Thursday, 8 August 2013

Behold and See - Part Five

Passing into the courtyard of the cathedral, Hanka noted that the crowd was being kept in good order by several men wearing altar-servers' frocks, gently moving everyone forward towards one of the side entrances. Log scaffolding covered much of the front and side of the building, which had suffered significant damage during the war. There was a long wait to enter; it was nearly eleven o'clock and time for Mass.

It was cool and dark inside when Hanka was finally admitted, part of a group of 20 or 30 worshippers. The cathedral was full, but there were many people filing out, from the previous mass. That familiar scent of incense and candles reassured Hanka. Around her, many of the faithful began to weep as the entered; a satisfaction of being in the presence of a wondrous miracle. People filed into pews, everyone wanting to be as near as possible to the painting, which was where it always had been, to the left of the high altar, in full view of the entire cathedral. The church wardens bade the visitors be seated so that all could behold the painting.

Hanka was some six or seven rows back, never having been inside such a huge church. She could clearly see it. In front of her, she could hear prayer, mumbled rosaries, the choking back of sobs, all lost in a greater silence. Some altar boys prepared the altar for the next mass.

Suddenly, a gasp - "There! See! A tear! See! She weeps! She weeps blood!" Hanka leaned forward... Indeed. She could just make out a small, dark red bead, the size of her thumbnail, which had appeared, glistening, in the corner of the Madonna's right eye, and had started rolling slowly down the cheek, towards Her scars.

Hanka would never experience the same manifestations of spiritual ecstasy as she did that moment. She prayed - she prayed to forget; she prayed for an end to her fears, she prayed for happiness in her life.

Hugged from within by a loving kindness, her own eyes brimmed with tears of joy, an overwhelming conviction that at last all would be well. A sudden calmness and clarity of mind washed over Hanka. She felt blessed, cleansed and whole. Around her, she experienced the feeling that others were experiencing something similar. Spontaneously she rose to her feet, standing on the wooden kneeler in front of her; she threw her arms in the air, waving her fingers, wanting to catch that miraculous air that filled the cathedral. Dozens of people beside her, behind her, also stood up. She did not want that moment to pass, that experience to fade. That sensation within her was so strong; a powerful sense of peace, security and love of life. The bad things that had happened to her, that she'd witnessed - she felt them shrinking at an accelerating pace into a small dark blemish on the handrail of the pew before her - and then disappear.

Eventually the moment would fade as a peal of altar bells and the antiphon ad introitus signalled the beginning of Holy Mass. Hanka stayed, keeping her eyes on the Madonna and the moist track glistening on the painting's cheek. By the end of mass, as the congregation filed out of the cathedral, those who stayed on a little longer in front of the Madonna had noticed that the painting was completely dry.

Hanka returned that night hungry but happy to her aunt's house. After she left Lublin, the authorities cracked down on the manifestation of the miraculous painting. A few days later, many people were trampled, and a young woman died, after a plank was thrown from the top of the scaffolding into the crowd gathering to enter the cathedral. There was a panic, a fear that the building was toppling. The communists used public safety as a cover for repressions, arresting over 300 people including several priests and laymen from the cathedral. By the end of that month, the hubbub had subsided.

For Hanka, 64 years on, the events of Sunday 10 July 1949 would remain firmed etched in her memory; she can bring about the same, exact spiritual state she experienced that day back in total clarity at will. That blessed memory had helped her throughout her long and happy life; long may it continue to do so.

This time last year:
Syrenki in Warsaw

This time two years ago:
What's the Polish for 'impostor'?

This time three years ago:
Running with the storm on the road to Mamrotowo

This time five years ago:
St Pancras Station - new gateway to London

This time six years ago:
Mountains or sea? North Wales has them both

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Dembinski for well
written short story. I wish Hanka
long and happy life. Her memories
are accurate and in tune with my own, however; I was not witnessing
"the July 3rd 1949 Miracle in Lublin", but follow the propaganda story communist regime papers
delivered to the population and real story told by persons like
Hanka. Thank you again.
Joseph Srodulski of Suffolk, VA.