A few words are warranted about the symbolism in the icon of the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna, Queen of Poland as it relates to our John Paul II. The Virgin May of Czestochowa is presented in the pose of the well-known Virgin Mary of the Sign, also known as Our Lady of the Sign, with her arms reaching upwards and the hands extending sideways, palms up, in a prayer-like stance (also known as the orans position, an ancient pose preserved in various religions).  The Baby Jesus is framed by a circle of light (mandorla), against her bosom.

I recall a legend in relation to this.  If the Virgin Mary depicted in the icon of the Virgin Mary of the Sign, were to lower her hands, it would signify the end of the world.  This is why we pray:  “Blessed Mother, we ask, neither now nor later!”  Baby Jesus, the same one depicted in the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa, left the arms of his Divine Mother and found himself in the centre so he could bless us. The apparel of the Virgin Mary is identical to that of the Czestochowa portrait, adorned with golden lilacs.  The characteristic scars on the face and neck of the Virgin Mary are identical to those in the original.  The Baby Jesus is attired in an identical manner and holds the same bible in his hand.  This icon, on one side depicts the Papal coat-of-arms, and on the other, the white eagle of the Piast dynasty.  Even the background of this icon is similar to that of the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa:  a vivid, rich blue-green colour.

Compassion, goodness and knowledge radiate from the face of John Paul II.  His expression is thoughtful, deeply immersed in the prayers of the rosary, perhaps he is reciting the Mysteries of the Light?  And those eyes, piercing, yet lost in thought, gazing into the distance, yet missing nothing.  A rosary is entwined in his finger, this is our Pope, as we remember him.

I know from personal experience that the Pope inspires us to pray, especially to recite the rosary.  When I look upon this icon, I sense that we are reciting the rosary prayers together with John Paul II.  In return, this probably gives the Holy Father great pleasure.  Just maybe, this will be one of those icons that will inspire us to kneel down.

Holy Father, thank you for being with us and your presence will remain with us through this icon.


Janusz Charczuk