The image of Mary of the Seven Swords relates to the prophecy of Saint Simeon the Theodochus, recorded by the Evangelist Luke: “…and the pain will go through your heart, as a stabbing sword…” (Luke. 2.35). These words refer to the pain that the Virgin Mary would have experienced at the time of her separation from her beloved Son when he was crucified in front of her eyes.
The icon of Mary of the Seven Swords symbolizes deep sorrow. There are three swords on each shoulder and one sword pierces her heart from below. In the Bible, the number seven usually indicates fullness and abundance. Here I used the seven swords to indicate the seven deadly sins; humanities contradictory behavior in light of the health of planet Earth. Many of our hearts are filled with the infinite sorrows we feel for the ecosystems being destroyed in this era.
First I would like to offer the references and original intent of the icon. From there you can make your deductions and conclusions.
- The Prophecy of Simeon: “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this Child is set for the fall and the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; and thy soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed” (Luke II: 34-35).
Meditation Mary of the Seven Swords: First of Mary’s of the Seven Swords indicates her shock at hearing the sorrowful words, when Simeon told of the bitter passion and death her son would endure. In that same moment, she detected all the insults, blows, and torments that impious men commit along with the thought of men’s ingratitude for her beloved Son. Today, we can unite our hearts torn by sorrows and tragedies with Mary’s sword-pierced heart. Our hearts are pierced with the sword of sorrow with anguish for war-torn countries, where brother fights against brother. Within God’s family, we see strife today – prejudice burns between parishes and their congregations.
- The Flight into Egypt: “And after the wise men departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise and take the Child and His mother and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy Him. Who arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt, and He was there until the death of Herod” (Matt. II: 13-14)
Meditation Mary of the Seven Swords: Fear strikes Mary and St. Joseph, being warned by an angel to flee by night to preserve their Child from the slaughter decreed by Herod. Fear accompanied them leaving Judea, worries over being overtaken by the soldiers of the cruel king! They would live in that land of exile, where people were given to idolatry. But consider the migrants of today who know nothing of what the future holds. The refugees in today’s world are forced to leave their native land to wander the Earth rejected and unwanted. Children and their parents are torn from schools and workplaces to wander where they will have a limited and fragile sense of belonging.
- The Loss of the Child Jesus in the temple: “And having fulfilled the celebrations they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and His parents knew it not. And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day’s journey and sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him” (Luke II: 43-45).
Meditation Mary of the Seven Swords: Sword of Loss Mary in dread and grief realized that her Son was missing. She ran to ask diligently among her kinsfolk and acquaintance where he might be. No hindrances, weariness, nor danger would keep her from returning to Jerusalem. For three long days she sought Him in sorrow and confusion. Imagine your precious treasure of divine love lost among strangers right under your watch. You would feel nothing but anguish and the threat of something horrible could happen. Consider unbearable loss and when life has no meaning, when we yearn to believe and have faith but cannot.
- Mary Meeting Jesus on the Way to the Cross: “And there followed Him a great multitude of people, and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him” (Luke XXIII: 27).
Meditation Mary of the Seven Swords: Sword of Injustice This Mother, so tender and loving, meets her Son amid an impious rabble, who drag Him to a cruel death. He is wounded, crowned with thorns, streaming with blood, and bearing a heavy cross. Grieved and weeping with sorrow, the blessed Virgin beholds her Son. My heart should break because of my ingratitude thinking this is not happening to me with one of my children. Yet, many families throughout the world endure broken hearts for their children – the physical and spiritual deprivations of the slums, the dangers of gang warfare, the unjust arrests, the misery and horror of prison life – all these wring with anguish in the hearts of mothers and fathers.
- The Crucifixion: “They crucified Him. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother. When Jesus, therefore, had seen His Mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, He saith to His Mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that He saith to the disciple: Behold thy Mother” (John XIX: l8, 25-27).
Meditation Mary of the Seven Swords: Sword of Witness Two altars of sacrifice are raised, the corpse of Jesus, and the heart of Mary. Sad is the sight of this mother drowned in a sea of woe, seeing her Son, cruelly nailed to a tree. Every blow of the hammer, every lashing fell on the Saviour’s flesh, fell also on the disconsolate spirit of the mother Mary. She stood at the foot of the cross, pierced by the sword of sorrow, she turned her eyes on Him until she knew that He lived no longer and had resigned His spirit to His maker. Then her soul seemed to have left her own body and joined itself to that of Jesus. Women around the world find themselves powerless to relieve suffering and whose hearts are torn open with helplessness. Parents whose children are kidnapped and murdered or adult children diminish each day, because of addictions.
- The Taking Down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross: “Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counselor, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And Joseph buying fine linen and taking Him down, wrapped Him up in the fine linen” (Mark XV: 43-46).
Meditation Mary of the Seven Swords: Sword of Helplessness When Mary saw the dead body of her son Jesus, covered with blood, torn apart by deep wounds she became weak. She was helpless and had exhausted all her tears. Nicodemus, John, Magdalene, and the other Mary can scarcely bear to witness her sorrow. People throughout the world are devastated by the death of loved ones – especially the young who died suddenly of disease, war, accident, or violence, and all loved ones whose death leaves a void in life.
Our hearts are crushed to see afflictions that tear at the soul making one more day unbearable.
- The Burial of Jesus: “Now there was in the place where He was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein no man yet had been laid. The men laid Jesus in that tomb because it was nearby, and they were preparing to start their Sabbath day. (John XIX: 41-42).
Meditation Mary of the Seven Swords: Sword of Resignation Consider Mary’s sad heart nearly extinguished when she saw her Son lifeless and lying in the tomb. She gazed a last time at the body and could scarcely detach her eyes from those gaping wounds. What grief seeing the stone lifted to close up that sacred tomb. And when the great stone was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, indeed her heart seemed torn from her body. For her, this was an exaltation of, “It is Finished”. Mary of the Seven Swords represents our heart shared with afflicted friends who withstand indescribable emptiness when left to live through long, bitter years of loneliness. The story and grief have not ended but the hope is sure. We as a community of people can and do care for one another in all these moments. We are not alone, spirit is our assurance that there is life abundant that flourishes in and beyond any pain. We cannot exhaust love for it is what we are made of and it is inextinguishable.
Other books on meditations for Creation and our Planet by Mary Jane Miller
The Way of the Cross
The Rosary and Care for Creation
What to do in a time of Dying