December 11, 2007

Czestochowa at St. Pat's Church

On the cusp of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was inadvertently introduced to the Black Madonna (more here), of whom Hilaire Belloc wrote.

(Click to enlarge)
A couple days ago I'd read this Dec. 9th entry from St. Faustina's diary (Revelations of Divine Mercy):
I had permission to visit Czestochowa while on my journey. I saw the Mother of God [image] for the first time, when I went to attend the unveiling of the Image at five in the morning. I prayed without interruption until eleven, and it seemed that I had just come.
At first I thought the actual painting was on tour, but the replica was hand-painted and I was still able to share in seeing up close that which had moved two of the greatest lights of the past half-century or so, Pope John Paul II and St. Faustina.

The grim visages of Jesus and Mary in the painting remind me of the Byzantine iconography. I thought the jagged tears down the Madonna's face gave mute testimony of the sword that would pierce her and that the gold bands surrounding them emanate from the Christ child and envelope Our Lady's head.

I learned here that some of the tears are wounds or scratches:
The face of the Virgin stands out in that whoever looks at the painting is found immersed in Mary’s gaze: the pilgrim looks at Mary who looks back. The Child also faces the pilgrim but with a fixed look. Both faces have serious and pensive expressions, giving the painting an emotional tone. Two parallel scratches crossed by a third mark the Virgin’s right cheek. Her neck shows six other scratches, two of which are visible, whereas the other four can barely be seen. In the image, Jesus wears a scarlet tunic and rests on His Mother’s right arm as a makeshift throne in order to be seated. The Child’s left arm holds a book, and the right arm is raised as if he was giving his blessing. The Virgin’s hand rests on his chest, points to the Child, and appears to tell us: “Pay attention to my Child Jesus.” The Virgin’s dress and mantle are adorned with the flower of lis, a symbol of the royal family of Hungary. The brightness of their apparel contrasts with the dark colors of their faces. A star with six vertices is depicted on Mary’s forehead. Both the Virgin and Jesus have golden halos. Given the dark color of the face and hands of Our Lady, the image has been fondly called “the Black Virgin,” a phrase which reminds us of the Song of Songs, “I am dark-skinned but beautiful.” Her darkness can be attributed to many reasons, one being the poor conditions of the places where she has been hidden to safeguard her. In addition, numerous candles have been lit before her, causing her to be constantly amidst smoke. As well, she most likely has been touched by a multitude of people. In the image, the wounds on her face were caused by some bandits who tried to steal the image in 1430. The wound on her throat was caused by the Tartars who besieged the castle of Belz; one of the enemy’s arrows went through the Chapel’s window and hit the icon. The two cuts on the cheek of the Virgin, along with the harm previously caused by the spear through her throat, always reappear despite the repeated attempts to restore the image.

No comments: