Our Lady of Charity Senora de la Caridad

Our Lady of Charity Senora de la Caridad September 8, 2011

Today we remember the Nativity of Mary. I like the words of St. Andrew of Crete, which read read in today’s Office of Readings:

Justly, then, do we celebrate this mystery since it signifies for us a double grace. We are led toward the truth, and we are led away from our condition of slavery to the letter of the law. How can this be? Darkness yields before the coming of the light, and grace exchanges legalism for freedom. But midway between the two stands today’s mystery, at the frontier where types and symbols give way to reality, and the old is replaced by the new. Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day. Let there be one common festival for saints in heaven and men on earth. Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.”

Always prepared with A Word in Season, Pat Gohn brings us thoughts on both the Nativity, and Cuba’s celebration, on this day of its patroness, Our Lady of Charity

In 1612, three young men in a tiny boat in the Bay of Nipe, off the coast Cuba, attributed their safety in a violent storm to Mary. Nicknamed “the three Juans,” they were two brothers, Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and a slave, Juan Morena. While they were offshore collecting sea salt, a storm blew up causing them to pray for safety. Their prayers were answered, not only with a calming sea, but also with a gift found floating on the water—a statue of Mary holding the Child Jesus. An inscription read: “I am the Virgin of Charity.”

The unique image displays the Virgin holding the Child Jesus close to her heart with her left arm, as he holds a small globe in one hand and extends a hand of blessing with the other. Mary’s right hand extends a small gold cross.

Mary’s holding of a cross is unique to this image, as far as I know, and two things impress me about it.

In the first place, when I see Mary’s action in holding out this cross, I see a mother gently schooling her young Child in the ways of charity. At the same time, she prophetically points to the future reality of Good Friday in the life of Jesus, the cross he would bear to win our redemption. For Mary, it is also a sign of a coming pain to be borne, the very “sword” that would “pierce through her own soul” (Lk. 2:35) as her maternal love would suffer with Jesus at the Crucifixion.

Secondly, Mary embraces both the Christ and the cross. She, the perfect disciple, demonstrates the posture for the good Christian life.

To find out what the second thing is, you’ll have to read the rest — and don’t forget to pass on the Spanish translation to any you know who can read it! It’s provided by our friend María Morera Johnson, whose work you’ve read here and here, at Patheos.

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