I acknowledge thee and I venerate thee, most holy Virgin, Queen of Heaven, Lady and Mistress of the Universe, as Daughter of the Eternal Father, Mother of His well beloved Son, and most loving Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday I visited the basilica of Our Lady of Victories in Senglea, Malta. This church is well known for its statue of the Maria Bambina, a rather cute sculpture of the Virgin as a young girl. With long curly hair and rosy cheeks she looks like the kind of girl any mother would love to dress up in the prettiest Sunday dresses. On the feast of Mary’s Nativity she is carried around Senglea in a colourful procession.
As I entered the church it struck me that there were no devotees before the Bambina’s shrine. Maybe its position, high above the main altar, had something to do with it but still…
I walked to the front of the basilica and noticed a small passage to the right of the main altar. In this passage there was a silver shrine for the Mater Dolorosa, a picture of Mary in the moment of her most profound suffering. A silver sword pierces her heart as she witnesses her only Son being slaughtered like a lamb. Before the shrine there was a young man whispering a prayer while a middle aged couple sat quietly, looking at the image in the shrine. An old lady let the beads of her rosary pass through her fingers, passionately sending Hail Marys to the Queen of Martyrs.
At the end of the passage there was a large chapel with a baroque sculpture of Jesus falling under the cross. His immense suffering on the way to Calvary is emphasised by the blood coloured robes He is wearing. The chapel was filled with devotees. One woman crawled on her knees to the shrine, perhaps out of a desire to take part in her Lord’s suffering. Others knelt quietly on the marble floor, staring at Jesus’ blood covered face.
As I looked at this scene I realised that it touches upon the truth, beauty and mystery of the Christian faith. God became Man and suffered for us and with us. All our trials or tribulations we bring before Him, or His Mother, will be understood; not from divine wisdom alone, but also from shared experience. This is a mystery of faith that is to be cherished by all Christians. It explains why devotions towards the suffering of Jesus and Mary are so popular, especially in baroque Catholic countries. They are a reflection of human pain and suffering, shared by the Divine. As Jesus said in John 14:18:
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
Oh most holy and afflicted Virgin! Queen of Martyrs, look down with a mother’s tenderness and pity on me, who kneels before Thee to venerate Thy dolours, and place my requests, with filial confidence, in the sanctuary of Thy wounded heart.