La Madre Dolorosa (Our Sorrowful Mother) is a high-relief wood carving expressing the agony of Jesus through his mother Mary: the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, torturous scourging, trial, carrying of the cross, crucifixion and death at Golgotha.
She contemplates the seven sorrows of her life, represented by the seven swords piercing her heart.
The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
The flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)
Loss of the Child Jesus for three days (Luke 2:41-50)
Mary meets Jesus on his way to Calvary (Luke 23:27-31; John 19:17)
Crucifixion and Death of Jesus (John 19:25-30)
The body of Jesus being taken from the Cross (Psalm 130; Luke 23:50-54; John 19:31-37)
The burial of Jesus (Isaiah 53:8; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42; Mark 15:40-47)
Mary holds the crown of thorns and the nails of the cross, gathering the cloak which Pilate draped on her son, mocking him as a king; in the manner of its form and folds she appears to be with child, reliving the Annunciation, Immaculate Conception and the time she carried him in her womb.
In the background are the walls of Jerusalem symbolizing the Pharisees’ rejection of his truth, their scorn, expulsion and condemnation.
He has been taken down from the cross but his tomb is still empty. He is, we can imagine, symbolically passing through the Sacred Heart of his Mother. This truth of Faith as Love signifies His triumph over death, that he truly was the Messiah, the Son of God.
Christ’s divinity is further symbolized in that the cross could not hold him and the tomb could not keep him, that through his sacrifice and crucifixion (his atonement for our sins), and because of his resurrection we may share with him one day everlasting life in Paradise.
ABOUT THE CARVING
This life-size wood carving by A. Vonn Hartung was commissioned in 1991 by Padre Julio Victor García for the chapel in “Casa de Niños Manuel Fernandez Juncos” in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is carved in a wood locally known as Itaúba which is extremely hard, dense and heavy. It comes from the Mato Grosso area in Brazil and is marketed as Pau Lope in the USA where it is principally used for decking.
About my personal experience
It was a profound experience for me to have been commissioned to carve “Our Lady of Sorrows“. The circumstances I know will interest you so I will share them.
It was a very painful time that I was going through, extremely difficult both financially as well as artistically. I was not sleeping well and was deeply troubled.
I remember rising early around 4 am, going downstairs to the studio and praying the Rosary. It has always been in times of extreme stress and personal crisis that I have turned to Mother Mary.
I don’t know what I was expecting her to do, but I just felt comforted praying her name and resting my burden with her. I think I might have just been praying for strength and faith.
Anyway I was lying on the floor in the position of the Cross with the Rosary beads in my hand when my wife Patty came down at about 7 am. She was somewhat surprised as I rarely prayed the Rosary. I explained to her how I could not sleep and just felt a need to pray the Rosary, how I felt much better and somehow things seemed to have cleared up for me.
At 8 am the telephone rang and it was Father Julio García, a Cuban priest from our local parish. He sounded very excited and asked me if he could stop by within the half hour, and he arrived promptly.
He showed me a picture of a painting of “OurLady of Sorrows”, which came from a Jesuit dining hall in Quito, Ecuador, that was said to have wept real tears (there is a substantial history of this phenomenon), and he asked me if I could either paint or carve it. I said I could do either one depending on what he wanted.
He asked me what would be the difference in the cost, and I said that a sculpture would cost twice as much. He replied, “Do the sculpture” and I responded “I would be blessed to do the work but I must have the freedom to interpret it as I pray for inspiration.” He immediately and without hesitation declared, “well of course, without a doubt, you are the artist.”
We settled on the price, I told him I required half the sum before I could begin, whereupon he produced his checkbook and finalized the commission.
Glory be to God! We felt as though the Holy Spirit had entered our little studio, as the spirit of our Lord stirred within Mary at the Annunciation.
The carving was completed in two months and has lived in the chapel of Casa de Niños ever since.