There are numerous images of Our Lady, just as there are of her Son, but amongst the most ancient and venerable is the one venerated at the shrine of Jazna Gora at Poland’s most famous and most visited place of pilgrimage, which I had the privilege of praying before on my own pilgrimage there with the parish in 2015.
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 – when they were still primarily renowned for their military prowess, rather than for ABBA, IKEA and soft socialism – saving 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 (see the article just posted on the perils of desecrating holy things).
To this day, thousands of pilgrims make their way to Jasna Gora, including a young Karol Wojtyla, who went there secretly as a seminarian during Nazi occupation. The Black Madonna continues to intercede mightily for Poland, for the world, 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.