Friday 18 February 2022

Meditations on the Stabat Mater - Father Armand de Malleray - CTS Devotions and Prayers

Meditations on the Stabat Mater
Father Armand de Malleray, FSSP
ISBN 9781784697402
eISBN 9781784696962
CTS Booklet D844

Over the last several years I have read many books from the Catholic Truth Society. I have been blessed, challenged, and encouraged by those books and booklets. I now have a watch list for new titles from the CTS and for old out of print titles. I picked this one up as soon as I saw it available in my market. I had no idea what it was about, and had not even read the description, because it was from the CTS I wanted to read it! It did not disappoint. The description of the booklet is:

“Stabat mater dolorosa – “The mournful mother was standing”. This is the opening line of the extraordinary hymn attributed to the 13th-century Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi, which is still a popular Lenten devotion. In this book Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP meditates upon the Stabat Mater line by line. This is a book to help the reader to walk the road from Lent to Passiontide to Easter – and indeed from life to death to eternal life – in the company of the most Blessed and Sorrowful Mother, who stands at the foot of the Cross of her Son.”

The chapters in the volume are:

Stabat Mater
‘The Sorrowful Mother was standing’
Part One – His Mother
Part Two – My Mother
Part Three – Our Mother
Text of the Stabat Mater

And no, the first chapter and the last are not the same. At least not identical. The first chapter is the Stabat Matter is a more literal translation for the purpose of the commentary that follows. And the final chapter we are informed in the better-known version by Fr Edward Caswell CO and the preferred or recommended version for private prayer, devotion, and meditation. The first chapter also only has the English translation, where the final has the English and Latin in Parallel.

I finished University a dozen years ago, and high school almost 35. It has been a while since I looked at literary criticism. And that was my feeling when I started reading this, a line by line breakdown, and that after going over the structure and form. But it is truly so much more than that. It is a work of devotion, of deep faith, and it is both inspiring and challenging to readers. I highlighted many passages my first read through. Some of them are:

“If you truly wish to be transformed by Christ, go to the Cross and contemplate his Passion. If you truly desire to plumb the depths of knowledge of Christ’s Passion, go to his Blessed Mother.”

“With great wisdom, Rev Fr Armand de Malleray has chosen the hymn which best expresses the profound sorrow of Our Lady, a sorrow filled with hope – the Stabat Mater. This hymn forms the landscape in which he skilfully illustrates the mystery of Calvary and the journey of the soul from fall to rise.”

“This conviction of faith inspired Jacopone da Todi’s writing of his hymn, the Stabat Mater, and animates Fr de Malleray’s new commentary, so clear and sound in its doctrine and lyrical in its language. This beautiful little book, born of prayer, is just what I need, what every Catholic needs, for the fruitful praying of the Stations of the Cross. FR JOHN SAWARD, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, author of Redeemer in the Womb: Jesus Living in Mary”

“The Stabat Mater teaches us that every fallen child of Adam and Eve benefits from uniting sacrificially with Jesus and Mary.”

“The structure of the hymn is telling: Part One describes the situation; Part Two connects us with the Blessed Mother; and Part Three emboldens us to address her Son personally.”

“In the Stabat Mater, the Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us sorrow as the condition for salvation. It must not be selfish or sentimental sorrow. Instead, it must be sorrow born from the realisation of our guilt and grown through trust in God’s forgiveness and mercy.”

“Standing is to Mary hardly less painful than is hanging for Jesus, though; while hanging betrays no less strength in Jesus than standing does for Mary, since the Lord chose and willed this passive posture to redeem the world through his obedience: “‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.’ (Now this he said, signifying what death he should die)” (John 12:32-33).”

“The only legitimate and fruitful purpose is to better appreciate her grief so as to be shaped by it, her sorrowful heart becoming the mould for our souls as they learn contrition.”

“Our Lady will not disavow us, on the contrary, she will suffer for us. Her natural grief for Jesus is the vehicle for her supernatural suffering with Him and for us. She knows that He undergoes his Passion freely in order to save us from sin. She wills to support his design fully, thus contributing to our salvation.”

“This adoption of us by the Mother was commanded by Our Lord when entrusting St John to Mary: “Woman, behold thy son” (John 19:26). Whereas in Bethlehem Our Lady as the New Eve had been spared the penalty of suffering when giving birth to Our Lord, the New Adam, on Calvary she begot us mystically through her sufferings.”

“It is ‘his’ grace we seek, while ‘hers’ leads us to ‘his’. Because He is God – as just confessed – He is the One whose favour we must win. Far from being left out of our growth in love, his Mother is our safest way to become his.”

“This Third and last part of the Stabat Mater is surprisingly brief, comprising merely two stanzas against eight (Part One) and ten (Part Two). Far from clumsy, this imbalance is dynamic and artistic. It shows how ninety percent of the poem is meant to prepare the reader for entering this ultimate and most sacred stage. Keeping the Mother in mind, we could compare the Stabat Mater with the iceberg, whose visible tip above water amounts to only ten percent of its total volume. The first eighteen stanzas (ninety percent of the poem) are about Our Lady and only the last two about Our Lord.”

“A better interpretation therefore would be: ‘through our mother’, that is, Christ’s and mine, as himself spoke of his Father: “Go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17).”

“The Stabat Mater purges our fallen ego fatally inflated by pride. Our swollen ego is shrunk to nothingness in Part One while witnessing the sufferings of the Woman. It awakens through Marian filiation in Part Two. It is fully restored to life in Part Three, through kinship with the divine Son of Mary, our Redeemer.”

“The Stabat Mater is understood and well prayed only when allowing the Holy Mother to look at our souls as once disfigured by sin and causing the pains of her Son and herself – or as redeemed from sin, through the pains of her Son and herself. Then we truly become her children, she our Mother, and He our Brother Redeemer.”

I hope those few examples show you some of the richness contained within this text. I will be praying this devotion often now, I will al return to this volume from time to time as a refresher. I came away from this with a deeper connection to both Mary our mother and to her son through her. This is an excellent read and I strongly urge you to pick it up and give it a read. And then go and pray.

Another great resource from the Catholic Truth Society!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Father Armand de Malleray:
Near Missed Masses: Ten Short Stories Based on Actual Events
Ego Eimi - It is I
X-Ray of the Priest In a Field Hospital: Reflections on the Sacred Priesthood

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