This feast of the ‘Queen of Poland’ is a national holiday in that great nation, with thousands of pilgrims flocking to her shrine at Jazna Gora, where is kept and held most dear the precious image of Our Lady of Częstochowa. There are untold icons and paintings of the Mother of God, just as there are of her Son, but amongst the most ancient and venerable is the one venerated at Poland’s most famous and most visited shrine. I had the privilege of praying before this very image, on my own pilgrimage there, with my own local (Polish) parish of Saint Hedwig’s, in 2015. Ah, memories of those pre-Covidian days…
It is said that the icon was painted – or ‘written’, in the Eastern terminology – by Saint Luke himself, on a cedar table – a living portrait of the Mother of God. We know for certain that it came eventually from Constantinople in the 15th century, and brought to Poland, where the miraculous intercession of the image – or, more properly, of the one represented therein – was responsible for a miraculous victory during the Second Northern War in 1655, when 70 monks and 180 volunteers held off a force of 4000 invading Swedes for 40 days. And this was when they were still primarily renowned for their military prowess, rather than for ABBA, IKEA and soft socialism. Thus was saved the image and the shrine against all earthly odds.
The scars on the image derive from 1430, when a band of Hussites – early Czech Protestants – tried to steal the icon, but once it was in the wagon, the horses refused to move. In frustration, one of them drew his sword, and slashed the image, once, twice, and, before he got a third one in, he fell to the ground and perished in agony.
Through the centuries, untold numbers of pilgrims have made their way to Jazna Gora, including a young Karol Wojtyla, who went there secretly as a seminarian during Nazi occupation, and the Virgin helped guide his own vocation. The Black Madonna continues to intercede mightily for Poland, for the world, for all of us, against all the errors of this age, not least those of socialism and communism in their various insidious guises.
So pray, trust and hope – the world may strike once, twice, but the third time, it will be Our Lady who wins.