With rosaries in our hands we pray for our Homeland
Archbishop Andrzej Dziega
Homily delivered on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Jasna Gora, 15 August 2011
The queen stands at your right hand.
And a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown.
And the cry comes from her mouth, My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my saviour.
And the earth adds through Elisabeth’s mouth, You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Blessed are you who believed that the Lord's word would come true
And we all are protected and led by the word, Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.
Your Excellency, Most Reverend Archbishop Nuncio presiding over this solemn Liturgy; Dear Pauline Fathers, custodians of this holy place – Jasna Gora, the spiritual capital of our Nation; Brothers and Sisters, worshippers of the Most Holy Virgin Mary whose Assumption we are solemnly celebrating with all heaven and all the earth.
The Church pilgriming at Mary ‘s feet
The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated in all Catholic sanctuaries and especially in all Marian shrines. It has been inscribed into our Polish celebrations. Together with all heaven and together with the whole Church pilgriming on the earth we are looking with admiration and love at Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ. And here:
• Woman was foretold to Adam and Eve and also foretold to Satan;
• Here is the Immaculately Conceived;
• Here is the Full of Grace with whom – according to the words of the angel’s prayer – the Lord is;
• Here is the Handmaid of the Lord repeating: Let what you have said be done to me;
• Here is the Mother of God’s Son and our Saviour whose soul was pierced by a sword so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare;
• Here is the Woman present at Cana in Galilee with watchful love and interceding to her Son for the beginning of the signs so that his disciples may believe in him;
• Here is the Woman penetrated by pain but constantly full of love, also faithful at the cross where in the person of the beloved disciple of the Lord she received us as her children so that we may also enter the way of the love of God and man;
• Here is the Mother receiving, together with the community of the Apostles and disciples, the gift of the Holy Spirit that renews permanently the face of this earth;
• Here is the Mother of the Church and our Mother Assumed into Heaven.
And at the same time we confirm: Here is the Mother and Queen
• preceding us on the ways of faith throughout history;
• in the successive apparitions reminding us of the need to return to the way of faithfulness to God in every generation;
• encouraging us to save the souls of poor sinners, especially through persistent rosary prayer;
• reprimanding us not to insult God any more;
• warning us of the reality of punishment for sins and the reality of hell;
• with love showing us the way to heaven.
Today we praise God with all heaven and all people of our faith on all the earth for the gift and mystery of the Assumption of Mary who was taken up into the glory of heaven with soul and body. This privilege is God’s gift and so is her Immaculate Conception. It is also God’s wonderful answer to the gift of Mary’s heart – faithful Handmaid of the Lord, in love with the Lord, reflecting constantly on his Word in her heart through the subsequent mysteries of her life: mysteries of joy, mysteries of light, mysteries of sorrow and mysteries of glory. We meditate on the deepest of these mysteries in the extraordinary prayer, which Blessed John Paul II showed our generation anew and into which he introduced us – the Angelus. He asked us to pray this prayer frequently, every day. He asked especially us, Poles, the nation from which he was taken and whose son he constantly felt to be.
We experience and reflect on all these mysteries in prayer and rosary meditation; we keep returning to the extraordinary words of the angelic heavenly rapture ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’ and to the rapture of the earth, ‘Blessed are you among women.’ Soon it will be nine years when we accepted the new prayerful encouragement from John Paul II’s apostolic letter ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae,’ which becomes for more and more disciples of Christ a way of daily meditation, Mary’s school of spirituality, daily praise of God and together with Mary daily appeasing God and asking him to take away temptations and Satanic enslavements, and finally imploring for the power of grace for us and others who need spiritual protection and strengthening.
This ceremony has been prepared in many spiritual ways. Walking pilgrimages from all parts of Poland, days of novena, tridua, vigils – these are some forms of preparation. But this celebration develops and changes into meditations and prayers to which the holy Church encourages us and which culminates in the unique octave of Mary’s glory: from today until 22 August when we venerate Mary in the mystery of her ruling in heaven and on the earth, and so we have eight days of her special glory. And here, at Jasna Gora, we are beginning a special novena – nine days of preparation to the patron feast of Mary’s presence and works in this sanctuary, in the Miraculous Icon of Jasna Gora, her presence radiating to the whole Nation both in thousands of pictures of Our Lady of Czestochowa, from Australia to California, with the special Copy, which has been the sacred Picture of the Visitation of parishes in our Homeland for decades. Today’s celebration is the centre of these praises of God through the veneration of Mary.
Difficult Polish matters
We connect the Polish circumstances with this feast. During today’s Liturgy so many hands present bunches of crops, herbs and vegetables, blessed by the prayers of the Church, to God through Mary. Various fruits of the earth, both the natural ones – field flowers as pure gifts of God, and the ones produced by people by their efforts and with the wisdom of cultivation in collaboration with God. This year, together with these bunches we bring the big concern about the Polish farmers, often about their suffering when they cannot harvest. We have not had such a year and such unfavourable weather for long. This year God has reminded us so strongly that the earth and all that fills it, the world and its inhabitants belong to him, that man alone, with all his wisdom and knowledge, should unchangeably be submitted to him, should ask him for the gifts of the earth and should thank him for these gifts. This year these bunches of flowers, ears, vegetables and herbs are tied with severe sufferings of farmers as well as the suffering of the victims of weather cataclysms. God is also the Lord of the weather. In some report I heard a farmer who said after almost two weeks of continual rain, ‘Perhaps we should begin to pray for good weather.’ Perhaps finally… We also bring this difficult wisdom today, together with our bunches, and give it into the hands of Our Lady of Herbs, that she may present these matters to her Son, interceding for us.
On this feast we also bring our national and state matters. Since for us it is also the Day of the Polish Army. Since it is the anniversary of the Miracle on the Vistula, the victory of the Polish soldiers over the atheistic revolutionary invasion that wanted to go to the West through Poland’s corpse. Our hearts return to that victory, the foregrounds of Warsaw, which we received by praying on our kneels in the churches of Warsaw and many others churches in Poland and all over the world. We return to the victory that until now is impossible to be explained using the language of only military and political sciences but which only in the category of miracle becomes a logical version of God’s decisions for the world through Mary, decisions that we obtained by our entreaties at the feet of God. It was Mary that interceded for the power of spirit for the heroic priest Fr Ignacy Skorupka at the proper moment so that he, holding the cross in his hand, could encourage young men and other soldiers to make the decisive attack in the name of God and their Homeland. Europe was saved again. And the Polish soldiers can flex their muscles in the Polish uniforms with pride since it is their day. Neither the political accusation of insufficient training nor putting on them the main responsibility for the problems and dramas of the state, including the Smolensk plane crash, will deprive them of this pride and soldier’s honour. The Miracle on the Vistula shows distinctly that only by uniting soldiers’ efforts and commanders’ wisdom as well as courageous responsibility of politicians and prayers of the Nation there is a chance to win the most important struggles.
The same wisdom lit the Warsaw insurgents but they lacked the responsibility of the politicians of those days. It is first of all those great politicians and not the insurgents that are responsible for the burnt city of Warsaw and almost 200,000 tormented inhabitants of the Unconquerable City. It was not a national catastrophe but it was the catastrophe of the political games of those days. But again Western Europe was protected by the six-month stoppage of the Eastern front. Today we also bring this difficult wisdom and together with the bunches of Polish flowers and herbs we give them to the Mother of God – Patron of Polish Soldiers asking her to present these matters to her Son, interceding for us.
Remembering the Polish August events
On this August feast we bring the recollection of the wisdom of the people of the August ‘Solidarity’ who kept praying among their struggles for economy and politics, families and the Nation. Those struggles for the Homeland and the Polish state were real. The workers did not want any bloodshed; they wanted peace for the Homeland but not at all costs, but peace growing from social justice, respect for labour and bread, from concern for every family, recognition the need of cost-effective thinking about the Polish factories and Polish farmers, from the need of normal national thinking about politics, the basis of which is the evangelical ethics of ‘Solidarity’ as well as thinking and speaking about the whole Nation with its one thousand years of Christian culture and with its spiritual, political and economic possibilities. Thinking and speaking about the Nation, permeated with joy of having our own Nation and hope put in the possibilities of our Nation. Today we know well what has been left from this cry. It is strange that in Poland it is so easy to criticise all that is Polish and it is so hard to defend the Polish thought, Polish economy and Polish reason of state. In Poland it is easier to praise the Germans or the Russians than Poles. We also see clearly the suffering of the whole generation that had to spill ‘for bread’ like seeds in the entire world. We can see the struggles of workers in sequential factories in the Polish land and with astonishment we often look how frequently the same workers, and not – as it should be – the managers running the factories on behalf of the state, try to seek new ideas to rescue their places of work. And at the same time we can see businessmen and craftsmen asking for ordinary sense of legal safety, for ordinary economic liberty, not restricted by unnecessary concessions and permits. It is in them that we can hope for some economic normality if they are allowed to act, if they become important to the state. And we also bring this difficult wisdom, and with prayers for the Homeland we hand it to the Mother, the Queen of Polish Crown, asking her to present these matters to her Son, interceding for us.
Today we bring here, to Jasna Gora, the hope of the World Youth Day from which new breaths of hope for spiritual strengthening of our Polish youth can flow.
We bring the testimony of steadfast Saint Maximilian, confessor and martyr, who dedicated to the Immaculate Virgin all his pastoral and social works, which he undertook in the hard times, so that the whole world might see its hope in the Immaculate Virgin. Amidst the sufferings of the concentration camp, amidst the big sin of trampling human dignity it was him that, with the name of the Immaculate Virgin on his lips, restored God’s order and hope. Blessed John Paul II described that – briefly but firmly – on the occasion of his visit in another concentration camp, at Majdanek, stating, ‘Man cannot be an executioner for man. Man should be brother for man.’
Towards Jasna Gora through centuries
Here, at Jasna Gora, we keep praying the daily prayer-witness of the Nation’s history and struggles connected with St Adalbert – ‘Bogurodzica’ [The Mother of God]. Here we recollect the extraordinary experience of Mary’s presence in the Jasna Gora Icon and the beginning of the Polish Commonwealth at the centre of Europe.
Here we recollect the concern of Saint Queen Jadwiga about this royal sanctuary and her prayer before the Icon.
We recollect the special, increasing throughout generations, love of the Nation for the Most Blessed Virgin – until the historical defence against the Swedish forces.
Here our hearts can hear the words of the Vows of King Jan Kazimierz who did not only confirm her ruling but referred to his twelve titles because of which he gave the Polish Commonwealth into Mary’s ruling. Mary, here is Your crown with twelve stars. You are the Queen of the Polish Crown. Here we recollect the Millennial Vows of the Polish Nation, written by the great Primate of the Millennium, vows which are still waiting to be realised fully, so that Poland becomes the real kingdom of Mary and her Son Jesus Christ.
Here we recollect the words of the daily prayer for the Polish Nation. Now we have the third generation that grew on the daily appeal, ‘O Mary, Queen of Poland, I am with you, I remember, I keep watch.’ The hour of the appeal is becoming the hour of national prayer. And the blessing granted to the Nation. Besides other prayers the daily prayer of three ‘Hail Mary’ in the intention of the Nation sounds here like a thunder moving, opening and crushing hearts.
Therefore, we are led in our prayers by the testimonies of old times and also especially the testimony of the contemporary great shepherds of our Nation – Poland’s Primates: Servants of God Cardinal August Hlond and Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski. The prayer of Blessed John Paul II, who many a time spoke about the Homeland and he claimed her matters, lives in us. For example, when in the context of Fr Maximilian’s canonisation, after the Angelus he addressed all the participants of the ceremony, ‘I ask all people of good will in the whole world to pray for the Polish Nation.’ It happened in October 1982, during the first year of marshal law.
Czestochowa is a city of pilgrims
We recollect all these matters here, in Czestochowa, since Jasna Gora is at the heart of the special city – Czestochowa. Czestochowa is a special name for our Nation in its history and the present generation. Millions of pilgrims come here very year. Hundreds of thousand pilgrims walk here, the key pilgrimage being this year the jubilee Warsaw Walking Pilgrimage (the three hundredth pilgrimage). We know that the city of Czestochowa lives and breathes pilgrimages and rejoices about them since they are special joy and source of special strength for the city. However, it is said that some regard them as problems. They want an extra tax. As pilgrims we have the right to ask, ‘On what grounds?’ Perhaps just like that, without any reason, as a whim. Since every extra tax, e.g., tax paid by tourists in national parks, is rather the repayment of the costs covered by the management of the park because of extraordinary – not ordinary – care for travellers, e.g., extra maintenance of trails in the Tatras and the services of rescuers. Here we do not see such grounds. Since all ordinary costs return to the city, for instance in increased sales. And the promotion of the city is free. Today we offer to God through the hands of the Queen Assumed into Heaven all these things – our joy of Czestochowa as the city inscribed in the spirituality of Poland and the world as well as our gratitude to this city.
The cry of Polish hearts
Thus we additionally experience in our generation, in fact in our times, a specific connection between the matters of heaven and the matters of the earth. Here we want to clarify our thinking, our reasoning, so that like Mary’s will it may be in bigger harmony with God’s thinking. Here we want to strengthen our wills so that like Mary’s will they may be subjected to God’s will. Here we want to light our hearts with God’s love so that they may burn with the life of God’s grace, so that the civilisation of love – like John Paul II cried – may come. However, this civilisation requires a new discernment and acceptance of principles according to which our personal lives as well as family, social and national lives are organised. The same principles are also needed for a proper organisation of international matters.
Is it indifferent to the history of our Nation what principles we are following now and what principles we are going to pass to next generations? And since it does matter, who is to decide about the contents of these principles, the spiritual condition of the Polish Nation? Only the nation that is the lord of its being, the nation as a whole, has such competences. Therefore, this voice is not only the voice of the MPs and those who manage state institutions. This voice is recognisable in prayer, personal and marital and family prayer, also in community of faith that we have here, more than in cabinet discussions. However, this voice is recognisable first of all in the cries of Polish hearts. The confessionals at Jasna Gora hear these cries. The Polish priests hear these cries. These are cries for a new recognition of God and ruling of his law in personal, family and social life. The hearts want the family, originating on the basis of marriage as the relationship between a man and a woman, to be the constant foundation of the power of the society and that the family may receive proper care. They want each human life, from conception to natural death, to be joy for simple people and for the government, for scientists and economists, and consequently, life should be holy and inviolable, without any legal clauses and conditions. Such a view of man develops the legal protection of the unborn, the poor and the sick. It is also the cry that the basis of economy is again ordinary, honest work of the mind and hands and not first of all tricks in stock exchange. Recently a professor of economy has told me that the present emotions that can be seen in world stock exchanges will be noticed in real economy in half a year, i.e., today we have a virtual economy, financial games in stock exchanges and actually even financial games above stock exchanges! It is gambling rather than economy. But if gambling is the basis of economy it means that economy has no stable basis. That’s why we should return to speaking about human labour and its adequate organisation. We should cry for collaboration between workers and managers again, and also for collaboration between the state and businessmen and farmers.
An example of weakness, and even lack of such a collaboration, is the issue – essential in recent weeks – of the lack of discussion on the genetically modified food. Since there are honest searches for new kinds of crops and breeding, possible to obtain, respecting the natural genetic structures of these plants but there are also wicked forms, forced changes of the genetic structures of these plants in laboratories, which is against the nature. It is violating the nature of things. We must not do that. Such activities will always, sooner or later, become harmful. The Parliament did not want to listen to such opinions. It did not allow open debates. And it is said that the law needs only the signature. Land can provide bread to all people in the natural way provided we do not waste God’s gifts, provided we respect the laws of the land and the rights of every man. If we lack such an openness of the state institutions to citizens’ opinions what can simple people do? They can appeal to the institutions and above all, they can cry to God for the miracle of collaboration.
Take rosaries in your hands!
Today, looking at the Woman adorned with the sun we are guided by the Lord’s words, Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One. And Jesus sent his disciples to proclaim, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.’ They went and proclaimed Jesus: tormented Servant of Yahweh who is at the same time resurrected Lord of lords and Kings of kings whom we should obey more than people. They proclaimed: Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father and power is in his hand, and his law strengthens the nations of the earth. His kingdom is not of this word but for this world. That’s why we cry every day, ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
King Jan Kazimierz decided about that, about the Polish land, and thinking about the Polish people he dedicated his kingdom to You, Mary. Thanks to You, Mary, we know as nation what it means to recognise God’s ruling in our personal, family and social lives. At Your feet, O Queen, we, as nation, learn the proper understanding of the enthronement of Christ as King. The programme of the Jasna Gora Vows of the Polish Nation, which was shown to the Nation and was accepted by the Nation, although it has not been fully realised, spoke about this.
We are humbly standing before you, the Queen Assumed into Heaven. And we are standing full of hope. And again we are praying for ourselves, for ourselves as nation, as Your nation and the nation of Jesus Christ. Ten righteous men could save Sodom and Gomorrah. Each of these ten can still save the whole nation. O Mary, we know that we are not the first and the only one praying this prayer. We want the quiet, confident prayer, which has been prayed for generations, to grow and become firm in our Nation. We know that others have already chosen this insistent national prayer. Let us be united in the national prayer before You. With rosaries in our hands. So many of Your faithful, simple people, have already followed this way of spiritual struggling for faith in our Nation, for strengthening the national spirit and submitting Poland to the law of Your Son. Since this law does not oppose any decent law made by people. It only completes these decent human norms but also helps discern indecent human laws and helps us work on them courageously. Mother and Queen, make these abundant prayers of simple people blessed and fruitful. And you, Sisters and Brothers, do not be afraid! The one who has heart for Poland, the one who trusts in the power of Mary’s intercession, should take a rosary and pray in these intentions. Pray for your Homeland.
Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and our Queen, our Advocate, our Patroness, our Mother, reconcile us to your Son. Lead us to Your Son on the Polish ways. Amen.
Archbishop Andrzej Dziega
The title and headings were added by the editorial board.
The text was submitted on 14 August 2011.