The Virgin appeared in a glorious light, surrounded by
a host of seraphim and was extremely beautiful. She wore an imperial crown
and had a girdle adorned with jewels that surpassed the beauty of the
stars. On her shoulders was a blue mantle. On her left arm, she carried
the Child Jesus. With her right hand, she lifted a sinful soul from the
horrible throat of Hell, keeping it from falling back in. On the other
side, a kneeling angel held up a basket filled with hearts, which he presented
to the Divine Child in His mother's arms. He took the hearts one at a
time and inflamed them with his love. The Virgin Mary said she wished
to be called Maria Madre Santissima del Lume (Mary Most
Holy Mother of Light), and repeated it three times, and said
not to forget that.
The pious lady returned to Father Genovesi and recounted
all that the Virgin had said, and he quickly found a painter and gave
him the instructions. The lady did not go to the painter's studio out
of modesty, the priest did not supervise the work, and the result was
not satisfactory. The choir of angels was lacking, there was a crescent
moon beneath her feet, and her robe was red rather than white. As a result,
the Virgin Mary did not give a promised sign of approval.
Father Genovesi asked the woman to go to the painter,
but she was extremely busy with family matters in Bagheria, which is some
distance from Palermo, and couldn't get away. The Virgin, however, appeared
to her again and said she needed her in Palermo. The woman, in turn, protested
that since the Virgin had all the resources of Paradise, how could such
a vile worm as she carry out such an important task, and, anyway, there
was no way she could get away. The Virgin responded that whether or not
she felt she could go to Palermo she would, in no uncertain terms. As
a result, the woman was hit with a terrible pain in her chest and lost
her voice. There seemed to be no cure, and she was taken to Palermo where
the air was more temperate and healthy. In fact, after she arrived she
was soon healed.
Once the woman was in Palermo, and healed, she was visited
again by the Virgin. The lady said both she and the priest were very disappointed
that the painting didn't turn out right and asked if a new one should
be made. The Virgin responded positively, and this notice was taken to
Father Genovesi who arranged for a new painting to be done. It was the
custom of the Virgin to send a guardian angel to her "servant"
the evening before to warn that she would appear after the woman had received
communion. The woman, following instructions, then went to the painter's
studio where she found him ready to begin work. The Virgin had said that
she would meet her there, but only she would have the vision. The woman
was to instruct the painter, but the Virgin would guide his brush. This
in fact, happened, and the work was accomplished to the satisfaction of
the Virgin. Although numerous copies were subsequently made, none approached
the perfection of the original. Even the painter himself could not duplicate
exactly his first work.
The picture of the Madre Santissima del Lume was always carried by Father Genovesi in his mission. Each time the people
of a certain place would know that he and the picture were coming, they
would wholeheartedly prepare their chapel or church, and the altar on
which the holy picture will be enshrined. The arrival of the priest and
the picture was always met by many people holding flowers or lighted candles.
According to tradition, the visitation of the picture would always result
in great love and devotion to the Virgin, thereby making it very difficult
for the people to part with the picture. This started the practice of
leaving a faithful copy of the picture in the chapel or church of the
place visited by Father Genovesi.
The devotion to Our Lady rapidly spread to the community
of the faithful in Noviziato al Capo, where in 1736 a group was
formed which became the Confratemita della Madonna del Lume
al Noviziato. On February 6, 1736, Pope Clement
XII authorized through an apostolic letter the veneration of
the Virgin Mary under this title. Moreover with the same document, the
feast of the Virgin was established on the Second Sunday of September,
and a plenary indulgence was granted to those who will
participate in the Mass on the feast day. In Palermo, the Virgin is the
patroness of carpenters, while in Porticello, also in Sicily, she is the
patroness of fishermen. It is unfortunate that the original picture painted
in 1722 was destroyed with the church of Casa Professa when it
suffered bombardment during the war in 1943.
KABANAL-BANALANG IN A NG KALIWANAGAN [Most Holy
Mother of Light]
A few years after the birth of the devotion to the Mother
of Light in Palermo, the devotion was introduced in Cainta (Philippines)
by the Jesuits in 1727. The Jesuit missionary ministering
in Cainta during that time, Father Bartolommeo Cavanti (al Gavanti),
SJ, may have been instrumental in introducing the devotion, since
he came from Ferrara, Italy. The devotion to Our Lady in Cainta preceded
by some years the same devotion introduced by the Jesuits in Guanajuato,
Mexico (1732); Loon, Bohol (1753); and to the Nuestra Senora de Salvacion introduced by the Franciscans in Horoan, Tiwi, Albay (1776). The devotion
also spread in Italy, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Peru. Since then, Our Lady
has been called by various titles, e.g. Nuestra Senora de
la Luz/Lumen, Our Lady of Light, Kabanal-banalang Ina ng Kaliwanagan,
or Inang Santisima ng Kaliwanagan.
The holy picture of the Our Lady of Light brought by
the Jesuits has a gilded frame and crest, and was enshrined in one of
the colaterales (side altars) of the church of Cainta. Before 1853, the holy picture was transferred to the retablo
mayor (main altar). Above it was the image of St. Andrew the Apostle,
the patron principal, and on both sides were the images of St. Anthony
of Padua, and St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Unfortunately, the original picture
of Our Lady was burned with the church in March 1899. Nevertheless, there are two existing faithful copies of the original picture.
The first is an 1801 print that has a description at the bottom which
would read like this when written fully: "Verdadero retrato de Nuestra
Senora Reina del Universo Maria Santisima Madre de Lumen que se venera
en la Iglesia de Cainta en su propria capilla a solicitud y expensa de
ciertos devotos de esta gran Senora en el ano de 1801" (Real image
of Our Lady Queen of the Universe Mary Most Holy Mother of Light, which
is venerated in the church of Cainta in her own chapel,thanks to the care
and generosity of certain devotees of this great Lady, in the year 1801).
Copies of this print were usually given to those who would give donations
to Our Lady, and to this day, there are a few homes in Cainta where such
a copy is enshrined. The second faithful copy of the original picture
is a charcoal painting by Mariano Javier of Cainta, which he did in 1857. The picture has certain
similarities to the 1801 print. Its care has been handed down to the descendants
of Mariano, from Pablo Javier to Guadalupe Javier. At present, it is in
the care of Mrs. Flora Javier Buenviaje. In this painting, Our Lady was
identified as "Ma. Sma. Madre de la Luz."
The devotion to Our Lady has also been manifested in
two of the three antique bells of the church which are still used at present.
A small campana de vuelo or esquila was named after
"Nuestra Senora de la Luz" in 1835. A huge bell casted on November
15, 1883 by Fundicion de Hilario Sunico was named after "Nuestra
Senora de la Lumen." As the devotion to Our Lady became widespread,
she became the segunda patrona of Cainta.
The first Tagalog novena to Our Lady of Light, entitled Pag dedevocion at Pag sisiam sa casantasantahang Virgen ng
Caliuanagan [Devotion and Novena to the Most Holy Virgin
of Light], was prepared by Don Luis Remedios, secretary
of the Archbishop of Manila, Fray Pedro Payo, O.P., upon
the request of the parish priest of Cainta during that time, Don
Mariano (de) San Juan. The permission to publish it was given
by the Archbishop in September 16, 1884. By this time,
Our Lady was considered titular of the Church of Cainta.
Inasmuch as the original picture of Our Lady of Light
perished with the church in 1899, it was deemed proper to have a new picture
commissioned in 1950 from no less than Mr. Fernando
Amorsolo, a nationally renowned artist. The parish priest of
Cainta during this time was Father Joseph Flameygh, C.I.C.M. This painting of Our Lady is noteworthy in some aspects. The faces of
the Virgin and the Child Jesus have Filipino features. The Holy Child,
which appears to be holding only one heart with his left hand, is actually
holding another one with his left hand. It did not become noticeable since
the color of the heart seems to blend with the red tunic of the Holy Child.
A closer look, however, reveals that the Christ Child is really holding
close to his heart a soul that has not yet been inflamed by his love.
It is flesh in color with traces of vein-like lines. The painting was
initially enshrined in the semi-concrete chapel that served as a temporary
church. After the reconstruction and solemn blessing of the church of
Cainta in 1968, the Virgin was enshrined in her own chapel inside the
church, together with a smaller version of the painting of the Madonna
and Child, and an image of St. Andrew.
The feast of Our Lady of Light has been celebrated in
Cainta since 1853 or even earlier, on December 1, after
the feast of St. Andrew. The Virgin has a secondary feast which is observed
on Thursday after Pentecost Sunday. For her primary feast, the novena
begins on November 21, while for the secondary feast, the novena commences
on Tuesday before Pentecost Sunday. There are also other forms of devotion
to Our Lady such as the daily prayer to her in the morning and before
going to bed, the prayer to the Holy Spirit and to Our Lady, and the Siete
Sabados or Seven Saturdays preceding her feast day. All of these
can be found in the revised prayerbook entitled Pagdedebosyon at Pagsisiyam
sa Kabanal-banalang Ina ng Kaliwanagan: Patrona ng Cainta (1727-2007).
In Cainta, the Virgin is recognized as the patroness of reconciliation
and those seeking conversion.
May the devotion to Our Lady of Light lead to Jesus who
said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk
in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).
— Michael P. de los Reyes