By Francisco de Zurbaran 1598 – 1664
By Francisco de Zurbaran 1598 – 1664
The Black Madonna of Częstochowa (Polish: Czarna Madonna or Matka Boska Częstochowska, Latin: Imago thaumaturga Beatae Virginis Mariae Immaculatae Conceptae, in Claro Monte, and Ченстоховская икона Божией Матери in Church Slavonic) is a revered icon of the Virgin Mary housed at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, Poland.
The origins of the icon and the date of its composition are still hotly contested among scholars. The difficulty in dating the icon stems from the fact that the original image was painted over, after being badly damaged by Hussite raiders in 1430. Medieval restorers unfamiliar with the encaustic method found that the paints they applied to the damaged areas “simply sloughed off the image” according to the medieval chronicler Risinius, and their solution was to erase the original image and to repaint it on the original panel, which was believed to be holy because of its legendary origin as a table top from the home of the Holy Family. The painting displays a traditional composition well known in the icons of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Virgin Mary is shown as the “Hodegetria” (“One Who Shows the Way”). In it the Virgin directs attention away from herself, gesturing with her right hand toward Jesus as the source of salvation. In turn, the child extends his right hand toward the viewer in blessing while holding a book of gospels in his left hand. The icon shows the Madonna in fleur de lys robes.
The icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa has been intimately associated with Poland for the past six hundred years. Its history prior to its arrival in Poland is shrouded in numerous legends which trace the icon’s origin to St. Luke who painted it on a cypress table top from the house of the Holy Family.
Arrival in Częstochowa
One of the oldest documents from Jasna Góra states that the picture travelled from Jerusalem, via Constantinople and Belz, to finally reach Częstochowa in August 1382 by Władysław Opolczyk, Duke of Opole. However more recent Ukrainian sources state that it was taken by Władysław Opolski from the Castle of Belz, when the town was incorporated into the Polish kingdom and that earlier in its history it was brought to Belz with much ceremony and honors by Knyaz Lev I of Galicia. The golden fleur-de-lis painted on the Virgin’s blue veil parallel the azure, semee de lis, or of the French royal coat of arms and the most likely explanation for their presence is that icon had been present in Hungary during the reign of either Charles I of Hungary and/or Louis the Great, the Hungarian kings of the Anjou dynasty, who probably had the fleur-de-lis of their family’s coat of arms painted on the icon. This would suggest that the icon was probably originally brought to Jasna Gora by the Pauline monks from their founding monastery in Hungary.
Coronation as Queen and Protector of Poland
The Black Madonna is credited with miraculously saving the monastery of Jasna Góra (English: Bright Mount) from a 17th century Swedish invasion,The Deluge, which actually changed the course of the war. This event led King John II Casimir Vasa to “crown” Our Lady of Częstochowa (“the Black Madonna”) as Queen and Protector of Poland in the cathedral of Lwów on April 1, 1656.
Legends about the Madonna’s appearance
Another legend concerning the Black Madonna of Częstochowa is that the presence of the holy painting saved its church from being destroyed in a fire, but not before the flames darkened the fleshtone pigments.
The legend concerning the two scars on the Black Madonna’s right cheek is that the Hussites stormed the Pauline monastery in 1430, plundering the sanctuary. Among the items stolen was the icon. After putting it in their wagon, the Hussites tried to get away but their horses refused to move. They threw the portrait down to the ground and one of the plunderers drew his sword upon the image and inflicted two deep strikes. When the robber tried to inflict a third strike, he fell to the ground and squirmed in agony until his death. Despite past attempts to repair these scars, they had difficulty in covering up those slashes (as they found out that the painting was painted with tempera infused with diluted wax). In commemoration of the attack, two slashes on her right cheek were made by a pen.
Another legend states that, as the robber struck the painting twice, the face of the Virgin Mary started to bleed; in a panic, the scared Hussites retreated and left the painting.
Because of the Black Madonna, Częstochowa is regarded as the most popular shrine in Poland, with many Polish Catholics making a pilgrimage there every year. Often, people will line up on the side of the road to hand provisions to the pilgrims as those who walk the distance to Częstochowa walk the entire day and have little means to get things for themselves. (Read more at Wikipedia)
• For further study, please see: Black Madonnas: Our Lady of Czestochowa by Michael P. Duricy
The following is from a little book I use all the time for daily readings: Daily Strength for Daily Needs with readings selected by Mary Wilder Tileston. It is a very old book, and I have an epub copy I can share if anyone would like, or I can show you where to find it. I liked today’s readings because I am trying to overcome my fear with lots of prayer, but I find many distractions along the way. I think this is natural. Some people even ascribe this distraction to the devil. I think whatever you want to call it, it works against your being close to God. If you just keep trying to think of God’s infinite power instead of the fear and trouble, it helps.
O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me.—ISA. xxxviii. 14
Being perplexed, I say,
Lord, make it right!
Night is as day to Thee,
Darkness is light.
I am afraid to touch
Things that involve so much;—
My trembling hand may shake,
My skill-less hand may break:
Thine can make no mistake.
–ANNA B. WARNER
The many troubles in your household will tend to your edification, if you strive to bear them all in gentleness, patience, and kindness. Keep this ever before you, and remember constantly that God’s loving eyes are upon you amid all these little worries and vexations, watching whether you take them as He would desire. Offer up all such occasions to Him, and if sometimes you are put out, and give way to impatience, do not be discouraged, but make haste to regain your lost composure.
–ST. FRANCIS DE SALES
Many people lead very busy lives and can barely find the time to eat let alone read or sometimes even pray. But if you suddenly experience trouble in your life, my guess is that one of the first things you will do is call upon God and all the saints and angels for help. I think God uses our problems to draw us closer to himself. How much nicer it would be for us to initiate the contact first.
Sometimes praying the Rosary can seem a daunting task for busy people, but in my experience it is so effective in bringing you peace that you should never forget it. Our Lady is totally capable of performing miracles in your life. I have seen her do this time and again in my own.
Sometimes you may need some help in remembering all the prayers and the order of them. There is no shame in this. I use this page repeatedly:
It is very clear and concise and the pictures of the Mysteries are lovely. I bring it up and save the whole page as an HTML file. Then I put a shortcut to it on my desktop so I can quickly find it. Once it is up, if I am connected to the internet, I can use the links on it to go to any section I need. If you do not always have the internet, you can save all the pages you need and keep them in a folder. The pages will come up when you click them whether you are online or not. You can also print them if you want to take them with you, although a little pamphlet you can buy at a religious goods store is much easier to carry.
I like to go over the Mysteries of the day so I know what I am doing. Then I might only pray a decade a time and then put it down. This way I can pray a whole Rosary of five decades throughout the day. It keeps me connected. Some people say that all it is is repetition, but this repetition is like meditation. It helps you even though you might not think it is doing so. It’s also a good way to give back to Our Lady the attention, love and care she gives us.
(Image taken from here)
**I posted this 5 years ago, but I thought it would be good to re-post it for others who do not know about it. This is a really nice website even for those who are not traditionally religious. It’s very restful, peaceful and contemplative and gives you lots of good thoughts.
“Now: 3,536 candles from 81 countries are shining.
In many different traditions lighting candles is a sacred action. It expresses more than words can express. It has to do with gratefulness. From time immemorial, people have lit candles in sacred places. Why should cyberspace not be sacred?
You may want to begin or end your day by the sacred ritual of lighting a candle on this website. Or you may want to light a birthday candle for a friend. One single guideline is all you need: Slow down and do it with full attention. From here on, you will be guided step by step.”
This is the story of St Anthony and the fishes. It is taken from >>this page. I always ask St Anthony to watch over my animals because I know that he has an affinity for them. I also know that even if I ask him for something seemingly insignificant like help in finding my keys, he will help me almost instantly without fail. If he will do this, then I feel confident that he will also help my animals in time of need.
Near Padua took place the famous “sermon to the fishes” when, to impress heretics, he preached the word of God and the fishes poked their heads out of the water to listen.
The 49th chapter of the 14th century “Little Flowers of St. Francis” describes this event like this:
Christ, the blessed one, was pleased to show forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant St Anthony, and how men ought devoutly to listen to his preaching, be means of creatures without reason. On one occasion, amongst others, he made use of fish to reprove the folly of faithless heretics: even as we read in the Old Testament that in ancient times he reproved the ignorance of Balaam by the mouth of an ass. St Anthony being at one time at Rimini, where there were a great number of heretics, and wishing to lead them by the light of faith into the way of truth, preached to them for several days, and reasoned with them on the faith of Christ and on the Holy Scriptures. They not only resisted his words, but were hardened and obstinate, refusing to listen to him.
At last St Anthony, inspired by God, went down to the sea-shore, where the river runs into the sea, and having placed himself on a bank between the river and the sea, he began to speak to the fishes as if the Lord had sent him to preach to them, and said: “Listen to the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, seeing that the faithless heretics refuse to do so.”
No sooner had he spoken these words than suddenly so great a multitude of fishes, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood, that never before had so many been seen in the sea or the river. All kept their heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony’s face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully, the smaller ones in front near the bank, after them came those a little bigger, and last of all, were the water was deeper, the largest.
When they had placed themselves in this order, St Anthony began to preach to them most solemnly, saying: “My brothers the fishes, you are bound, as much as is in your power, to return thanks to your Creator, who has given you so noble an element for your dwelling; for you have at your choice both sweet water and salt; you have many places of refuge from the tempest; you have likewise a pure and transparent element for your nourishment. God, your bountiful and kind Creator, when he made you, ordered you to increase and multiply, and gave you his blessing. In the universal deluge, all other creatures perished; you alone did God preserve from all harm. He has given you fins to enable you to go where you will. To you was it granted, according to the commandment of God, to keep the prophet Jonas, and after three days to throw him safe and sound on dry land. You it was who gave the tribute-money to our Saviour Jesus Christ, when, through his poverty, he had not wherewith to pay. By a singular mystery you were the nourishment of the eternal King, Jesus Christ, before and after his resurrection. Because of all these things you are bound to praise and bless the Lord, who has given you blessings so many and so much greater than to other creatures.”
At these words the fish began to open their mouths, and bow their heads, endeavouring as much as was in their power to express their reverence and show forth their praise. St Anthony, seeing the reverence of the fish towards their Creator, rejoiced greatly in spirit, and said with a loud voice: “Blessed be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honour him more than men without faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention than sinful heretics.”
And whilst St Anthony was preaching, the number of fishes increased, and none of them left the place that he had chosen. And the people of the city hearing of the miracle, made haste to go and witness it. With them also came the heretics of whom we have spoken above, who, seeing so wonderful and manifest a miracle, were touched in their hearts; and threw themselves at the feet of St Anthony to hear his words. The saint then began to expound to them the Catholic faith. He preached so eloquently, that all those heretics were converted, and returned to the true faith of Christ; the faithful also were filled with joy, and greatly comforted, being strengthened in the faith. After this St Anthony sent away the fishes, with the blessing of God; and they all departed, rejoicing as they went, and the people returned to the city. But St Anthony remained at Rimini for several days, preaching and reaping much spiritual fruit in the souls of his hearers.
All day and night I call upon you, Blessed Mother. Please ask Our Lord to have mercy on us.
HAIL, HOLY QUEEN, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Image from: nuestrasenoradelasrosas.org