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Monday, May 08, 2006

The Church Extremely Militant.

We made it to the Tridentine Mass again on Sunday--the elder two were clamoring for another visit. This time, they were much better behaved. Rachel, alas, was not--no patience for it yet.

The crowd was a little bigger than the last time, and a whole lot younger.

More good news: I think the TLM is reviving the parish to a degree. There were new steps leading to the entrance, and a new parish sign proudly advertising the Mass. Moreover, there was restoration underway inside the parish itself. Emphasis on "restoration"--not renovation. The old-school Stations of the Cross--entirely in Polish--were carefully protected and prepared for resetting. Scaffolding is in place, and new ceiling paint seems to be the order of the day.

Maddie: "This is the most beautiful church I've ever seen." Of that, I have no doubt. When she is of an age to travel, I'll direct her to Santa Maria Assunta on the island of Torcello in Italy. I'm pretty sure her Dad's rabid love of all things Byzantine will prove contagious. OK--most things Byzantine--the blindings and mutilations aren't on the list.

Moving on.

One of the great things about the old iconophile churches is that you are always noticing new details, or appreciating old details in a new way. This time, it was the former: somehow, I just noticed a major mural in the church this weekend.

In a remarkable coincidence, I read Tom's post on the Black Madonna of Czestochowa last Friday. I was familiar with the Black Madonna beforehand, having read and re-read James Michener's Poland, which features the icon--and has great battle scenes--as a teenager. We attend a parish which is about half Polish and has two Polish priests, so the Prices are well on our way to becoming honorary Poles--that is, if the Italian half of the parish doesn't get us first. But the Poles are in the lead--our one relic is from St. Faustina, and both our priests allow the kids to punctuate the liturgy with misbehavior short of confessed contract hits, so the Italians have some catching up to do.

So, as I am looking up to the immediate left of St. Josaphat's high altar, I spot a mural with some odd details. No, not the Virgin standing in the sky above a river, surrounded by the heavenly hosts, but the details below--soldiers? Modern soldiers? With rifles?

Yes--and also abandoned Maxim guns. I start craning my neck to get more details, but I already know what it is--it's the Battle of Warsaw, August 1920, a/k/a Cud nad Wisla, the Miracle at the Vistula.

In fact, the mural is a copy of this painting:


Picture credit here.

Yep, the mural even has the priest raising the crucifix as the Poles send Tukhachevsky's Red hordes into pell-mell retreat. Apparently, it wasn't quite triumphant enough for the exultant parishoners, who prevailed upon the artist to make it obvious that the Polish biplane was strafing the Russians.

I'll see you your Santiago Matamoros, and raise you the Miracle at the Vistula. Make sure you stop by to see St. Josaphat when you are in town.

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