The Sorrowful Mother

IMG_0041cropIn Warfhuizen, a village in the extreme north of the Netherlands, on a richly decorated altar in the chapel of a local hermitage, stands a large statue of the Blessed Virgin. She sheds tears over the suffering of her Son. Every year, between May and October, she is visited there by thousands of people. They come to ask Mary to pray for their needs, or to thank her for blessings they have received. For that reason, hundreds of silver glass hearts shimmer behind the statue, every one a silent testimony of someone who was heard by Mary.

Despite the fact that Mary in Warfhuizen is in tears, it is not a sorrowful pilgrimage. The faithful celebrate that Mary’s sorrow has turned to joy. That is first noticeable in the festive clothing that Our Lady in the chapel usually wears. Through the resurrection of Jesus her sorrow has gotten a completely different meaning. Her crown also testifies to that. In Jerusalem, Mary certainly didn’t wear magnificent and flamboyant dresses when she stood under the cross. When we do depict her as such, we mean something else by it.

An image in code

You could say that the statue of Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed is an image in code. Its meaning is not what you think it is on first sight, but reveals itself only to those who think it over for a while. That is very fitting for a statue that is called “Garden Enclosed”.

Garden Enclosed?

Statues which are especially honoured (the Dutch language has an untranslatable word for them which roughly means something like “mercy statues”), are often given a title. In Warfhuizen Mary has a whole raft of names, because the faithful keep making up new ones: “Our Lady of Warfhuizen,” “Mary of Warfhuizen,” the “Sorrowful Mother of Warfhuizen” and so on. But the statue’s official title is “Our Lady of the Garden Enclosed”. The Garden Enclosed is mentioned in the Song of Songs. It symbolises a safe place where new Light is born, like Jesus grew in Mary’s womb. It is a title for Mary which is used often by hermits and Carthusians.