This Icon of Our Lady of Sorrows is made by Russian Orthodox monks, who lead very strict lives and pray for the world, and the salvation of all mankind. Popular in both Eastern and Western Christianity, this icon has a long tradition of veneration in both Churches.
In contemplating the image of Our Lady of Sorrows, we are drawn to the intercessory role that Mary plays in our lives. She is a refuge for those who have suffered, and she walks alongside us in our trials because she knows what it is to suffer heartache and loss. In the Eastern Tradition, we also pray for those who cause others to suffer, that God might turn their hearts to the good: “Rejoice, much-sorrowing Mother of God, turn our sorrows into joy and soften the hearts of evil men!” goes the Orthodox refrain. We too might echo that refrain as we observe the suffering in our world caused by evil desires.
“Soften our evil hearts, O Theotokos, * and quench the attacks of those who hate us * and loose all straitness of our soul. * For looking on thy holy icon * we are filled with compunction by thy suffering and loving-kindness for us * and we kiss thy wounds; * we are filled with horror for the darts with which we wound thee. * Let us not, O Mother of Compassion, * according to the cruelty of our hearts, perish from the cruelty of heart of those near us, ** For thou art in truth the Softener of Evil Hearts.”
“Softener of Evil Hearts”… What a great deal of hope there is in the name of this Icon: hope that some day justice will triumph on earth, that people will become kind and charitable, will begin to love one another. How difﬁcult that is in our embittered world, and sometimes the mere sight of someone else’s suffering is enough to soften our own evil hearts…”
All those who turn to this icon in prayer sense that with the softening of evil hearts comes an easing of spiritual and physical suffering. People come to realize that, when they pray for their enemies before this icon, their feelings of enmity are softened, and that strife and hatred leave, giving way to kindness.
The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (Latin: Septem Dolorum Beatae Mariae Virginis) grew in popularity in the 12th century, although under various titles. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the feast and devotion were widespread throughout the Church. In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended a feast commemorating the sorrowful Virgin Mary to the whole of the Latin Church, assigning to its celebration the Friday in Passion Week, one week before Good Friday. The devotion was also extended by Pope Pius VII in 1815 and introduced into the Missal and Breviary.
The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is liturgically celebrated now on September 15th, while a feast of Friday of Sorrows remains a solemn pious remembrance of the sorrowful Blessed Virgin Mary on the Friday before Palm Sunday during the “Passion Week”.