Stabat Mater is the title of a thirteenth-century Latin hymn and it means "the Mother was standing."  In Latin, the hymn consists of twenty couplets which describe the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin at the Cross.  There are more than sixty English translations that have been made of the Stabat Mater.  To listen to the music of the Stabat Mater click here.  This requires a Real Media Player which may be downloaded free from realaudio.com.

Text:

 
English:

At the cross her station keeping,
Mary stood in sorrow weeping
When her Son was crucified.

While she waited in her anguish,
Seeing Christ in torment languish,
Bitter sorrow pierced her heart.

With what pain and desolation,
With what noble resignation,
Mary watched her dying Son.

Ever-patient in her yearning
Though her tear-filled eyes were burning,
Mary gazed upon her Son.

Who, that sorrow contemplating,
On that passion meditating,
Would not share the Virgin's grief?

Christ she saw, for our salvation,
Scourged with cruel acclamation,
Bruised and beaten by the rod.

Christ she saw with life-blood failing,
All her anguish unavailing,
Saw him breathe his very last.

Mary, fount of love's devotion,
Let me share with true emotion
All the sorrow you endured.

Virgin, ever interceding,
Hear me in my fervent pleading:
Fire me with your love of Christ.

Mother, may this prayer be granted:
That Christ's love may be implanted
In the depths of my poor soul.

At the cross, your sorrow sharing,
All your grief and torment bearing,
Let me stand and mourn with you.

Fairest maid of all creation,
Queen of hope and consolation,
Let me feel your grief sublime.

Virgin, in your love befriend me,
At the Judgment Day defend me.
Help me by your constant prayer.

Savior, when my life shall leave me,
Through your mother's prayers
receive me
With the fruits of victory.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of your dying Son divine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In His very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awe-full judgment day.

Savior, when my life shall leave me,
Through your mother's prayers
receive me
With the fruits of victory.

While my body here decays
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally. Amen Alleluia.

The Collegeville Hymnal
Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1990.

 
Latin:

Stabat Mater dolorósa
Juxta Crucem lacrimósa,
Dum pendébat Filius.

Cujus ánimam geméntem,
Contristátam et doléntem,
Pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Mater Unigéniti!

Quae maerébat, et dolébat,
Pia Mater, dum vidébat
Nati poenas inclyti.

Quis est homo, qui non fleret,
Matrem Christi si vidéret
In tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristári,
Christi Matrem contemplári
Doléntem cum Filio?

Pro peccátis suae gentis
Vidit Jesum in torméntis,
Et flagéllis súbditum.

Vidit suum dulcem natum
Moriéndo desolátum,
Dum emisit spíritum.

Eja mater, fons amóris,
Me sentíre vim dolóris
Fac, ut tecum lúgeam.

Fac, ut árdeat cor meum
In amándo Christum Deum,
Ut sibi compláceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas
Crucifixi fige plagas
Cordi meo válide.

Tui nati vulneráti,
Tam dignáti pro me pati,
Poenas mecum dívide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
Crucifixo condolére,
Donec ego víxero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
Et me tibi sociáre
In planctu desídero.

Virgo vírginum praeclára,
Mihi jam non sis amára:
Fac me tecum plángere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
Passiónis fac consórtem,
Et plagas recólere.

Fac me plagis vulnerári,
Fac me Cruce inebriári,
Et cruó re Fílii.

Flammis ne urar succénsus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defénsus
In die judícii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exíre
Da per Matrem me veníre
Ad palmam victóriae.

Quando corpus moriétur,
Fac, ut ánimae donétur
Paradísi glória. Amen. Allelúja.

Missale Romanum
Cincinnati: Benziger Brothers, 1956.

Spiritual Meaning

Christians of the twentieth century can truly identify with Our Lady's experience of Sorrow.  The message of the Stabat Mater focuses on the spiritual and emotional bond which unites Mary and all Christians to the death of her Son on the Cross.  From this bond, each Christian can recognize the incredible compassion and holiness in Mary's character.  The Blessed Mother demonstrated her maternal compassion to all generations of Christians by her presence and participation with her Son Jesus in the Sacrifice of the Cross.

There is a mother-son bond that unites Mary with Christ Jesus during his experience of suffering and death. This empathetic bond indicates that Our Lady shared in her Son's suffering.  Mary is Our Lady of Sorrows precisely because her Son Christ Jesus bore the sins of the world during his passion and death.  As the faithful disciple, Our Blessed Mother invites us to unite our personal suffering with her own.  We can share in Jesus' burden on the Cross, just as Mary did at Calvary.

As Our Lady of Sorrows, Mary also reminds us that Christians are called to expiate for his or her own sins and the sins of their neighbors, and the sins of the world.  We can share in the bond between the Blessed Mother and Our Lord through fasting, prayer, and contrition for sin. Our Lady of Sorrows teaches us that the Crown of eternal life in Heaven can be reached when we each choose to share with Our Lord in His suffering and death on the Cross at Calvary.

The compassion of Mary is part of the mystery of the Church community's sharing in, and offering, the Sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of the world.  Each member of the Church has a role to play in redeeming the world.  Our Lady of Sorrows is a guide who inspires and teaches us how to be compassionate.

Historical Aspects

Now that we have explored some of the contemporary meaning of the Stabat Mater, let us summarize the hymn's important history.  Tradition has identified the hymn with St. Bonaventure, Jacopone da Todi, and Pope Innocent II.  A notable number of scholars point to da Todi as author, since two fourteenth-century codices and the 1495 edition of the sequence attribute the hymn's authorship to him.  While it cannot be denied that the composition's general tone and sensitivity parallel that of da Todi's poems, strictly stylistic comparisons yield uncertain and even disputable results.  Recent scholars like L. Russo and M. Cassella are not impressed by the arguments in favor of Jacopone's authorship.  The Stabat Mater has two qualities that most scholars date from the twelfth century: an intricate rhyme scheme and a regular meter (usually trochaic).

Liturgical Importance

The Stabat Mater was introduced into the Liturgy gradually until 1727 when it was prescribed as a Sequence for Mass of the Seven Sorrows of Mary on September 15 and on Friday before Holy Week, as well as their corresponding offices.  The Stabat Mater has been retained as an optional Sequence for September 15 in the reformed Roman Missal and as the hymn for the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer in the new Liturgy of Hours.  The Stabat Mater's popularity is reflected by its use in the popular devotion of the Stations of the Cross.

Its Place in Music

During the sixteenth century, the sequence motet was a favorite form among important musical composers.  The Stabat Mater was frequently given elaborate polyphonic settings.  A model of such settings is Palestrina's famous Stabat Mater which employs two choruses and combines several couplets to suggest larger musical units within the total composition.  During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Stabat Mater inspired large works for chorus and orchestra.  The hymn's text was divided into a number of autonomous and differentiated movements.  Compositions of this type were those of Seffani,  Scarlatti, Pergolesi, Boccherini, and Haydn.  During the nineteenth century, the popularity of the Stabat Mater's text is evident by its place in the work of Verdi, Rossini, Schubert, and Dvorak.

Theotokôs

I'm "The Mother of God"
at the foot of the Cross clutching at

Simeon's sword impaled in my breast

where the blood of despair trickles
betwixt my fingers
as the sword pierces next

my heart, my mind, my
soul, my very being there
washes me
in the blood of the
Lamb, again, as at His birth

while the rabble twist and turn the

blade with their jeers and scorn, and
their catcalls taunting Him to

save Himself, let alone the world

til only me, I'm left with just
His striped God-forsaken Body. I
sink to my knees, praying
my prayer to doubt
my doubt that true to His Word

He will

do what He said He would do,
three days hence; and my wounds

will be no more. Forever.

Carl Winderl, 1999
To be published in a forthcoming manuscript.

This summary was compiled from the following sources:

Cuyler, L. E. "Stabat Mater." New Catholic Encyclopedia. Volume 13. Pages 625-626.
Washington D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1967.

Dictionary of Mary. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1985.

Missale Romanum. Cincinnati: Benziger Brothers, 1920.

McKenna, Edward J. The Collegeville Hymnal. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990.

O'Carroll, Michael. Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Collegeville: Michael Glazier, 1980.

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