She Who Directs Our Gaze to the Heavens
In one of his last works, the baroque painter Pietro Bianichi (1694-1740) executed an image of Our Blessed Lady’s Immaculate Conception. The painting sits in the Roman basilica of Santa Maria deli Angeli, a church renowned for its famous meridian line (constructed at the behest of Pope Clement XI by Francesco Bianchini)–a feat of scientific excellence. Within a decade of its painting, a mosaic of the image was commissioned for St. Peter’s Basilica. On December 8, 1854, Blessed Pope Pius IX, in a splendid ceremony to mark the definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, crowned the image. Fifty years later, Pope St. Pius X added a second crown–one of stars, made brilliant with diamonds donated from the peoples of several nations.
It is appropriate that the same church houses the Immaculate Conception as depicted by Bianichi and the great meridian constructed by Bianchini. The charting of the stars and the movements of the heavens not only provided great and further impetus to the study of astronomy, it allowed an accurate charting of time and the reform of the calendar. The marking of the hours and the seasons allows us to be in harmony with nature and the universe as all creation tends toward the unchanging and eternal God. In a way, this instrument puts the whole universe in harmony as it worships the God who is above the stars. Yet, He is the God who intimately works in the lives of his creatures; who came to one of his creatures in particular to crown her with the stars and put the moon under her feet. Today is the day we celebrate the one who, at the formation of the stars, was in the mind of her Son; the creature who turned the fallen universe right side up and allowed the same universe to direct its gaze back to the heavens. Blessed Pius IX said it best:
We repose Our entire and absolute confidence in the certainty of Our hopes: namely, the Blessed Virgin who, utterly beautiful and immaculate, has crushed the venomous head of the cruel serpent and brought salvation to the world. She who is the praise of prophets and apostles, the honor of martyrs, the joy and crown of all the saints; she who is the sure refuge and invincible helper of all that are in peril, the world’s all-powerful mediatrix and conciliatrix with her unique Son, the glory, the splendor, and safeguard of the Holy Church, has always destroyed all heresies; she has snatched away faithful peoples and nations from the greatest calamities and from ills of all kinds, and has delivered Us from the innumerable perils that have assailed Us.
By her powerful patronage the Blessed Virgin will ensure that, all obstacles being removed, all errors conquered, the Holy Catholic Church, our Mother, will grow stronger and flourish more and more every day among all peoples and all countries, reigning from one sea to the other, from river-banks to the earth’s extremities, fully enjoying peace, tranquillity, and liberty, so that the guilty may obtain pardon, the sick a remedy, the weak strength of soul, the down-hearted consolation, and those in peril succor; so that all who are in error, seeing the darkness of their minds dispersed, may return to the path of truth and justice, where there is only one flock and one shepherd.–Blessed Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus
This article, She Who Directs Our Gaze to the Heavens is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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