A traditional hymn, and the prayer and contemplation it proposes, can bring our hearts to Calvary.
The first time I saw The Passion of the Christ, I wept. On the drive home from the theater, I had to ask my friends to stop talking—I couldn’t handle small talk after seeing such violence done to my Savior.
I felt the same way the second time. And the fifth, and the 10th. But somewhere along the way, that brutal beating became old news. And just as I’d become hardened to the truth of the Passion, I was dulled to the film adaptation.
We just get used to it. We take for granted that God was born in a stable, not even pausing a moment to be stunned at his condescension. We skim past the raising of the dead and cleansing of lepers and we hardly shed a tear when God is tortured to save us.
I’ve spent many a Lenten season trying to excite in myself the feelings that the Passion once aroused. And while faith isn’t a matter of feelings, it can be quite a lot more powerful when you really confront your sin and its effects on Jesus. It’s the reason Christian pop artists sing about the Cross, the reason we gravitate toward images of the Passion and pray the Stations of the Cross every Friday. We want to push past our jadedness and really meditate on the suffering and death of Christ.
According to the Stabat Mater, there’s no better way to do it than to stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary.
Written in the 13th century, this hymn is familiar to Catholics, many of whom have sung its first 14 verses while praying the Stations of the Cross. But the lyrics are more than just transition music as Father processes around the Church. In this Latin hymn, the author invites us first to look at Mary, then from her to the Cross, and finally asks us to fix our eyes on heaven.