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The Seven Sorrows Bible Study for CatholicsWhat we can learn from our Mother of Sorrows
By Beth Leonard
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Beth Leonard
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Prophecy of Simeon the first sorrow
SIMEON MEETS MARY AND JOSEPH
Mary probably happily awakened on that morning knowing that this would be the day to rightfully present her son to the Lord. (The same Lord that had sent the Holy Spirit upon her so that she might conceive her precious son.) I am sure that she took great care of him as she prepared him for the journey.
Upon entering the temple, she is greeted by Simeon, a Godly and righteous man, who has much to say to the parents of Jesus.
Simeon divulged many highly confidential bits of information to this young couple, some of which they knew or suspected by the past greetings from heaven. Yet, we can conclude that most of Simeon's prophetic talk caught them by surprise. In verse 33, Luke states that "the child's father and mother were ____________________ at what was said about him".
Amazed, yes! Jesus was to be the salvation for "all peoples" according to Simeon in Verse 31. And if there were any questions still left in their minds at that point, Simeon would continue and further clarify. Who was this baby boy to reveal light to? (See verse 32)______________ And who was he to bring glory to? (See verse 32)________________
This alone could have been somewhat puzzling to Mary and Joseph since the Messiah they awaited was supposedly for Israel, but this child would be for "all peoples," with the Gentiles specifically included. You have to remember that Gentiles meant any "non-Jew" and although Gentiles sought God in the Old Testament, they would be required to convert. Mary and Joseph's God was the God of David and Jacob. Their God, who allowed them great victories against the other kingdoms or "other peoples," was now to deliver a Savior to everyone! How would this be accomplished?
Mary and Joseph would not have had enough information to fully understand the breadth and depth of this Universal Savior and the New Covenant; however, they were beginning to understand that this was a much greater plan that was being brought forth from their Almighty God. This young couple may not have understood everything, but they had one thing for sure- FAITH, and that is what would help them through the sorrows that lay ahead. For these obedient children of God, these words must have set the stage for deeper thought and contemplation, (or possibly great conversation on the way home from the temple that very day!) What they had been taught to believe in Jewish custom, practice, and law was to be turned upside down. Some would rise and some would ________(verse 34).
The Gentiles were to specifically be a target of salvation as we see unfold in Acts 13:44-49. Paul and Barnabas were addressing the crowds at Lystra when the Jews became jealous (verse 45). How did the apostles rebuke them? See Acts 13: 46 for the answer. _________________ _______________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________
In verse 47, we are reminded of the prophesy of Simeon. The Lord commanded them; "I have made you a ______________ to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth." Indeed, Simeon's words about the baby Jesus' revelation upon the Gentiles had come to "light," if you will!
We know that the obedience of Mary and Joseph to God was foremost. We know that they would have embraced this information rather than question it. To question God was not in their character and, therefore, one of the very reasons they were chosen for this job over all of us. Remembering that they just received somewhat startling news, we now read further that Simeon was not finished handing out clues to the future, and one of them in particular, stung the heart of Mary with her first sorrow.
Narrowing our focus, let's review Luke 2:34 and 35 again. Fill in the blanks and hear the words in your mind, just as Mary herself must have often and mindfully replayed these carefully chosen words of Simeon.
"Behold, this child is _________________ for the ________ and __________ of many in _____________, and to be a _________ that will be _____________________ (and__________________as word will pierce) so that the____________of many______ may be ____________________.
What a turn of events for Mary on this day. Was she prepared for what she was about to hear from Simeon? Let's flash back to what we know Mary to have understood up to this moment-in-time. Read Luke 1:26-35.
Wouldn't you agree that Gabriel left Mary on a "High" note, if you will? Underline or take note of every time that: God, Lord, Most High, Son of God, Holy Spirit, or Son of Most High is quoted by Gabriel in versus 28-35. What number did you get? __________ I counted that at least 7 times she was reminded that this was no ordinary visit. Gabriel had his talking points down and clearly reiterated them to Mary. There would be no mistake of whose message Gabriel was delivering.
If you had overheard this conversation, how would you have interpreted Gabriel's message? _______________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________
What differences do you see between the Annunciation message and the foretelling message delivered by Simeon? _______________________________________________________________________________
JEWISH LAW AND CUSTOMS
Mary was carefully following Jewish law and knew that she was to redeem her son and purify herself. First let's review the law of redeeming her son. See Exodus 13: 2 and 12-16. Moses was not kidding about the seriousness of this law and there is no question that Mary and Joseph would have known what was expected of them.
Who does the first-born belong to? _________________________________________
In verse 13, what happens to the animals that are not to be redeemed? _________________________________________________________________________
Did God intend for this to be a law for this generation only? __________ Why not? What inverse 14 and again in 16 makes you believe it was to be handed down from generation to generation? _______________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________
I love those visual words inverse 16. Let this, then, be as a____________on your___________ and as a __________________ on your ___________________: with a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt. He did not say to write it on your hearts, did he? He chose two of the most exposed parts of the body. It was to be divulged for all to know, see, and follow.
Furthermore, she was to purify herself. Leviticus 12: 1-4, 6-8 gives us the detail that Mary would have known by heart. Unclean for 7 days, Day 8 is to be the circumcision of Jesus and then Mary was to wait 33 more days for her blood to purify. During this time she was not to touch anything sacred nor enter any sanctuary. At the end she was to bring her holocaust and sin offering to the priest. In turn, he would offer them up to the Lord for her atonement.
It is interesting to point out that Mary and Joseph were not, by law, required to present Jesus at the temple, however, another scripture leads us to better understand why this couple may have been led to present Jesus in this way. 1 Samuel may be the clue. Before we read it and try to piece the words into context, a little information is necessary.
Hannah was for a long time the barren one of two spouses to Elkanah. Peninnah, his other wife, had many children and would use this against Hannah through constant reproach that the Lord had left her womb childless. One day, she broke down in tears and took her troubles to the temple where she prayed humbly and earnestly to the Lord for a son. Eli, the priest, saw Hannah long at prayer and thought she was drunk. After questioning her, he realized her intentions were honorable and blessed her before she left the temple. Hannah had promised God that if he would grant her a son, she would in turn give him to the Lord. God heard her cry, and having favor upon her, blessed her with Samuel. Hannah, keeping her promise to God, dedicated her son back to Him by leaving him with Eli, the priest. Samuel would go on to do great things for God.
That leads us to the scripture. Read 1 Samuel 1:24-28.
What did Hannah take with her on her way to the temple of the Lord in Shiloh? (v24) _______________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________
Yes, Samuel was with her! After his father sacrificed the three year old bull, who approached Eli? _______________________________________________________________________________
It was clear that Eli was not expecting her, for in verse 26 she had to interrupt him or pardon herself and then explain who she was. She indicated: ... I am the woman who _____________ ________________________________________________, praying to the_______________. She further explains that she prayed for the child and that her request was granted. In keeping with her promise, what did Hannah willfully and knowingly do with the son that she so desperately wanted? (v 28) ________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________
Mary and Joseph, along with all Jews, had been praying for the Messiah. Their prayers were answered just as Hannah's had. They knew that God had shown them favor and they wanted to return the blessing to its rightful owner, God. Unlike Hannah's son, Jesus would have left with them that day but would return to the temple around age 12 to unknowingly remain in his Father's house. That day, too, would become a sorrow for Mary. Is it clearer to you why Mary would not have simply brought her offerings to the temple, but would have also felt compelled to present Jesus?
One of the neatest parts of this story is that Hannah's response and praises to God were kept intact and written upon scrolls and later into the book of 1 Samuel for others to know and pray. I believe that Mary would have known well, if not memorized, Hannah's beautiful prayer of thanksgiving. Mary also, as we do today, would have been drawn to stories that revealed God's goodness and to the character of those women before her that found favor with God. Mary would have studied them and followed their lead. Because Hannah's prayer is so beautiful a tribute to our Lord God and because we will use it later to compare some of Mary's own words, I have copied it below for us to read and absorb. Read it as if you were Mary, finding yourself with a son who indeed belongs to God. Here is the prayer taken from 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
1. "My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory. 2. There is no Holy One like the LORD; there in no Rock like our God. 3. "Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths. For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds. 4. The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength. 5. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry batten on spoil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes. 6. "The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again. 7. The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts. 8. He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, To seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage. He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just. "For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, and he has set the world upon them. 9. He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness. For not by strength does man prevail; 10. the LORD'S foes shall be shattered. The Most High in heaven thunders; The LORD judges the ends of the earth, Now may he give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!"
I initially had trouble understanding about the horn (in the first and tenth verse) and then found that a "horn" is used to symbolize a person's strength. This made a lot more sense to me. This prayer is all about praising, honoring and fearing the Lord. Now, let's look at the Canticle of Mary in the New Testament, written over 1000 years later, as she responded to her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant at the time with John the Baptist. Read the passage below, Luke 1:46-55.
46 "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 48 For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. 51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
As if writing a letter of thanks, Hannah and Mary passionately express their thoughts in a similar cadence. Both Hannah and Mary open their prayers by offering great homage to God. Hannah's heart exalts and her horn (strength) is exalted in her God (v1). Mary's soul proclaims and her spirit rejoices (v46-47). Both women then exclaim the greatness and holiness of God; Hannah, by stating that no one else is of His holiness or strength (Rock) (v 2) and Mary through calling him the Mighty One (v49). Our God loves for us to admire him and thank him for his blessings upon us. He loves to hear our voices in praise and these two women honor him beautifully. Do you see the similarities of the two writings? Do you agree that Mary might have absorbed some of these beliefs from centuries of custom, tradition, and writings?
Now it is your turn.
What word is repeated in Mary's verse 51 and Hannah's verse 3? _______________________________________________________________________________
Both women understand God's wrath against the arrogant, don't they?
What kinds of people do Mary (52,53) and Hannah (8) recognize as God's favored ones? _______________________________________________________________________________
HUMILITY IS A FORM OF PREPARATION
A cleansed heart is the perfect way to begin any study. Every time we go to mass we atone for our sins and ask for forgiveness. Some of the first words spoken by the priest and by the congregation are words of humility and confession. To be cleansed with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a beautiful way to start the day and brings joy to our Lord. Furthermore, it is necessary to ready ourselves for acceptance of his Body and Blood. The following is one of the prayers we should recognize.
The Catholic Mass
I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God.
Priest: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.
SUMMARY OF THE FIRST SORROW
If it is true that we do not learn as much in our joys as we do our sorrows, then we are in for some great teachings. These seven sorrows represent some of the deepest known to man. I hope that you have learned more about this first sorrow as we have scanned the Bible for clearer understanding and insight. I hope that when you meditate on this sorrow, that you will recall Mary's mind and heart at the time and how she so lovingly embraced this life and the sorrows that came along with it.
Excerpted from The Seven Sorrows Bible Study for Catholics by Beth Leonard Copyright © 2010 by Beth Leonard. Excerpted by permission.
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