Miraculous Image of Etzelsbach: 2 Hearts Turned to Each Another

Revisiting Benedict XVIs Contemplation of a Special Pietà

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By Britta Dorre

ROME, MAY 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The shrine at Etzelsbach is in the region of the Eichsfeld, about 10 kilometres from Heiligenstadt, in the federal state of Thuringia in central Germany. The origin of the shrine dates back to the 16th century. The site is mentioned for the first time in 1525, when the chapel of the “Zu Unserer Lieben Frauen” pilgrimage was set on fire during the peasant war (Bauernkrieg, 1524-1526).

Originally Etzelsbach belonged to the monastery of Beuren; after the closing of the Cistercian foundation in 1555, it passed to the parish of Sankt Mauritius, at Steinbach.

According to tradition, the miraculous image there was rediscovered accidentally by a peasant, while ploughing his fields. It has had an important role since 1625, in particular during the traditional equestrian pilgrimage, which is held every year on the second Sunday after the feast of the Visitation. In the nearby village of Wingerode, a serious equine sickness broke out in 1625 and the animals taken to the shrine were healed. Since then when the horses arrive at the chapel of Etzelsbach they make three circuits around the building.

The present aspect of the neo-Gothic chapel goes back to the plan of architects Paschalis Gratze and Fritz Cordier of 1897-98. The miraculous image is kept in the chapel – it is a 16th century wooden statue that represents the Pietà.

On September 23, 2011, during his apostolic visit to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI called attention to the position of the Crucified during the celebration of Vespers at Etzelsbach. “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 me that a deep meaning lies hidden in this representation, that only becomes apparent through silent contemplation,” continued the Pontiff. “In the Etzelsbach image, the hearts of Jesus and his mother are turned to one another; the hearts come close to each other. They exchange their love. We know that the heart is also the seat of the deepest affection and the most intimate compassion. In Mary’s heart there is room for the love that her divine Son wants to bestow upon the world.”

“At the foot of the Cross, Mary becomes our fellow traveller and protector on life’s journey,” explained the Holy Father, who also recalled the words of Lumen Gentium (n. 62) of Vatican Council II: “By her motherly love she cares for her son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.”

“Yes indeed, in life we pass through high-points and low-points, but Mary intercedes for us with her Son and helps us to discover the power of his divine love, and to open ourselves to that love,” the Pontiff said at Etzelsbach.

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