On June 27th, the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We can trace the origin of this devotion in the Western Church in the year 1499 when a beautiful icon from the Mediterranean island of Crete was installed in the Church of St Matthew in Rome. This icon speaks a thousand words. It represents Baby Jesus sitting on His Mother’s lap fixing his eyes on a vision of two angels painted on each side of the upper corners of the painting: Angel Michael is carrying a cross and nails while Angel Gabriel holds in his hand a sharp sword and a sponge to wipe out blood.
What is signified by this picture is an announcement of the future passion of the Lord. Jesus appears frightened by the sight. His feet are twisted causing one of his sandals to fall off his right foot. We see the sandal hanging to his foot by a shoe string. Jesus also grasps the hands of his mother. Mary also tightly holds the child by his waist. Other significant traits enriches the colorful image.
The beautiful painting with a golden background spells out the sublime role of Mary in the life and mission of Jesus. Mary is not God; Jesus is the Lord! But Mary a creature, through her obedience to God’s calling was privileged to give birth to the Messiah. She also stands by Him at every step of his salvific Mission. She thus highlights one of the key teachings of God’s revelation: the mystery of human intercession, the mystery of human cooperation in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Jesus is the one who suffers, dies and rises from the dead. But we too, the people of the new Covenant, redeemed by his Blood are sent to bring this salvation to all nations, we, the witnesses of His salvation must go through our own passion, we must go through death to sin and rise to newness of life.
Mary is the perfect image of the CHURCH. Prayers to Mary in no way diminishes the primacy of Jesus. We worship Jesus who is GOD. We direct our demands for favors to him the fountain Head of salvation. Mary is the intercessor, she is not God her prayers for us carry great weight. Just like her we also are called to pray for one another. Our prayers for our neighbors are important. Jesus wants us to be one, to care for one another, to pray for one another. Mary is part of the family. Her intercession for us is precious. Remember the power of her intercession at the wedding of Cana in Galilee where Jesus performed his first Messianic sign. When we approach Jesus in prayer with our hands in the hands of His mother, He is more inclined to listen. Some say: we don’t need an intercessor; Jesus in the sole Mediator. Those who say that ignore the call of the Gospel to unity, solidarity, mutual love and support. God wants us to form an undivided BODY where the various organs work together for the benefit of the ONE body.
One of the last words of Jesus on the Cross was addressed to his Mother “Behold your son.” And then He told St John “Behold your mother!” In the Magnificat hymn (Lk, Ch. 1) Mary prophesied that all generations will call her blessed for the Almighty has done wonderful things for her.” She is indeed a Blessed Creature whose intercession for us we revere.
A large number of miracles have been performed throughout history through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother. For example, in 1882, Haiti was struck by a small pox epidemic. The plague was stopped suddenly and without medical explanation when a public prayer was conducted imploring the intercession of O.L. of Perpetual Help. This is why the Blessed Mother under this title has been made the Patroness of Haiti on December 8th 1942. I urge all of you to praise Mary under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
All we ask of Mary is that she prays for us now and in the hour of our death! Jesus is the one who grants the favor. Mary is the one who supports our plea.
By +Guy Sansaricq