Gilraen | Sorrowful Mother

Meditation of the Day

After an even more horrifying encounter with an evil power, the Barrow-wight, our hobbits (and their ponies) are once again rescued by Tom Bombadil, who accompanies them to the edge of his domain, within a short distance of the Road, not far from the village of Bree. It is there, providentially, that a powerful new ally is waiting for them: Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Lord of the Dúnedain, last descendant of the line of Kings of Men that stretches back to Isildur and his father Elendil. It was they who overcame the Dark Lord Sauron an age ago, and took the One Ring from his hand. Like Frodo, Aragorn is one of the principal Christ-figures in the story. It is easy to recognize in him the traits of the Son of David, heir to the throne but cloaked in obscurity and lowliness. Thirty-nine generations separate him from his illustrious ancestor, much like the forty-two generations of Jesus’s genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel. To the inhabitants of Bree, however, he is “only” a Ranger, and they use a derisive nickname for him, Strider.

It is in the Appendices to LOTR that we learn the family history and genealogy of Aragorn. After his father was killed by orcs when he was only two years old, his mother Gilraen the Fair brought him to Rivendell, where he was fostered by Elrond. So great was the threat against him from the Enemy that he was not even told his own true identity or lineage until the age of twenty. He was known only as Estel, “Hope,” corresponding to his grandmother’s prophecy that hope would be born for their people. Many years later, as Gilraen sensed that her death was approaching, she and her son had their final parting, during which she uttered this desolate verse: “I gave Hope to the Dúnedain, I have kept no hope for myself.”

Although in this case it is the son who loses his mother and not vice versa, such a plaintive cry from the mother of the future King resonates with the sorrows that Our Lady was destined to endure, as Mother of the Messiah. The song of the angels at our Saviour’s birth was still fresh in her mind when Mary heard the prophecy of Simeon, that a sword would pierce through her own soul (Luke 2:35). Later, as she stood at the foot of the Cross, her grief was so immense that the Church’s Liturgy puts on her lips the words of Lamentations: “O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow” (1:12).

To consecrate ourselves to Mary means to seek complete harmony between our hearts and hers. Like musical instruments, our hearts must become more and more tuned to hers, to the full range of her human emotions—from the heights of yearning and ecstasy at the birth of her Son to the total devastation of Calvary. Love desires to share every moment, every experience. As we grow in love for the Blessed Virgin, it is no longer enough for us to learn about the mysteries that unfolded in her life: we desire to be inside the mysteries, with her.



Mother bowed with grief appalling must thou watch, with tears slow falling, on the cross Thy dying son!
Through my heart, thus sorrow riven, must that cruel sword be driven, as foretold – O Holy One!
Oh, how mournful and oppressed was that Mother ever-blessed, Mother of the Spotless One:
She, whose grieving was perceiving, contemplating, unabating, all the anguish of her Son!
Is there any, tears withholding, Christ’s dear Mother thus beholding, in woe – like no other woe!
Who that would not grief be feeling for that Holy Mother kneeling – what suffering was ever so?
For the sins of every nation she beheld his tribulation, given to scourgers for a prey:
Saw her Jesus foully taken, languishing, by all forsaken, when his spirit passed away.
Love’s sweet fountain, Mother tender, haste this hard heart, soft to render, make me sharer in Thy pain.
Fire me now with zeal so glowing, love so rich to Jesus, flowing, that I favor may obtain.
Holy Mother, I implore Thee, crucify this heart before Thee, guilty it is verily!
Hate, misprision, scorn, derision, thirst assailing, failing vision, railing, ailing, deal to me.
In Thy keeping, watching, weeping, by the cross may I unsleeping live and sorrow for his sake.
Close to Jesus, with Thee kneeling, all Thy dolours with Thee feeling, oh grant this – the prayer I make.
Maid immaculate, excelling, peerless one, in heav’n high dwelling, make me truly mourn with Thee.
Make me sighing hear Him dying, ever newly vivifying the anguish He bore for me.
With the same scar lacerated, by the cross enfired, elated, wrought by love to ecstasy!
Thus inspired and affected let me, Virgin, be protected when sounds forth the call for me!
May his sacred cross defend me, he who died there so befriend me, that His pardon shall suffice.
When this earthly frame is riven, grant that to my soul is given all the joys of Paradise!
Rhyming English translation by Beatrice E. Bullman

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Spend five minutes (or longer) reflecting exclusively on what it felt like for Mary to see her divine Son dying the shameful death of the Cross, to behold helplessly the undoing of the Body that had been knit together inside her body.
  • Think of a specific person whose sorrow is too great for ordinary human consolation, and entrust them to the Sorrowful Mother.

To Go Deeper