The Nunc dimittis and Mary’s Seven Sorrows

In today’s Gospel, we hear one of the most beautiful canticles in all of Scripture, the Nunc dimittis.

Simeon, a righteous and devout man, had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ—a word meaning anointed one. After holding Jesus, who was just 40 days old, Simeon said:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

In Latin, this passage is:

“Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum: Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.”

Hence, the name of the canticle is the “Nunc dimittis”—the prayer’s first two words in Latin.

Simeon then turns to Mary and says and you yourself a sword will pierce. Mary will not go unscathed by the world’s reaction to her son.

This is the first of the Seven Sorrows  (or Dolors) in the life of the Blessed Mother:

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon.
  2. The Flight into Egypt.
  3. The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple.
  4. Mary meets Jesus on the way to Calvary.
  5. Jesus dies on the cross.
  6. Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms.
  7. The body of Jesus is placed in the tomb.

In art, Mary is often depicted with seven swords pricing her heart.

seven sorrows