Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday - Stabat mater dolorosa

A lovely piece of traditional Good Friday artwork

At the Stations of the Cross, we always sing a verse of the ancient hymn, Stabat mater dolorosa, after each station, translated from Latin as "the sorrowful mother stood weeping." I don't think it is a particularly beautiful hymn -- it's almost more of a chant, each syllable, word and line varying by only a few notes. But the words are very powerful, telling the story of Mary's pierced heart, prophesied in the Temple by Simeon when Jesus was an infant.

Here is the English translation we sing from the 1901 Adoremus hymnal. It is sung in a dirge-like tempo, perfect for the solemnity of this day.

Stabat mater dolorosa

At the cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful mother weeping,
close to Jesus at the last.

Through her soul, of joy bereavèd,
bowed with anguish, deeply grievèd,
now at length the sword hath passed.

O, that blessed one, grief-laden,
blessed Mother, blessed Maiden,
Mother of the all-holy One;

O that silent, ceaseless mourning,
O those dim eyes, never turning
from that wondrous, suffering Son.

Who, on Christ's dear mother gazing,
in her trouble so amazing,
born of woman, would not weep?

Who, on Christ's dear Mother thinking,
such a cup of sorrow drinking,
would not share her sorrows deep?

For his people's sins, in anguish,
there she saw the victim languish,
bleed in torments, bleed and die.

Saw the Lord's anointed taken,
saw her Child in death forrsaken,
heard his last expiring cry.

In the passion of my Maker,
be my sinful soul partaker,
may I bear with her my part;

Of his passion bear the token,
in a spirit bowed and broken
bear his death within my heart.

May his wounds both wound and heal me,
He enkindle, cleanse, and heal me,
be his cross my hope and stay.

May he, when the mountains quiver,
from that flame which burns for ever
shield me on the judgment day.

Jesus, may thy cross defend me,
and thy saving death befriend me,
cherished by thy deathless grace: