Friday, 30 September 2016

Our Lady of Czestochowa Queen of Poland

From the Catholic Herald 1973, comes this piece. The picture is now in St Matthew's Catholic Church, in St Lawrence, as the old St Mary and St Peter's Church was demolished.

Art historian Robert Maniura looked at this picture and showed it to be not an icon in the Orthodox Christian tradition (and certainly not, as tradition has it, painted by St. Luke in the Holy Land) but rather a thirteenth-century western product, perhaps Italian, possibly based on an eastern model, and deriving  from motifs which may have spread ultimately from Mount Athos.

Sue Monk Kidd notes that:

“There are hundreds of these images of dark-skinned Black Madonnas in Europe, and they are some of the most ancient images we have of Mary. The most well known is probably aOur Lady of Czestochow in Poland. Many of them are in great Gothic cathedrals, like Chartres, France, often in the crypts.”

I found a rather nice poem by Jamie Naylor, which although it takes the myths about the picture literally, conveys the way in which the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochow in Poland became a centre of pilgrimage and devotion.

They journey with hope
of a blessing, a healing, a miracle of sorts
for they have heard the stories told of old.

No longer following the magi's silver star,
they trod a narrow but worn path
to the gates of Our Lady at Jasna Gora,
where the Madonna, luminous in her ebony blush,
holy babe in arms, hangs like Venus in the summer sky
above the horizon of the altar.

For centuries she watched like a gentle cloud
over the sorrowful people of the Polish lands
whose faith lifted in the little cathedral like gauzy curls of smoke
rising from tapers in prayerful hands,
burnishing mother and child in a rich sable patina,
the color of autumn's last leaves-
their halos still glistening gold.

As we enter, the sanctuary sparkles
with candles, like a sea of stars on a moonless night,
held by the faithful spilling from the filled pews, singing praises
in many languages with
one voice, one sight.

Just a tourist, I suddenly feel like a dilettante as I see the devotion
and expectation, like children on Christmas morning, in their eyes.
The emerging intensity startles my daughter Emilee, still young-
she has never seen such need,
such pleading, such pain,
such adoration.

It is said that Mary and Jesus were painted by Saint Luke himself,
only a season after the child become man hung on the cross,
as he sat at the bench of cedar wood
carved by the carpenter's hand.

And while he painted the woman in life, they say
she spoke a wonderful tale, of a birth in a stable,
of hosts of angels, of wise men, of shepherds, of Gabriel.

"Alleluia, alleluia, to the Mother and her Lamb,"
"Czerna Madonna," "Schwarze Madonna," "Beautiful Black Madonna."

The song ascends with fervor beyond the rafters
in the graceful wooden chapel
and we also are carried up with the wonder of Mother and Child.

Only then do we notice the mountain of crutches discarded in the corner.

Our Lady of Czestochowa Queen of Poland
from The Catholic Herald

The memorial picture hanging in St. Mary and St. Peter's Church.

At a time when Czestochowa was still a medieval town, there stood on a nearby hill a wooden church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It was to this place in 1384 that Prince Wladyslaw Opolski brought a painting of the Mother of God which had already been recognized as miraculous, and presented it to the Pauline Fathers whom he had brought two years previously to found a monastery at this spot.

The fame of the Virgin of Jasna Gora (the Shining Mountain) spread far and wide. After the victory of Czestochowa, John Casimir, at Lwow (1656) placed himself and his entire kingdom under Our Lady's protection. Polish kings came to pay her homage, calling her Queen of the Universe and Queen of Poland.

The painting, encased in a triple embellished ebony frame is covered with an ornate dress studded with precious stones and two cold crowns given by Pope Pius X. According to a legend this picture was painted by St. Luke on Cypress wood in Nazareth and taken by the Empress Helena from Jerusalem to Byzantium, whence it was taken to Poland.

There is a tradition which tells us what happened when soldiers broke into the church. One of them struck the picture with a whip, and immediately weals appeared on the Virgin's face.

A copy of this picture hangs in St. Mary and St. Peter's Church, and the brass inscription tells its own story:

With thought turned towards their beloved country
During their stay in this hospitable Island
Here in this church sought the consolation,
Committed themselves to the care
of-Our Lady of Czestochowa, Queen of the Polish Crown.-

Polish Soldiers. Jersey A.D.1947

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