It is our joy to welcome to Saint Chad’s Cathedral thispowerful image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna.
The remarkable pilgrimage of this Icon began in Russia and Kazakhstan and will end at the Marian Shrine of Fatima in December. As the geographical journey reaches its end, we pray that the spiritual pilgrimage will continue in the hearts and lives of those graced by this Icon.
On behalf of Archbishop Bernard Longley, who cannot be with us, I welcome all of you, in particular our friends from Poland, who come to honour the Patroness of their homeland. Together we extend our greetings to our brothers and sisters from the Russian and Romanian Orthodox Communities from across our diocese and beyond who will lead us in the singing of Vespers (Evening Prayer) later this evening. It is good for us to be here to pray with one another in the company of Theotokos, Mary, the Mother of God.
How timely it is too, that this Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage of the Icon of Our lady of Czestochowa takes place at the beginning of the Year of Faith inaugurated by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI during a Month of Mary, the month of October.
The recently concluded Synod of Bishops in Rome, attended by Archbishop Bernard as one of the Synod Fathers along with his colleagues on the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, considered how we may deepen our baptismal faith, and with a new confidence witness to that faith in our families and the society in which we live and work by renewing our relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and his Church.
Pope Benedict called for the ‘re-proposing of the Gospel to those regions awaiting the First Evangelisation, and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep – but have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularisation.’
The Synod also referred to Mary as the ‘Star of the New Evangelisation’. This title used often by Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict, speaks of Mary as the First Evangelist and Disciple of the Lord. The task of any disciple or evangelist is not to speak of ‘self’ but of Jesus Christ; and to lead others to encounter him within the experience of their daily lives.
There is another beautiful title of Mary which is associated with this Icon of Czestochowa, and that title is from the Greek ‘Hodegetria’ – which in English translates as ‘One who shows the way.’
In this Icon we see the Blessed Virgin directing attention away from herself by gesturing with her right hand towards Jesus as the source of Salvation – the logos, the Living Word of God.
In turn, the Christ Child extends his right hand towards us who gaze upon him– as if to impart a blessing, while holding in his left hand the written word of God, the Holy Gospel.
Mary, as Hodegetria, is never the Way, but she gently points to him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus her Divine Son.
Mary, the Star of the New Evangelisation, invites us once more to turn our hearts and lives to her Son as we pray the Psalter of Mary, the Holy Rosary.
We offer the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary for the Child in the Womb and the work of the Pro-Life movements which is the focus of the Icon’s Pilgrimage. As we do so; we recall that God, to complete His work for our Salvation, entered into humanity in all its frailty and brokenness in order to redeem it. This He did as His Son was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the most vulnerable of places the womb of a mother, the womb of the Virgin.
As we begin this time of grace, we pray together the prayer to Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation:
Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation
Holy Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation,
make us the light of the world.
Teach us to do whatever he tells us.
May our study of his life lead us to love him;
and our love for him lead us to imitate him.
If we are what we should be,
we will set the world ablaze and affect the culture.
We ask your intercession to make this so.
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Canon Gerry Breen
Dean of St. Chad’s Cathedral