02 December 2011

Memorial in the Order of Malta - Our Lady of Liesse

Today is a feast day for the Order of Malta, for Our Lady of Liesse, who is more commonly known by the title “Cause of Our Joy.”

The Collect from the Missal of the Order:

O God, who brought joy to the world by the Incarnation of Christ your Son, grant to us, who honor his Mother as Cause of our Joy, the grace to follow your commandments and to set our hearts on the true joys of heaven. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Prophet Zechariah 2, 14-17
Gospel of Luke 1, 39-47

There are a couple versions on the origin of the statue and it’s relation to the Order of Malta.

An ancient statue of Our Lady and child was brought from Egypt to northern France at the same time of the Crusades by three knights of our Order who had been captured by Saracens and later released. It was enshrined at Liesse, near Laon, in the diocese of Soissons (France). The original statue was destroyed during the French Revolution, Pbut the medieval basilica at Liesse remained a centre of devotion to the Mother of God: a new statue was installed and crowned there in 1857. Our Lady of Liesse is the patron of the diocese of Soissons and the focus of pilgrimages, especially an annual pilgrimage on Whit Monday.

Three knight’s, Lords of Eppes, set forth for the crusade to defend the tomb of Christ (towards 1134). The knights are caught in an ambush and taken to Cairo, in Egypt, as prisoners. The Sultan tries to persuade the knights to become Muslims. They resist pressure from the Sultan and the scribes. The sultan sends them his daughter, Princess Ismerie, to see if she can persuade them. The three Knights proclaim to her the Good News: "Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the Son of God." Princess Ismerie asks for an image of Jesus and Mary, but the knights do not know how to sculpt images. They pray, and that night the Angel of the Lord brings them a little statue. When Ismerie returns to them, she becomes more and more interested in their faith in Jesus Christ. Princess Ismerie, amazed at the statue, takes it to her apartments. During the night, Mary appears to her, asking her to free the knights from prison and to become a Christian. Princess Ismerie freed the prisoners and, trusting in the protection of God and Mary, she goes with them.

She carries with her the statue of Our Lady. Having crossed the Nile and exhausted by this long march, they fall asleep. When they awake, they find themselves near a village called Liance. Our Lady of Liance will soon become Our Lady of Liesse. Princess Ismerie is baptized by Blessed Barthelemi de Vir, Bishop of Laon. For 850 years, the Kings and Queens of France as well as pilgrims from every nation (50 000 to 100 000 each year) have come here to venerate Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she who is the Cause of our Joy, 'Laetitia', or Our Lady of Liesse.

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