“Sad is beautiful,” a wise man once told me. There are few expressions that convey this reality as powerfully as the late-medieval hymn the Stabat Mater (“the Sorrowful Mother”), which speaks about the sadness of Mary during the Passion of Jesus. Friends, as we delve into this sacred season, with the Triduum upon us, I wanted to share this beautiful video that captures the sorrow of Our Lady so poignantly in one of the greatest hymns of all time. May it be useful for your meditation on the Passion in the coming days.
As a Franciscan I am proud to say that the authorship of the Stabat Mater—though debated—is most often associated with the Italian Franciscan mystic and poet Jacopone da Todi, who has given us some of the deepest mystical poetry of the medieval period with his work the Lauds. The English author and scholar of mysticism Evelyn Underhill wrote eloquently of Jacopone da Todi, capturing his spirit with these words:
“One of the greatest and most interesting Italian mystical poets: Jacopone da Todi, the typical singer of the Franciscan movement, the first writer of philosophic religious poetry, and perhaps the most picturesque figure in the history of early Italian literature…this vigorous missionary and subtle philosopher: this poet, by turns crude satirist, ardent lover, and profound contemplative, who can sink to the level of the popular hymnal and rise above that of St. John of the Cross.”