We begin with the miraculous tradition by which
this painting found its way from a little home in Jerusalem to
Czestochowa, Poland, 1300 years later? Where do you start?
I guess the beginning would be best.
Tradition tells us that St. Luke painted the original image of
Our Lady on a table top in St. Joseph’s workshop in Nazareth.
We truly believe that St. Luke sat at the feet of Mary and listened
to Her tell about the Miraculous Conception and Birth of Our Lord Jesus.
St. Luke is the only one of the four Gospel writers
who describes in detail the events from the Annunciation of the
Angel Gabriel to Our Lady, through the Visitation, the Birth of
Jesus, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Finding of Our
Lord Jesus in the Temple. Where would he have gotten this
information if not sitting at Her feet, listening in awe to this,
the most beautiful Woman the world has ever known?
And why not, while he was listening to Her, could he not
have painted a picture of Her, or drawn a sketch which later
could become a statue of Her (Our Lady of Loreto)? There are
many writings which justify this theory. From the early days,
writers such as Sixtus of Siena and Nicefar (a Roman writer)
both wrote that St. Luke painted the image of Our Lady.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of images of
Our Lady, most of them created through the inspiration of the
Holy Spirit by the hands of mankind (men or women). All are
limited in their ability to capture the beauty of the Mother of
God, except two. One is the image which was painted by the
Divine Artist, brought to earth by the Angels and deposited on
the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico in 1531. This is undoubtedly
the truest image of Our Lady we will ever see. The Artist was
The second image was made firsthand by a person who was
standing or sitting or kneeling in Her presence as he put the
image on canvas, or in this case, on a table top, which, according
to tradition, was made by Our Lord Jesus as a young Man. It is
believed, the artist was St. Luke, the physician, the Evangelist,
the artist. To our way of thinking (and now, don’t take this as
church teaching, this is Bob and Penny Lord), he was inspired
by the Holy Spirit. To repeat, to our way of thinking, what
gives it away is Our Lady’s eyes.
There are expressions and expressions on images of Our
Lady. But none that we have seen have the pain and suffering
Our Lady experienced in Her lifetime. Nor does any other image
of Our Lady depict the overwhelming sadness which
cries out in that painting by St. Luke. Not even the re-creation
of the scene at the foot of the Cross, where Our Lady holds
Her Beloved Son’s limp, bleeding Body in Her arms – the
Pieta, captures the anguish of Our Lady, painted by St. Luke.
Not even those images of Our Lady standing at the foot of the
Cross, painted by some of the most gifted artists, who have
attempted to capture those moments, have the depth of sadness
in the eyes of Our Lady depicted by St. Luke.
It had to be done while he sat in front of Her, listening as
She recounted Her life story to him. There were most likely
moments when Her eyes lit up, and She smiled, remembering
special times in Her life with Her Son and St. Joseph. Perhaps
the very occasion He made the table, upon which St. Luke was
painting Her portrait, was a joyful moment. But then there
were other times, when St. Luke could almost see what She
could see – the Passion, Crucifixion and Death of Her Son.
How sad, how overpoweringly sad it had to be, for Her to look
out at the world with such agony coming from deep within Her
heart, rising up into Her eyes, and then spilling out for all the
world to see and know.
As we’ve said before, there have been many portraits of Our
Lady made over the centuries. She is the most popular Woman
the world has ever known. And of those paintings, there are so
many diverse expressions on Her face, you can’t count all of
them. But there has never been a painting made of Our Lady
which begins to compare with the raw, naked emotion of the
painting of Our Lady in Czestochowa. And because the artist
had so profoundly personal a relationship with Our Lady, we
concur that it could very well have been St. Luke. Why not?