top of page

Antonio Vivaldi: Stabat Mater (the Standing Mother at the Cross)

Sacred music of the sorrow of Mary at the Cross. Also includes an ancient hymn and meditations on Mary.



Today, the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi is mostly known for his four popular violin concerts known collectively as The Four Seasons. Whether you have heard of him before or not, you have heard The Four Seasons — I guarantee that!

But did you know that Vivaldi was also a Roman Catholic Priest?

His nickname is “The Red Priest.”



“Vivaldi” by an anonymous painter. From wikicommons.



Vivaldi is from the 18th century; if you can’t tell by his white whig. Though he is now known as the most popular Catholic composer, he was once banned from performing by the Church.

Aleteia.org summarizes why he was cancelled:

“The cancellation was not due to the content of the show, but rather the character of the composer. Antonio Vivaldi, for all his secular fame, was a Catholic priest and thus his behavior was subject to clerical authority. By the time “Il Farnace” was composed, Vivaldi had stopped saying Mass and there were rumors of an improper relationship with one of his star singers, Anna Giro.

According to the Associated Press, historians now know there was no romantic connection between Vivaldi and Giro. The two spent a lot of time together because she was his prima donna and the pair had a lot of vocal work to go over. Giro also spent more time with the composer because she acted as a nurse to Vivaldi as he struggled with his respiratory health. It was this sickness too that prevented the priest from celebrating daily Mass.”

Vivaldi never recovered after being banned from performing in Ferrara. As he departed from the city, he moved to Vienna, the mecca of classical music.

Unfortunately, he never reached the same success again. He died a poor man.

But his legacy lived on in someone he inspired, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Today, the Church has reconciled its relationship with Vivaldi’s music. He is one of the most popular composers ever! And he is one of the best Catholic composers! Stabat Mater

Vivaldi wrote an amazing rendition of the Stabat Mater, a common theme many other composers have tackled.

It is the sound of Mary’s sorrow as she stood underneath the Cross, looking up at her son, Jesus. The rest of this article is about that moment.

Click play on the music, if you want, and read through scripture and one of the famous hymns of the Middle Ages; relax, immerse yourself and meditate on the Cross.







The Fifth Station: The Crucifixion of Jesus


“Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (John 19:25–30)”


Source bc.edu

Stabat Mater Dolorosa Hymn


“At the Cross her station keeping Stood the mournful Mother weeping, Close to Jesus to the last. Through her Heart, His sorrow sharing, All His bitter anguish bearing, Lo! the piercing sword had passed. O how sad and sore distressed Was that Mother, highly blessed, Of the Sole-Begotten One. Mournful, with Heart’s prostration, Mother meek, the bitter Passion Saw She of Her glorious Son. Who on Christ’s dear Mother gazing, In Her trouble so amazing, Born of woman, would not weep? Who on Christ’s dear Mother thinking, Such a cup of sorrow drinking, Would not share Her sorrow deep? For His people’s sins rejected, Saw Her Jesus unprotected. Saw with thorns, with scourges rent. Saw Her Son from judgement taken, Her Beloved in death forsaken, Till His Spirit forth He sent. Fount of love and holy sorrow, Mother, may my spirit borrow Somewhat of your woe profound. Unto Christ with pure emotion, Raise my contrite heart’s devotion, To read love in every wound. Those Five Wounds on Jesus smitten, Mother! in my heart be written, Deep as in your own they be. You, your Saviour’s Cross did bare, You, your Son’s rebuke did share. Let me share them both with Thee. In the Passion of my Maker, Be my sinful soul partaker, Weep ’til death and weep with you. Mine with you be that sad station, There to watch the great salvation, Wrought upon the atoning Tree. Virgin, you of virgins fairest, May the bitter woe Thou bearest Make on me impression deep. Thus Christ’s dying may I carry, With Him in His Passion tarry, And His Wounds in memory keep. May His Wound both wound and heal me, He enkindle, cleanse, strengthen me, By His Cross my hope and stay. May He, when the mountains quiver, From that flame which burns forever, Shield me on the Judgement Day. Jesus, may Your Cross defend me, And Your Mother’s prayer befriend me; Let me die in Your embrace. When to dust my dust returns, Grant a soul, that to You yearns, In Your paradise a place. Amen.”

— source: catholic.org


“The Stabat Mater brings to mind front and center just how fully our Blessed Mother suffered along with Jesus, like Him on our behalf! St. Alphonsus Liguori once wrote, that “two hung upon one cross.”

While she wasn’t crucified, of course, her heartbreak was just as intense! After all, as we read in the seventh stanza of the twenty that comprise the Stabat Mater she saw her beloved Son “bruised, derided, cursed, defiled…all with bloody scourges rent.”

Imagine seeing a loved one, a very special loved one, in fact, undergoing such physical and emotional agony. Now add to that the thought that you can’t do anything to help that person, who’s suffering all the more to see your anguish!

Is it any wonder that we have devotions and prayers to our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Sorrows? St. Bonaventure wrote of Mary’s sorrow at her Son’s death that “no grief was more bitter than hers, because no son was as dear as her Son.”

From what tradition tells us, the Blessed Mother had a strong sense of what was coming way before Christ’s Passion. When she presented her little baby Jesus in the Temple, fulfilling Mosaic law, a “just and devout” (Lk 2:25) man named Simeon, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, foretold both our Lord’s greatness, saying he would be “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for thy people, Israel,” and His Passion, calling Him “a sign that shall be contradicted” (Lk 2:32 and 34).

He told Mary that she would suffer along with her Son as well, saying that “thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Lk 2:35). Her wounds would be figurative but just as painful! St. Bernard once noted that “Love inflicted on the heart of Mary the tortures caused by nails in the body of Jesus.”

Why then did Mary go through all of this? For God’s plan for our salvation, through the death and resurrection of His Son. And why indeed did Christ endure this excruciatingly painful and humiliating death? Out of His immense love for us and for you, for “the forgiveness of sins.”

For her part, the Blessed Mother loved her Divine Son so fully and deeply that His suffering became hers, again for our sake! And no doubt Mary, like our Lord, felt a special anguish for those souls who would be lost in lives of unrepentant mortal sins in spite of His Passion.

(…)

In reflecting on Christ’s Passion in such an intimate way in the Stabat Mater, as with the Stations of the Cross, our hearts should be filled with gratitude as well as sorrow for His sacrifice for us, so that we can love Him as he loved us, and show others that love by how we treat them.

In the Stabat Mater we ask Mary for the grace to share the depth of her love for her Son (as in stanza 10, addressed to her, which reads “make me feel as thou hast felt; make my soul to glow and melt, with the love of Christ my Lord”).

We also ask to grieve with her in our hearts at the foot of the cross (as in the Stabat Mater’s stanza 12, which reads, “Let me share with thee His pain, who for all my sins was slain”) while we offer up our own troubles for our redemption, with deep contrition for our sins.



Stabat Mater Hymn (Latin)


“Stabat Mater dolorosa Iuxta crucem lacrimosa Dum pendebat Filius Cuius animam gementem Contristatam et dolentem Pertransivit gladius O quam tristis et afflicta Fuit illa benedicta Mater unigeniti! Quae moerebat et dolebat, Pia Mater, dum videbat Nati poenas incliti Quis est homo qui non fleret, Matrem Christi si videret In tanto supplicio? Quis non posset contristari, Christi Matrem contemplari Dolentem cum Filio? Pro peccatis suae gentis Vidit Iesum in tormentis, Et flagellis subditum. Vidit suum dulcem natum Moriendo desolatum Dum emisit spiritum Eia Mater, fons amoris Me sentire vim doloris Fac, ut tecum lugeam Fac, ut ardeat cor meum (Ut cor nostrum exardescat) In amando Christum Deum (Et in Christo requiescat) Ut sibi complaceam (Ut ei placeamus) Sancta Mater, istud agas, Crucifixi fige plagas Cordi meo valide. Tui nati vulnerati, Tam dignati pro me pati, Poenas mecum divide. Fac me tecum, pie, flere, Crucifixo condolere, Donec ego vixero. Iuxta crucem tecum stare, (In me sistat dolor tui) Et me tibi sociare (Crucifixo fac me frui) In planctu desidero (Dum sim in exilio) Virgo virginum praeclara, Mihi iam non sis amara Fac me tecum plangere Fac, ut portem Christi mortem Passionis fac consortem, Et plagas recolere. Fac me plagis vulnerari, (Spinis, clavis vulnerari) Fac me cruce inebriari, (Cruce, lancea beari) Et cruore Filii Flammis ne urar succensus (Virgo dulcis, virgo pia) Per Te, Virgo, sim defensus (Virgo clemens, o Maria) In die iudicii (Audi preces servuli) Christe, cum sit hinc exire, Da per Matrem me venire Ad palmam victoriae Quando corpus morietur, Fac, ut animae donetur Paradisi gloria. Amen”


— source: stabtmater.info



Photo by Alem Sánchez from Pexels

Comments


bottom of page