Sorrowful Mystery Meditations

Meditations on the Sorrowful Mysteries of Christ

The Sorrowful Mysteries are traditionally prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays and all Sundays during Lent. Some pray the Sorrowful Mysteries every day of Lent as a devotion. They begin in the garden of Gethsemani and end in the garden of the tomb. They focus on the Passion and sufferings of Christ offered to atone for the sins of the world and applied to those who enter the side of Christ, which is as the door of the Ark of Noah. 

On Meditation

Meditation is a deeper and more efficacious form of prayer than vocal, and according to various Saints and Doctors of the Church such as St Alphonsus Liguori and St Theresa of Avila, meditative prayer is necessary for one’s spiritual life and even eternal salvation. The purpose as with all prayer is to elevate the heart and mind to God. Therefore, when in meditation if one’s mind and heart are particularly found to be directed to God in charity or contemplation, the soul should remain there as long as God permits. St Louis de Montfort among many other Saints recommend praying slowly and intently for a tremendous spiritual benefit. For the first Saturday devotion, in fact, a fifteen minute meditation on just one mystery is typically recommended to fulfill the requirement. 

The following individual meditations contain enough depth to be dwelt upon for an entire decade. They may also be read with one meditation for each Ave or stopped and meditated upon further when one is found to be compelling. The linked full texts of relevant Scriptures are available for additional insights into the mystery, and the sacred images provide a direction and window into the divine life.

The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden

Primum Mysterium Dolorosum: Cruciatus in Horto

Spiritual Fruit: Fervor in Prayer | Acceptance of God’s Will | Contrition for Sins 

Matthew 26:36-57; Mark 14:32-52; Luke 22:39-54; John 18:1-12

“I led thee from slavery to freedom having drowned your captors in the Red Sea: but to your chief priests thou hast delivered Me. O My people, what have I done to thee? Or wherein have I afflicted thee? Answer Me. Because I led thee out of the land of Egypt, thou has prepared a Cross for thy Savior.” (Good Friday Reproaches)

  1. Jesus leads His disciples to Gethsemani and enters the garden. That His Passion begins in a garden is most fitting because He, the New Adam, is atoning for the sin of our first parents that likewise took place in a garden. 
  2. Jesus says to his disciples, “Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.” He takes with Him Peter, James, and John, and says to them, “My soul is sorrowful even until death.”
  3. Jesus tells the three to stay there and watch with Him. Peter echoes this sentiment in his first epistle: “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.”
  4. Christ kneels down prostrating Himself in prayer, and in His sorrow His sweat becomes as drops of blood trickling down upon the ground.
  5. His natural flesh shrinking from the death and torments He is voluntarily about to undergo, Christ prays, “Father, if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me: but yet not My will, but Thine be done.” Here He teaches us that our sole remedy in affliction is submission to the Divine will. [1*]
  6. Jesus sorrows for the sins of all men and for the ingratitude of sinners “for He foresaw His death would be of use to but very few and that the many would be lost through their own negligence and ingratitude.” [2]
  7. An angel appears to Him from heaven, strengthening Him with words such as “O Lord, Thine is the strength, for thou art powerful against death and hell, to set free the race of men.” [3] (Full Angelic Prayer)
  8. Jesus finding His disciples asleep says, “Could you not watch one hour with me? Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak.”
  9. Jesus is betrayed by Judas, one whom He had called His friend, saying to him, “Is it with a kiss you betray the Son of man?”
  10. Jesus’s disciples all flee, and the multitude with swords and clubs cruelly bind Him and lead Him away.

May the grace of Our Lord’s Agony come down into my soul and make me truly (contrite and perfectly obedient to Thy holy will)(fill in the virtue of your meditation.)

The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar

Secundum Mysterium Dolorosum: Flagellatio

Spiritual Fruit: Purity | Penance | Mortification of the Senses

Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:6-15; John 19:1; Wisdom 2:12-20; Isaiah 50:6; 53:5

For thy sake I scourged Egypt with its first-born: and thou didst deliver Me up to be scourged. I fed thee with manna in the desert; and thou didst beat Me with blows and scourges. O my people, what have I done to thee? Or wherein have I afflicted thee? Answer me.” (Good Friday Reproaches)

  1. That morning, the chief priests and the ancients take council against Jesus, conspiring how they may put Him to death, not by mere stoning, which was their typical practice, but by the most infamous means of crucifixion. 
  2. Prophecy in the book of Wisdom is fulfilled: “He calleth himself the son of God…and glorieth that he hath God for his father. Let us see then if his words be true…Let us examine him by outrages and tortures, that we may know his meekness, and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a most shameful death.”
  3. Many false witnesses are brought forward, but their evidence is not in agreement. Some spit on Him, strike Him, and mock Him. [4*]
  4. “I have given my body to the strikers, and my cheeks to them that plucked my beard: I have not turned away my face from them that rebuked me and spit upon me.”
  5. The Jews take Jesus before Pontius Pilate who questions Him. Pilate says to the chief priest and the multitude that he can find no fault in Him.
  6. In order to appease the Jews and hoping they will no longer seek His death, Pilate has Jesus brutally scourged.
  7. The Roman scourge, also called the flagellum, made of leather and sharp bones, is a greatly feared punishment designed to quickly remove the flesh from the body of the victim.
  8. Jesus is bound to a pillar and is scourged from head to foot, His flesh lacerated and torn, exposing His muscles, and producing excessive loss of blood. [5*]
  9. Jesus suffers this abuse especially for the sins of the flesh, those committed against chastity and purity.
  10. Christ fulfills the prophecy of Isaias: “He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins…The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

May the grace of Our Lord’s Scourging come down into my soul and make me truly (mortified).

The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning With Thorns

Tertium Mysterium Dolorosum: Coronatio cum Spinis

Spiritual Fruit: Reign of Christ in Our Hearts | Fortitude Moral Courage | Contempt of the World

Matthew 27:22-31; Mark 15:17-20; John 19:2-8; Isaiah 63:2

For thy sake I struck the kings of the Chanaanites: and thou didst strike My head with a reed. I gave thee a royal scepter: and thou didst give My head a crown of thorns. O My people, what have I done to thee? Or wherein have I afflicted thee? Answer me.” (Good Friday Reproaches)

  1. Pilate asks Jesus if He is a king, to which He responds, “Thou sayest it…For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.”
  2. The soldiers gather together their whole band and taking Jesus into the praetorium, strip Him, and put a purple cloak on Him to deride His claim of kingship.
  3. Fashioning a crown of sharp thorns made of three twisted branches with the greatest number of thorns purposely facing inward, they force it onto His sacred head. [6]
  4. They place a reed into His right hand, and bowing their knees before Him, they mock Him saying, “Hail, king of the Jews.”
  5. Spitting upon Him, they take the reed from His hand, and strike Him in the head. As they drive the crown more deeply into His scalp, His Blood flows down His face.
  6. “This shameful scene was protracted a full half-hour, and the Roman soldiers continued during the whole time to applaud and encourage the perpetration of still greater outrages.” [7]
  7. Jesus undergoes these most terrible humiliations to atone in a special way for sins of pride.
  8. The Roman soldiers then remove the cloak and put His own garments back on Him. “Why then is thy apparel red, and thy garments like theirs that tread in the winepress?”
  9. In hopes to quell their wrath, Pilate brings Jesus before the crowd, covered in blood and wounds, and says, “Ecce Homo” (Behold the man).
  10. The chief priests, who delivered Him up out of envy, move the people to cry out loudly, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate washes his hands, claims to be innocent of His blood, and hands Jesus over to be crucified. 

May the grace of Our Lord’s Crowning with Thorns come down into my soul and make me (despise the world).

The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross

Quartum Mysterium Dolorosum: Bajulatio Crucis

Spiritual Fruit: Patient Bearing of Trials | Patience
Spiritual Work of Mercy: Bear Wrongs Patiently

Matthew 27:32-33; Mark 15:20-22; Luke 9:22-26; 14:27; 23:26-31; John 19:16-22

I went before thee in a pillar of cloud: and thou didst lead Me to the judgement hall of Pilate. I raised thee to the height of majesty: and thou didst hang Me high on the Cross. My people, what have I done to thee? Or wherein have I afflicted thee? Answer Me.” (Good Friday Reproaches)

We adore Thee oh Christ and we praise Thee because by Thy holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.

  1. When our divine Savior beholds the Cross He most willingly stretches out His bleeding arms, lovingly embraces it, and tenderly kisses it. Placing it on His bruised shoulders, He joyfully begins to carry it. [8]
  2. Weakened from losing a great quantity of blood, scarcely able to walk, and repeatedly struck cruelly by His executioners, Jesus falls three times under the weight of the heavy Cross. [9]
  3. Our Lord’s most grievous wound of His shoulder , on which He bears the crushing burden of His heavy Cross, so tears His flesh and lays bare His bones as to inflict on Him an anguish greater than any other wound on His Most Sacred Body. [10]
  4. “Our sins and misdeeds were the heavy burden which oppressed Him: the Cross was to Him light and sweet, but our sins were galling and insupportable.” [11]
  5. Jesus meets His afflicted Mother on the road causing unspeakable pangs. Their looks become as arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly. [12]
  6. Seeing with each step Jesus from weakness was on the point of expiring and fearing He might die on the way, the soldiers force Simon of Cyrene to help carry Jesus’ Cross behind Him. Jesus accepts His assistance, as He also permits us to carry the Cross after Him.
  7. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” “Whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
  8. The holy woman Veronica, seeing Jesus so afflicted, His face bathed in sweat and blood, impelled by devotion and compassion, presents her veil to Jesus to wipe His adorable face. Jesus imprints on her veil the image of His sacred countenance. [13]
  9. Jesus speaks to the women who wept with compassion after seeing Him in such a pitiable state, streaming with blood. “Weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” [14*]
  10. When Jesus arrives at Golgotha, the place of Adam’s skull, He is violently stripped, His inner garments adhering to His lacerated Flesh and pulled off so roughly that the skin came with them. [15]

May the grace of Our Lord’s Carrying of the Cross come down into my soul and make me truly (patient).

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus

Quintum Mysterium Dolorosum: Crucifixio

Spiritual Fruit: Self-Sacrifice for God and Neighbor | Conversion of Sinners | Forgiveness of Injuries | Horror of Sin | Final Perseverance 
Works of Mercy: Forgive Offenses Willingly, Bury the Dead

Matthew 27:33-53; 24:13; Mark 15:24-40; Luke 23:32-49; 6:27-35; John 19:23-30; 14:6; 10:17; Psalm 21:2,9-19

“I gave thee the water of salvation from the rock to drink: and thou didst give Me gall and vinegar. I opened the sea before thee: and thou with a spear didst open My side. My people…” (Good Friday Reproaches)

“O GOD, from Whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession: grant unto us the full fruit of Thy clemency; that even as in His Passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each retribution according to His merits, so having cleared away our former guilt, He may bestow on us the grace of His Resurrection.” (Collect of Good Friday)

  1. Jesus is thrown down upon the Cross and stretches out His arms, offering the Sacrifice of His life for our salvation. His hands and feet are pierced with large iron nails, fastening and uniting Him to the wood of this tree.
  2. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” – Here He leads by example, “Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.”
  3. The repentant thief requests, “Lord remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom.” Jesus responds, “Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” – “Happy wert thou, O holy thief, who hadst the fortune to unite thy death to the death of thy Savior.” [16]
  4. “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your Mother.” – By calling her “Woman,” He connects Mary as the New Eve who crushes the head of the serpent. The Son here gives Mary to the Church as Mother. [17]
  5. In a loud voice Jesus announces the beginning of the Messianic Psalm about Him: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” – “They have pierced my hands and my feet…” “They parted my garments among them…” [18*]
  6. His words, “I thirst” mystically represent His thirst for the salvation of souls. “No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.”
  7. “It is consummated.” – In this He encourages, “he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.”
  8. Jesus cries in a loud voice, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Then bowing His head, He dies. 
  9. The side of Jesus is pierced with a lance from which flow both Blood and Water, representing the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist. His side becomes the entry into the Church and is as the door to the Ark of Noah. [19]
  10. His body is taken down and placed in the arms of His afflicted Mother. She receives Him with unutterable tenderness and presses Him to her bosom close to her Immaculate Heart. [20]

May the grace of the mystery of Our Lord’s Passion and Death come down into my soul and make me truly (holy).

End Notes: 

[1*] “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” “Absolutely this was possible, but it was impossible according to God’s decree that man was to be redeemed by Christ’s death. Christ knew this, and therefore did not wish for it absolutely, and asks for nothing contrary to His own and the Father’s will. But He merely expresses His natural shrinking from death, His ineffectual and conditionated will, and yet freely submitted Himself to the contrary will of God, that He should die.” “[Christ suffered] to mitigate the dread of death, which was inflicted as a punishment for Adam’s sin, and turn it into joy and the hope of attaining a better life. Christ then obtained for the martyrs exemption from pain and fear in their grievous torments, and caused them to undergo them willingy, and even to rejoice in them. “Christ came,” says S. Chrysostom, “to bear our infirmities, and to give us His strength. And again, Christ by His agony enabled His faithful ones not to fear death, but patiently and even joyfully to meet it from their hope in the resurrection, saying with Hosea and S. Paul, as triumphing over death, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’”  (1 Cor. xv. 55).” St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars, Question 18, Article 5.  ; Cornelious Lapide, The Great Biblical Commentary, Gospel of St Matthew Chapter 26, v. 36. ; (See also St Hilary Commentary) .
[2] Cornelious Lapide, The Great Biblical Commentary, Gospel of St Matthew Chapter 26, v. 36.
[3] Ibid. Gospel of St Luke Chapter 22, v. 43. 
[4*] “Be consoled, O you who are disciples of Jesus, whenever you are treated as was your Divine Master. You will resemble Him, if your enemies resemble His in their calumnies.” – Fr Ignatius, School of Jesus Christ Crucified.
[5*] “Jesus has done nought but good, and nevertheless He vouchsafes to subject Himself to punishment, as though He were the worst of malefactors, and I who am guilty of so many sins, will not accept the slight penance of some little shame or suffering which Divine Justice inflicts upon me by the instrumentality of others.” Ibid.
[6] St Catherine Emmerick, The Dolorus Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Chapter XXVI.
[7] Ibid.
[8] St Francis of Assisi, The Way of the Cross.
[9] St Alphonsus Liguori, The Way of the Cross.
[10] St Bernard of Clairvaux and St Padre Pio.
[11] St Francis of Assisi, The Way of the Cross.
[12] St Alphonsus Liguori, The Way of the Cross.
[13] Ibid. More on veiling here.  
[14*] “So many there be that stand gazing in horror; was ever a human form so mishandled, human beauty ever so defaced?” Isaiah 52:14, Knox.
[15] St Alphonsus Liguori, The Way of the Cross.
[16] St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Seven Words Spoken by Jesus Christ on the Cross.
[17] Ibid.
[18*] “Look at Him as He hangs upon this Cross, with His head tortured with thorns, as He hangs upon the three iron nails, and is supported by His Own Wounds! All have abandoned Him, even His own disciples, all deride Him upon the Cross, and blaspheme Him; and why hast Thou abandoned Him, Who hast so greatly loved Him? Jesus had taken upon Himself the sins of the world, although He was Himself the most holy of all men, and even sanctity itself; since He had taken upon Himself to satisfy for all our sins, …Because we had deserved to be abandoned forever in Hell to eternal despair, therefore He chose to be given up to a death deprived of every relief, that thus He might deliver us from eternal death.” … “St. Jerome and others explain that our Savior uttered this lamentation to show not His own despair, but the bitterness which He endured in a death without consolation.” Ibid.
[19] St Cyprian, St Augustine, St Jerome, Pius IX, Boniface VIII, Catechism of Trent.
[20] St Alphonsus Liguori, The Way of the Cross.

All other quotes and references may be found in the Scriptures cited after each mystery above.