ON PROVEN PATHS OF JASNA GÓRA
Lidia Dudkiewicz talks with archbishop Stanisław Gądecki – the Chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference
LIDIA DUDKIEWICZ: - On the Eve of the Feast of the Annunciation – on 24 March 2014- I was unexpectedly a witness of a private prayer of Your Reverend Excellency before the Image of Our Lady at Jasna Góra. Archbishop as a newly elected Chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference arrived at Jasna Góra, in order to present himself to Mary and entrust his new ministry in the Church to Her. I was surreptitiously observing how Archbishop was kneeling in his black cassock in front of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady in the nearly empty Chapel. Later, at 9 pm, Archbishop was presiding over the Appeal Prayer and entrusted himself to Mary with the words of the Primate Stefan Wyszyński, said for the first time on 8 December 1953, during imprisonment in Stoczek Warmiński. Does it mean that the Pastor being on the helm of the Church is following the God’s servant cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and takes power from his spiritual strength? It is just the Primate Wyszyński who asked Poles to return onto the proven Jasna Góra paths.
ARCHBISHOP STANISŁAW GĄDECKI: - The thought about the need to return onto the Jasna Góra paths will never get devaluated – for the simple reason, that without reference to Mary, the Church does not exist. Without Her it is difficult for us to understand the mystery of Christ and the Church. If Mary is the Mother of the Church, how could a Christian man live without his spiritual Mother? She is ‘the prototype of the Church, in the order (…) of faith, love and excellent unification with Christ’. The Church perceives in Her its most faithful icon. For the Church Mary remains ‘a constant example’ – not only the example of excellence but also the example of motherhood. Similarly as Mary, who accepted God’s word in the annunciation and became the Mother of the Word, the Church becomes the Mother because it accepts God’s Word with faith. She is the Educator of the Church. Thanks to Her – with the power of the Holy Spirit – the Church maintains intact faith, strong hope and sincere love. Entrusting oneself to Her as a son, a Christian man – similarly as the apostle John – ‘takes Mary home’ and brings Her into this all what is his life.
How could we forget about Her, who cares about the good of the whole humankind with her motherly heart, and who intercedes for us and what She asks for, she receives – ‘as if under motherly law’, who – as the encyclical ‘Redemptoris Mater’ teaches – participates in ‘a hard fight against powers of darkness’, taking place throughout the whole human history. In the individual dimension, She leads a sinner – thanks to Christ’s grace – to conversion.
It is beautifully illustrated by a touching story of Kazimiera Iłłakówiczówna ‘A blessed candle’s wolf’. This story about a wolf chased for harms it did and which hid under the coat of Blessed Mary. Whereas, not only did she save it, but also led it to conversion. In the social dimension the Redeemer’s Mother calls us to peace. When today so many matters raise our anxieties and disturbs peace, She calls us to respect and guard peace.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, who ordained me a priest, and whose Mary’s spirituality charmed all of us, knew about it. When I think about a kind of comparison with primate Wyszyński, then only in such a sense in which Fathers of the Church taught about dwarfs who are carried on the backs of giants. I also fervently believe that in Poles’ opinion, a victory always comes through Mary.
– During the visit ‘Ad limina Apostolorum’ in January 1993, the Holy Father John Paul II said to Polish bishops such words: ‘This sign of Mary, the Queen of Poland, Lady of Jasna Góra, was understood anew again. We know what this image became for us (…), what it became for us in our struggling for the soul of the nation. (…). I think that this sign is meaningful also for the future. Mary is the Queen of the Polish Crown, is the Queen of Poland. Mary is the Queen of Polish matters, Polish efforts, Polish sufferings and Polish victories. (…) Experiences of the past teach us in whom to find support, who is our greatest ally of the Church and the Nation. What appeared between Our Lady, Mother of the Church, the Queen of Poland and the Nation in Poland, is a kind of alliance’. How does Archbishop understand these important words about the alliance of Our Lady with the Church and the Polish Nation? Or maybe we need to bring back the Mary’s Commission to the structures of the Polish Episcopal Conference…
– In a stricter sense the covenant concerns the relationship of God with His people. ‘Covenant’ in Hebrew ‘berit’, is one of the most important terms of the Bible. There were various kinds of this covenant. The oldest model inspired by treaties of ancient Near East, including a collection of rights and duties of contracting parties.
Next, prophets introduce a new model of a covenant, which is a marriage agreement. From the political horizon, one moves here to an intimate relationship, therefore, the breach of this covenant is called adultery.
Finally, Jeremiah announces ‘a new covenant’ present in the human heart, rooted in the man much more deeply than any treaties or a marriage contract. (see Jer. 31.31.33). This ‘new covenant’ will be reminded by Jesus: ‘This chalice is the New Alliance in my Blood, which will be shed for you’ (Luke 22.20).
In the broader sense of this word, one can also speak about a covenant of Mary with the Church. She is between the Old and the New Alliance. She closes the Old Covenant, and opens the New one. Through conception and birth of God’s Son, Mary gave the beginning to the New Covenant.. She is a new Ark of the Covenant, often mentioned by ecclesiastical writers: ‘Here new Ark, prepared by the Creator, surpassing Noah’s and Moses’ Ark much more: the latter one contained tables of Law, this one is supposed to accept God’ (Jan from Eubeia). She opened time for the Church. She is in the Church. She is beyond the Church. She is before the Church. She is a member of the Church, of the society of the redeemed, connected with all people who are to be redeemed. She is beyond the Church because she surpasses all members of the Church with her function and her holiness. She is before the Church, as she overtakes the Church in accepting the Holy Spirit, His holiness, in cooperation with the work of Her Son, in suffering, in Her Assumption. All this proves Her deep relationship with the Church; the relationship which can be called as motherly.
– When we observe the life of Poles through history, we can always see a strong relationship with Mary…
– From the first moments of its existence, the Polish Nation connected its fate with Blessed Mary the Virgin. God’s Mother, the Virgin, whose name is worshipped in the oldest Polish song, whose title was given to the first Polish churches, became allied with Poles. She blessed Poland, as many times as our homeland was faithful to Christ. She protected compatriots entrusting themselves to Her care.
A significant example of this care is the defence of Jasna Góra against the Swedish in 1655. Jasna Góra gave the beginning to the big retreat of Swedish armies and humiliated Karol Gustaw had to leave the Crown alone. The king of Poland Jan Kazimierz thanked for this miraculous rescue, who had entrusted the Crown to the care of Blessed Mary the Virgin and proclaimed Her the Queen of Poland.
An example of the defence of Poland and Christian Europe by Mary was the Vienna victory in 1683. When the powerful Ottoman Empire attacked Vienna, Jan III Sobieski set off with aid to the request of pope Innocent XI. Before that, he had prayed with the words: ‘Please, come to us, Gracious Lady, with help, and rescue us from powerful enemies!’. And so – on Our Lady’s Day – 12 September 1683 he won victory.
A particular role of Mary was seen also in the year 1920. When there were black clouds of godless bolshevism over renewed Polish Republic, people were praying at Jasna Góra and in Warsaw for a miracle. ‘I spent the night of 12/13 VIII (1920) in the Rectorate of Warsaw Polytechnics. Having read evening reports, I fell asleep while praying, with faith in God’s help and vision of defence of Częstochowa with Jasna Góra Queen of Poland, Our Lady, whose Assumption was approaching’ – gen Józef Haller wrote in his diary at that dramatic moment of the Polish history. Fr. Ignacy Skorupka, in his sermon preached on 31 July said in a prophetic inspiration: ’The Day of Our Lady Herbaceous, 15 August will not pass, when the enemy has been overcome’.
So, thanking God for this particular relation of our nation with Mary, we should follow the advice which was given to us by St. Bernard from Clairvaux: ‘Oh, whoever you are, if you see, that in the course of the contemporary life among storms, you are struggling more than are walking peacefully on the ground, do not turn away your eyes from the glow of this star, if you do not want to be engulfed by these storms (…). In dangers, in afflictions, in doubts about Mary, think and call Mary. Let she be on your mouth all the time, let she be in your heart so that you could feel Her intercession, look at the example of Her behavior all the time. Following Her, you will not go astray; calling Her, you will not fall into despair; thinking about Her, you will not get lost’.