There is no escape from sorrow in our lives. You will have sorrow in the world, the Savior tells us, but be brave, for I have defeated the world. Christ overcame the world and the death that reigns in it, which means that death is no longer unavoidable for his faithful followers, for it bodes them eternal life rather than hell. Therefore, all earthly sorrows must be endured by Christians with courage and complacency, for in the end they will be delivered and rewarded with eternity. Theoretically, this is clear to everyone. In fact, however, it often happens that we do not have the courage to endure troubles in a peaceful manner, and we begin to lose heart or even fall into despair due to sorrow. When that happens, where can we get help and support?
The centuries-old experience of Christian life shows that one of the fastest and most reliable means is to resort to the intercession of the Mother of God. The Mother of God is the heavenly Advocate for us and is quick to hear the prayers addressed to her. “Our Mother of God”, says Elder Joseph Hesychast, “is the Mother of Grace and the fountain of goodness. Her grace is always on time: as soon as you open your mouth to call her, She hurries to you like a true Mother. Now, call her without hesitation and find her to be a free helper and doctor in your sorrows.”
The fact that the Mother of God is quick to help us in our sorrows is reflected in the names of many of Her icons, for example: Assuage my Sorrows, Comforter of the Sorrowful, Comfort in Afflictions and Sorrows, Joy of All Who Sorrow. By resorting to the Mother of God in faith, grieving people obtain joy even if they do not get rid of their sorrows, illnesses, and life problems at once. This is because the grace of God pours onto a grieving soul through the intercession of the Heavenly Advocate, and the grace of God is strong enough to comfort man even in the midst of the greatest trials and troubles. St. Ignatius Bryanchaninov says that all human sorrows, even the greatest ones, do not have absolute power over Christians, because the advent of the divine grace can turn even the greatest misery into the greatest joy.
How could that be? When grace enters the soul of a man, then the soul becomes involved in the eternal life, over which the earthly world with its evil and suffering has no power. The Holy Spirit clearly attests to the soul that there is eternal life and eternal joy, and that this life and joy are higher than and independent of material peace. Man then receives empirical and reliable knowledge that all sorrows on earth are short-lived and will inevitably pass away. This knowledge gives man the strength to cope with all sorrows. St. Seraphim of Sarov told one monk that if he knew what joy and bliss God had prepared for the righteous, he would never be discouraged, and even if his cell was full of worms eating his flesh throughout his life, he would gladly agree to it, so as not to lose the blissful life in the Kingdom of Saints.
Therefore, no matter how hard life may be for us, we must never despair! Let us pray to the Mother of God, and her graceful help will certainly arrive. The Queen of Heaven hears our prayers so readily because She herself endured many sorrows and troubles on earth. Let us remember the events of Christmas: how the young Mary walked through the night streets of Bethlehem, looking in vain for a place where She could be relieved of her burden. Let us remember how the wicked tyrant Herod sought to destroy the newborn Jesus, and Mary and her child had to flee to Egypt in secret. How scared She must have been for Her Son when Herod’s assassins were lurking everywhere? What did She endure when they were attacked by bandits on their way to Egypt and were about to be killed? Later on, when Jesus came out to His public ministry, He had many enemies who sought His death. And of course, it was a source of continuous suffering and sorrow for His Mother.
What did She go through when Her Son’s enemies fulfilled their threats and Her Son was arrested? When
He was wrongly tried, mocked, and beaten? What did Her soul experience when the angry mob was shouting, “Crucify Him, crucify Him”? What sorrow did She suffer when Her beloved Son was dying on the cross in great suffering? St. Silouan of Athos says that we cannot comprehend the sorrow of the Mother of God when He was crucified. When She stood at the cross, her sorrow was immensely great, and if She survived, it was only because God’s almighty power strengthened Her, for the Lord wanted Her to see His resurrection and to remain on earth after His ascension to be a source of solace and joy to the new Christian people.
Having carried the cross of suffering and sorrows in our world, the Mother of God knows the weight of these sorrows and how to help people who have to sustain them. Therefore, whenever we have difficulties, let us always pray to the Queen of Heaven. Then we will see that our prayers will not remain in vain, but the heavenly help will come to us, the darkness of despair will be dispelled, and peace and silence will prevail in our tormented souls. Amen.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds