In September, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI paid a special visit to a Pietà located in the shrine at Etzelsbach (Thuringia), Germany. Every year there is a traditional equestrian pilgrimage, which is held on the second Sunday after the feast of the Visitation. This commemorates the healing of horses who were cured when taken to the shrine during an equine epidemic.
The Holy Father obviously loves the pilgrimage site and has pondered deeply the miraculous image contained within. Located in East Germany, it survived most recently the Nazi reign of terror and the Communist takeover of the region. Here are excerpts of his relfections:
“In most representations of the Pietà, the dead Jesus is lying with his head facing left, so that the observer can see the wounded side of the Crucified Lord,” explained the Pontiff. “Here in Etzelsbach, however, the wounded side is concealed, because the body is facing the other way.”
It seems to the Holy Father that “the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; they come close to each other. They exchange their love.”
“It is not self-fulfilment that truly enables people to flourish…. Rather it is an attitude of self-giving directed towards the heart of Mary and hence also towards the heart of the Redeemer.”
Happy Feast of the Visitation!