Mary, Mother of Sorrows


Copyright 1988, by Sarah Griffin Pemberton

I first should introduce this poem, for those who struggle with the abstract. It is the perspective of Jesus’ mother, agonizing over her Son’s suffering, wishing she could spare Him this agony, as she recalls the pain of childbirth, and contrasts it with His suffering on the Cross. The surprise is hers on Resurrection Day to learn His suffering was for her and for us.

Breath by agonizing breath,

to bring forth life by stinging death,

amidst my anguished cries (again,

again) through piercing, sword-stabbed pain;

and (Gush!) release the final flood:

Helpless, naked, bathed in blood;

(Sh-h! Hush!) His cries when first

He came and quenched His thirst ~

My infant’s peaceful nursing

(sponge-flow sweet-milk-white)…

But hanging now, His muscles

twist, contort in ripples;

Oh! And how they stretch

with clawing, gnawing bite

of moribund strain;

His heinous thirst, now offered

last suck again

(not like His first!);

but bitter’s the breast of Azrael’s gall

So refused He the sponge’s


Hatred’s screams now greet His shame.

(…Maternal dreams of sharp birthpangs…)

My God-Man-Son endures the stares

(Kings once t’ greet Him,

humble infant, bare)

and flooded, plunged in His bath of blood…

O, Abba, Eloi! Just and good!

I would

it were my pain once more,

as thence my baby’s griefs I bore!

Why must it be His shed blood flowing

drops of Life, His deathground sowing?

Oh, let me, let me bear His sorrow –

life of mine, His for the morrow!

Behold! The evil, sinful wreakage,

poured on Him, like so much garbage!

How canst Thou, His Father, stand

to tolerate Pilate’s death-command?

O, my Son (Whose Life I knew

within my body where You grew)

How gone is Thy authority

that calméd once the wind and sea?

Why still’st Thou not the raging gales

that drove in Thee their rain of nails?

And wherefore silent is Thy tongue,

resembled of the shearéd young

lamb brought before the altar’s knife,

so willingly to give its life

into the butchering hands of priests

for flesh and blood of Passo’er feasts?

And why rebuk’st Thou not the mouths

of Thy accusers? (Liars foul!)

Oh, would that I could stop Thine ears

from brutal floods of mocks and jeers,

and reach to wipe away Thy tears

(much rathering to shed my own)!

Oh, I would steel my will like stone

and draw my cub into my den,

a lioness’ rage, in blood to defend

against the hungry, vicious pack

of wolves now circling to attack…

But angelic myriads couldst Thou beckon

to free Thee hence in but a second!

~ And yet – it seems by choice, Thou stayest

with thieves to hang, despised amidst!

What’s that Thou in Thy suffering sayest?

“Forgive them,” Thou, Thy Father bidd’st?!

What manner Man, in truth art Thou?

(How oft’ have I Thy difference pondered!)

What gloried crown now receives Thy brow?

….So, Thy Spirit gone in God-wrath-thundered.

Thy cry is mine! Thy side, sword-pierced…

Know I mine own heart-break so cursed

(Sword-stabbed heart, clean-through, indeed.)

Repeated labor-pains here now bleed,

and none can stop my sorrow’s flow, no ~

O my Son’s Life! Kill my woe!

Now yet again, I wash my Son

of bloody, sticky, wet (they loathe!)

and wrap Him in His swaddling clothes

to lay again in cold, dark cave

(each haven, of a stranger, gave).

Why keep hay fresh to warm this “manger”?

This time, my Baby’s gentle Head

need pillow not to rest. He’s dead.

+ + +
How dare the lilies bloom ‘afore May!

Know they not my grief this day?

(Must after Sabbath, I’ll return

with myrrh by which My Son might spurn,

however briefly, death’s foul stench.)

Oh, would that I could simply wrench

Him from the gaping, clamping jaws

of that Abaddon’s greedy paws!

Yea, that He who told us sure:

“I am that sweet Life so pure.

Yea, I, the Resurrection promised!”

~spoke thus by that Mouth so honest.

How then didst Thou lose Thy Life

beneath Priest Caiaphas’ dreadful knife?

What joy e’er hence brings me the sun in morning sky,

whose only-Boy-of-God-my-Son in mourning lies

forever? Ah, how long the day of rest-

lessness to wait for just one last

and parting kiss upon His marréd brow!

But who for us will roll the stone,

that we may ‘balm Him in His shroud?

Surely, women not alone ~

but perhaps with godly favor

will the guard regard our plight,

and take us in unto our Savior.

Ah, always loved my Son the sight

of early morning gardens’ glory!

Who could think such death to dwell

amidst such wondrous color bright

of floral gaity, dew-drenched smells,

of perfumes misting on the air?

But what’s this strange and golden Light…

like only such as heaven fair

could ever boast ~ Ah, me! Look! See!

The grave is empty!

Robbed! And that of contents none could want,

save only a bereavéd mother’s heart

would care to haunt…

But there! Could that the robber be?

A ghost? ~ He speaks!

Thou say’st, Sir, my Son’s Word ‘filled

that He should rise, yet three days killed?!

Oh, happy day! My grief relieved!

Now op’ed my eyes, I clearly see:

those sorrows mine

bore He for me!



5 thoughts on “Mary, Mother of Sorrows

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