Madre Dolorosa Sorrowful Mother, a high-relief wood carving, expresses the agony of Jesus through His mother Mary. Specifically, the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, torturous scourging, trial, carrying of the cross, and finally the agonizing crucifixion and death at Golgotha.
The Sorrowful Mother contemplates the seven sorrows of her life, represented by the seven swords piercing her heart.
The seven sorrows of Madre Dolorosa Sorrowful Mother
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.
His triumph over death
He has been taken down from the cross but his tomb is still empty. Hence 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. In other words, 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 La Madre Dolorosa Sorrowful Mother 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.
My profound experience carving Madre Dolorosa Sorrowful Mother
My commission to carve “La Madre Dolorosa Sorrowful Mother” was indeed a profound experience. 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. Consequently I was not sleeping well. I was indeed deeply troubled!
I remember rising early around 4 am, going downstairs to the studio and praying the Rosary. In fact 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. Indeed, 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 had rarely seen me pray the Rosary,hence was somewhat taken by surprise. So I explained to her how I could not sleep and just felt a need to pray the Rosary. Moreover, I felt much better! Somehow things seemed to have cleared up for me.
A miraculous phone call
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 hence arrived promptly.
He showed me a picture of a painting of “Our Lady of Sorrows” from Quito Ecuador. Mary was said to have wept real tears there in a Jesuit dining hall. Indeed, this phenomenon has a substantial history. He subsequently asked me if I could either paint or carve it. Without reservation I said I could do either one depending on what he wanted.
Father Julio asked me what would be the difference in the cost. I replied that a sculpture would cost twice as much. “Do the sculpture“, he replied straightaway. “I would be blessed to do the work! I responded enthusiastically. However, 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.
I completed the carving in two months and She has lived in the chapel of Casa de Niños ever since.