Her 1st Sorrow was when she and Joseph brought the 8-day old Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem for his circumcision (Lk 2:34). Circumcision for the Jews is a sign of their covenant with God, and the spilling of baby Jesus' blood in this Temple foreshadowed the eventual death sentence he would receive there, thus sealing the New Covenant in his blood.
At the Temple, Mary was confronted by the prophet Simeon. He told her that Jesus would be the promised light to both the Israelites and the Gentiles, but that Christ would also be rejected and that Mary herself would be pierced by a sword of sorrow. This is why in Christian art, Mary's heart is shown wounded by a sword or swords.
Her 2nd Sorrow came when an angel warmed Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and baby Jesus (Mt 2:13). The evil King Herod wished to destroy the child, and was willing to slaughter thousands of children in order to do so. For a man who was supposed to protect the people to show such hatred for innocent human life must have broken Mary's heart. This sorrow reminds us that it is the duty of families and leaders to protect innocent human life. It also reminds us to show compassion to families who are forced to come to our land seeking safety.
Mary's 3rd Sorrow came when she and Joseph lost the 12 year old Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:43). Twenty-one years later, Mary would again lose Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem during the Feast of the Passover, where the religious leaders would once again question him, this time condemning him to die. We must use our voices to speak for anyone who is wrongly condemned to die. We must offer comfort to mothers who lose their children due to illness, crime, poverty, or war.
Mary's experienced a 4th great sorrow years later, when she followed her Son out of Jerusalem as he carried his cross to the hill of Calvary (Lk 23:26). Here Mary shows the same courage and obedience as Abraham, who was also willing to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac on a wooden altar atop a hill.
Mary's greatest sorrow, the fifth, was seeing her son die (Jn. 19:25). His hands had healed so many, even raising the dead back to life. Now his healing hands were held back by nails. The face that she once washed clean was covered in blood, the hair that she once combed now tangled in a crown of thorns. This image alone should make us feel disgust for violence and revulsion for anything that disrespects innocent life. When we see Mary weeping, this should make us want to wipe away her tears by our efforts to obey her son.
Mary's 6th Sorrow was when her son's lifeless body was taken down and given to her (Mt. 27:57). Along with the other female disciples, it was Mary's duty to clean the body and prepare it for burial. She suffered to bring him into our world, to raise him, and now he dies to pay for our sins. This should drive us to repent, to show deep respect to our mothers and to all women.
Mary's last sorrow came when she buried her son. Just as she brought him into the world in a stable that was once a cave, Jesus is now buried in a cavern carved into a rocky hill. As a baby, he was placed in a borrowed cradle. Now he lies in a borrowed tomb. As an infant, he was wrapped in blankets, and he is now buried in a simple white shroud. This last sorrow calls us to respect the dignity of each and every human life no matter how poor, no matter how that life begins or ends.
Mary's heroic strength through these sorrows prepared her heart for the joy of Christ's resurrection days later. We are called to imitate her, bravely accepting suffering, showing kindness to others who suffer. Like Mary, we can find joy and hope in knowing that Jesus has conquered suffering and death. His victory is our peace
William-Randolphe Bouguereau's Pieta
Michelangelo's Pieta (unique angles)
http://mindyourmaker.files.wordpress.com/2007/02/michelangelo-7.jpg (second graphic on post)
Michelangelo's later version
El Greco's Pieta (graphic at top of post)
From an ancient Eastern Icon of the Pieta
Modern photography and film