After Easter during lockdown, three conferences were broadcast at St Mary’s Warrington on the Stabat Mater.
See typed presentation further below.
[Conference 1 is not available yet as the file seems to have been corrupted but might be retrieved later on.]
The Stabat Mater describes the gradual acknowledging of guilt through the establishing of a filial relationship between the penitent onlooker and the Mournful Mother, leading to a brotherly relationship with Christ recognised as the Brother we slew and as the Messiah who saves. This will be manifested through the awakening of the moral conscience. Let us present more in detail each of the three parts.
Part One: The Stabat Mater teaches us to say ‘I’. What ‘I’ will speak, though? Not our inflated ego, inherited from the sinful pride of Adam and Eve. Not the rebellious ‘I’, setting itself against the divine Father and trampling underfoot God’s law of life in hellish brag: “I shall not serve!” Instead, the humble and filial ‘I’ will speak: that ‘I’ healed through contrition confessed and through filiation restored, as illustrated by the parable of the Prodigal Son: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee” (Lk 15:18). In that perspective, the anonymity of the narrator in Part One is loaded with deep meaning. No one says ‘I’ in Part One. No one dares or is able to take ownership for the words spoken. The vacant identity of the narrator indicates that sin has nearly killed the moral conscience. It is too weak to act. This stage could be called purgative. The selfish ego is incapacitated by the display of the Mother’s sorrow. That sinful ego is silenced by the detailed description of what the innocent Lady endures. And yet, already it benefits from absorbing the bitter depiction of the Sorrowful Mother. These stanzas correct the selfish use of emotions. They turn sentimentality into sensitivity, mere consciousness into conscience and mind into soul.
Part Two: Following this purgation, an essential improvement occurs in the healing process with Part Two. One could name this stage illuminative. A relationship is established. It connects the onlooker and the contemplated Mother, as he now comes to realise. No longer anonymous, he discovers his identity as her son, bearing responsibility for her sufferings since her Crucified One endures them for his sake. The gradual admitting of his personal guilt is painful. But to the soul’s surprise, this realisation does not crush it but liberates it. Where he expected to find a harsh or exacting judge, the penitent can only contemplate a beautiful Woman in tears. He dreaded having his pride humiliated, and instead he only finds his conscience pricked. If this revelation hurts, as he experiences, it also heals. This new filiation instils in the soul a peace subtle but all-powerful, a joy discreet but unmistakable. Those consign to oblivion the coarse pleasures of sin, held up to then as the measure of human fulfilment. The unidentified self of Part One grows into the self-confessed penitent son of the Mother in Part Two. This leads him to addressing her divine Son in Part Three.
Part Three: The Sorrowful Mother acted as a protective lens between the dying ego and Christ, Splendour of the Father. Now is the unitive stage, between the soul and Christ. Like the Blue Madonna on the Great Window of the Chartres Cathedral, the Mater Dolorosa spread as a merciful prism, granting time for the eyes of the muddy pilgrim to open wider and to welcome the blazing beams of the Sun of Justice, Jesus the Saviour. Thus is the personal and direct encounter between the penitent soul and Christ made possible in the last two stanzas of the Stabat Mater. We should not take for granted our relationship with Christ. While He (and his Mother) always will it for our good, we sinners need all their care to understand and accept it. If the penitent is emboldened to address Christ directly in Part Three, such improvement is necessarily owed to the Mother’s intercession in Part One and Two. Without it, the soul would proudly deny its guilt or collapse in dire shame at the mere thought of a direct contact with her Son, now undeniably identified as the God pierced by our sins. And yet, out of necessity for salvation, the guilty soul must relate to Christ, the only Saviour of men. Becoming child of Mary was the only way. Marian filiation is the mode allowing personal encounter with Christ. Since the crucified Saviour is also and supremely Son of the Virgin, kinship gives the penitent assurance of mercy. Brotherhood bodes well of pardon.