“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1)
As I drove to work this morning, I saw the moon in the clear, pre-dawn sky- a crescent, and off to its right, a single bright star. Immediately, I was reminded of Islam, and their crescent moon and star symbol (as depicted on the flags of Pakistan and Turkey, for example). Considering what day this is, my mind started whirring around as I drove to work. I remembered where I was when I heard the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center 14 years ago today (sleeping in at Bible College, thinking my dorm mates were watching a movie way too loudly). I then thought about the feeling of almost conspiratorial intrigue I felt when I later learned that September 11 wasn’t a random date to the terrorists, but harkened back to the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in the battle of Vienna in AD 1683, which put an end to their incursions into Europe and led to the re-Christianisation of southeastern Europe.
It was in honour of the Christian victory at Vienna, and in gratitude for Our Lady’s help, that the pope instituted the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary to be celebrated on the Sunday in the octave of the Nativity of Mary. For some reason, when the new liturgical calendar was promulgated in 1969, this feast was removed. I hesitate to speculate as to the motives behind that decision, but in 2002, on the first anniversary of 9/11, Pope St. John Paul II reinstated the feast, setting it fixedly on the 12th (the date that the aforementioned battle of Vienna was won) in an act of spiritual defiance to the enemies of Christ and as an expression of audacious hope in the midst of a spiritually dark world.
Which, in the end, brought me to remember our persecuted brothers and sisters in Syria and elsewhere, suffering under the brutal regime of the Islamic State. Their plight can seem so hopeless, and it feels like there just isn’t anything, or not enough, that we can do. Yet we can hold on to hope by recalling the same heavenly sign–that on that crescent moon stands the Woman, who crushes the head of the serpent, giving birth to the Messiah who rules all nations with a rod of iron. As she has in the past when her name has been invoked, such as at the battle of Lepanto (1573) and at the aforementioned battle of Vienna, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Victory, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and her Divine Son will overcome in the end.
I exhort everyone who reads this blog to join me in praying the Rosary daily from the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary (Sept 12) until the Feast of the Holy Rosary (Oct 7) for an end to ISIS’s persecution of Christians in Syria and elsewhere.
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