Our Lord and Our Lady are Waiting for Us
Author: Michael Hichborn, President, Lepanto Institute
When I was in Rome in 2016, I wandered through the streets and popped into every church I saw along the way, and in one place I discovered this magnificent statue of Our Lady. The area in which the statue was placed was a rather narrow hallway, so there wasn’t enough room for me to maneuver to be able to take a full-length photo, so I’ll show it to you in parts here.
Up above, you see Our Lady holding up Our Lord, and both are looking down with somber expressions. Our Lady is standing on the edge of a cliff, and next to her right leg is a lighthouse, and beside the cliff is a ship taking on water and being dashed against the face of the cliff.
What Our Lord and Our Lady are looking down on is the ship.
The symbolism of the statue is clear, and I think very poignant for our time. The ship represents the Barque of Peter, which is the symbol of Holy Mother Church. The Church is symbolized by a ship for many reasons; It was a ship which saved two of every animal and the last eight human beings in the world from a global flood; it was from a ship by which Our Lord delivered His first sermon; It was by ship that the apostles transported Our Lord and themselves during His three-year ministry. The thing is, if the ship represents the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, then the waters on which the ship rests represent the world. Why is there no salvation outside the Barque of Peter? Because there is no salvation to be found in the world.
Back to the statue.
The ship at Our Lady’s feet is taking on water and being dashed against the cliff upon which she is standing. I could contemplate this very image until the day I die and never tire of it. When I saw the image, I kept wondering why the ship is taking on water?
If the waters represent the world, then the ship taking on water could only mean that there is too much of the world within it! One of the common and most oft-repeated phrases to come out of the Second Vatican Council was that they threw open the windows of the Church to let the air in. That is to say, they were inviting the world to come into the Church. But again, if the world is represented by the waters upon which a ship rests, then to invite the world into the Church is just as antithetical to the Church as a ship opening up its hulls to invite the water in.
So, the ship in the image is taking on water because the waters were invited in, and just as Peter walked upon the water, only to sink when he took his eyes away from Our Blessed Lord, so also will the ship begin to sink when its focus and attention is not upon the lighthouse – the light of Our Lord shone through Our Lady.
Today, our beloved Church is indeed sinking. In the words of the poet William Wordsworth, “The world is too much with us.”
But rather than focusing on the sinking ship, let us turn our eyes above and see that Our Lady still holds out Our Lord for us to see, waiting for us to cry out for help as the Apostles did when they awakened Our Lord in the midst of a storm. We are sinking, yes, but we have not yet sunk, and Holy Mother Church will never completely sink to the bottom.
Our Lord and Our Lady are waiting for us, with somber gazes, to cry out for their help. As we celebrate Our Lady’s glorious Assumption this Sunday, let us ask her to take with her our cries, petitions, sufferings, and desires for salvation.