Meditation on the Picture of Grace
This is the picture of the Thrice Admirable Mother, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt – a picture of grace. It is a print of the original painting done by the Italian artist Crosio towards the end of the nineteenth century. The original title of this picture was “Refugium Peccatorum” – “Refuge of Sinners.” It was put up in the shrine at Schoenstatt in Germany in 1915.
In the picture we see Mary, the Mother of God, with her Child, Jesus. One is struck by the unity between Mother and Child. Mary holds her Child with both hands. Her left hand presses him to herself; her right hand holds his arm, and at the same time offers it upwards. Yet however much her attitude unites her with the Child, she holds him in a completely detached way. Is she waiting for someone to ask for her Child? Her eyes speak of this expectation.
The inner disposition of the Mother towards the Child is also expressed in the abundant folds of her cloak. On the one side it envelops him in a protective and sheltering manner, yet it still permits us to view the divine Redeemer unhindered. Mary wants to lead all who entrust themselves to her, to him.
It would appear that the veil covering the Mother’s head continues, enveloping the Child as well – as if it were all of one piece. This aptly depicts thoughts expressed by Father Kentenich, Schoenstatt’s Founder, in a prayer he wrote:
Mother with thy Child divine,
descend upon this land of thine.
Let our love for thee increase,
that we may have enduring peace.
Mother and Child united in love,
grant us rich blessings from heaven above.
A veil is a symbol of mystery. In the picture, the veil surrounds both Mother and Child. It graphically proclaims that Jesus is the mystery of Mary’s heart. So it becomes a sign of her virginity through which she is uniquely united with Jesus Christ.
Looking at the picture we find a deepened expression of the heartfelt unity between Mother and Child: the tone of the colors becomes deeper towards the center and leads one’s eye to the Mother’s heart. The Child rests there, whilst her hand rests at his heart. So it is that heart is united to heart. Two hearts unite in one beat.
“The heart is the innermost center of the spiritual life of a person” (Pope Paul VI). The picture of the Mother Thrice Admirable , Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt, speaks of the fact that Mary’s soul is totally formed into Jesus: he determines her whole being. He is the content of her life. He is the one who possesses her heart, her love. Is it thus surprising that the features of the two are so strikingly similar?
And what about the Child?
The picture makes it quite clear that although the Mother is holding the Child, she is not carrying him. Another power seems to be doing so – what is it?
The clouds in the picture point symbolically to a world and power beyond our own. It is strength from the supernatural world, proceeding from the Eternal Father, which carries the Child. The Father lives in the deepest center of his being and determines all his actions. Jesus himself acknowledged this when he said to Philip: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father living in me who is doing this work” (Jn 14:10).
So it is that when we contemplate this picture of grace we realize: Our Lady leads all who attach themselves to her, to her Child, to the center of his heart. And there we find the Father.
The light surrounding the heads of Mary and Jesus, which can be seen all over the picture, proceeds from the Child, where it is the brightest. He is “Light from Light.” Whoever opens himself to Christ’s radiance will become a sign of light for others, as we see expressed perfectly in the image of Our Lady. It is God’s loving plan that Mary, as the sign of light, leads us home out of the darkness of life to the fountain of her light – the Eternal Light.
Mary, Mother of God, in your picture of grace you reveal yourself as the Thrice Admirable Mother, Queen and Victress of Schoenstatt.
You are the Thrice Admirable Mother!
You are Mother of God, Mother of the Redeemer, but also our Mother. Deep love unites you with your divine Child, our Redeemer. It urges you to lead all who give themselves to you, to him. The human heart is the most precious of all the gifts you wish to give him. Therefore I ask you: accept me, lead me and all whom I love to your divine Son. I know that if I love you my poor love is united with your great love for Our Lord. If I love you, my love for Jesus can grow and mature, experience shelter, warmth and constancy. I ask you, give my heart to your divine Child. Let me find the Father and his love in him.
Your eyes are always following me with kindness and love. Yes, they seek me wherever I am, wherever I may go. You see me in my joy and sorrow. You watch me when I follow God’s ways, but also when I stand at crossroads. You see the wrong ways I have followed. You see my struggles and my falls.
You see the people I bear in my heart with love and joy, but also often in distress and tears. You see everything that oppresses me and take it up into your loving heart.
You see it, just as at Cana you saw the needs of the wedding hosts. They had no wine left. And just as then, so too today, you turn to your divine Son and say: Lord, they have no wine – the “wine” of health, stability, peace, joy, freedom, love and faith. And at your word, he will work miracles of love and mercy, miracles of grace.
So, as your child and in your heart. I know that I am loved by you, surrounded by your kindness as by your protecting mantle – like the divine Child in your arms – since we are all brothers and sisters of your Child. And so you are in truth my Mother. I thank you Thrice Admirable Mother of Schoenstatt for all your love.
I also look up to you as Thrice Admirable Queen.
The radiance which surrounds you, flowing out from your Child, points to your Queenship. According to the will of the Eternal Father you bore the anguish and death of the cross in loyal love together with your Son. Now you may also share in his kingly glory and power in a unique way.
As “Suppliant Omnipotence” at the throne of God, you see to the building up of his kingdom in our world. You wish to do so in a special way from your places of grace.
Your eyes, O Queen, ask for my contributions. You ask for my witness, my prayer, my sacrifice so that the kingdom of the Father may grow in the hearts of men in our world.
Bind my weakness to your strength. Let a covenant of love be born between you and me.
Then I may trust that you will prove to be the Thrice Admirable Victress!
I ask, be the Victress in my heart. With your love conquer all that is contrary to God there.
But also be the Victress in all the battles of God which must be fought in this world. Lead us to Christ and through him in the Holy Spirit into the heart of the Eternal Father, for you honor and for the glory of the Triune God. Amen.