastness. "In spite of this, did she sorrow over the crucified?" Vehemently. And what kind of man are you, brother, and what kind of wisdom is this to find Mary's compassion more wonderful than the Passion of Mary's Son? If He could die the death of the body, could she not die with Him in her heart? Love did the first, love greater than any man ever had; and love also did the latter, a love like none other than His.
A homily of St. Ambrose, Bishop
The mother stood by the cross; when men fled, she stood undaunted. Consider whether the mother of Jesus could abandon her virginal modesty, when she did not let her courage flinch. With loving eyes she looked at her Son's wounds, through which she knew that the world would be redeemed. The mother who had not feared the executioner was looking at no degrading spectacle. The persecutor placed her Son upon the Cross, and she offered up herself in humble addition.
Ep. xxv ad Eccl. Vercelli
Mary, the mother of the Lord, stood at the cross of her Son. No other has taught me this but St. John the Evangelist. Others have written of the earth shaking at the Lord's Passion, of the heavens being darkened, of the sun hiding, of the thief received into paradise after his loving confession. John teaches what the others do not; that Jesus, hanging on the cross addressed His mother. He conquered His torments to perform His filial duty to her; and John found this more noteworthy than the giving of the kingdom of heaven. For, if it leads us to God to consider that He pardoned the thief, it is far richer for devotion to consider that the mother should be honored with such affection by her Son.
"Behold thy Son," He said, "Behold thy mother." Christ made His will upon the cross, and divided the duties of love between His mother and the disciple. The Lord made a will which was not only public, but also concerned with His household; and John signed the will, a witness worthy of such a Testator. What an excellent will, not concerned with money, but with eternal life; which was not written with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God who says, "My tongue is nimble as the pen of a skillful scribe."