The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 42.

At Patna, the Brahman Hindu governor of the province visited the Church and prayed before the statue of Our Lady. In one tiny village of Kesra Mec, more than 24,000 people came to see the statue. The Rajah sent two hundred and fifty rupees and his wife sent a petition of prayers. Greetings were read in six languages at Hy Derabid Sind. At Karachi an exception was made by the Moslems to favor her; whenever the Christians there hold a procession, they are obliged to cease praying whenever they pass a mosque. But on this occasion they were permitted by the Moslems to pray before any mosque along their way.

In Africa, the Mother plays an important role in tribal justice. In Northwestern Uganda, where the White Fathers labor with astounding zeal and success, every major decision, even the celebration of the coronation of the King, must be submitted to the Queen Mother. Anything she disapproves is put aside; her judgment is final. This is based on the assumption that she knows her son: she knows what will please or displease him. When the Queen Mother comes to the palace of her son, the King, she rules in his stead. One of the reasons why there were not two more martyrs among the famous martyrs of Uganda in Africa is because the pagan Queen Mother interceded for them. When the son becomes King, the son must sit on her lap before leaving for the ceremony, as if to bear witness to the fact that he is her child. The Queen Mother of the Batusti people in Rwanda is so influential among her people that the colonial government tries to keep her at a distance from her son, King Mutari II; both are converts to the faith,

India, too, has had its history in which woman played her role. Its peoples are descended from the Dravidians, the early barbaric tribes who intermingled with Aryan invaders about 1500 years before Christ. In the Dravidic hymns, virgins, like the Durgas and Kalis, were venerated. Hinduism became polytheistic, and a multiplicity of gods were adored; among the Hindus the virgins were almost simultaneously symbols of sweetness and terror, a combination which is not too difficult to understand. There is sweetness where there is love; there is also fear and terror, because that love is for the highest alone and is intolerant of all that surrenders to less than divinity.

Because of the want of authority and also because of the tolerant Pantheism in religion in India, the feminine principle degenerated into something that seemed stupid to the Western mind, namely, the veneration of the Sacred Cow. Even in this decay of the feminine principle, there is to be detected a grain of truth. The cow to the Hindu fulfills many functions. Religiously, she is the symbol of the best gift that one can give to the Brahmans; to kill a cow is one of the Hindu's worst sins and can rarely be atoned by penance and purification. To the prince and peasant alike, the cow is his holy mother. He would even have the cow present when he dies, so that he may hold her tail as he breathes his last. Looking back on his life, he is indebted to her for her milk and butter; for his warmth, since it was her dung that was used as fuel, and her dung that coated the walls of his dwelling; and for his sustenance, since it was the cow, again, that pulled his cart and plow.

As one of the learned Hindu members said in the Legislative Assembly; "Call it prejudice, call it passion, call it the height of religion, but this is an undoubted fact, that in the Hindu mind nothing is so deep-rooted as the sanctity of the cow." Though the Western world makes fun of this symbol of religion, it is nevertheless a kind of glorification of motherhood and femininity in religion. When the Hindus come to a knowledge of how much the feminine principle in religion actually prepared for Christianity, they will reclaim the cow as the symbol of the feminine, as the Jews use the lily and the dove and the ray of light. In one of the beautiful paintings of the Nativity by Alfred Thomas of Madras, India, a Madonna Mother is pictured in her saffron sari as she sits cross-legged upon the earth. There is a straw roof over her head, supported from a growing tree trunk to which the Sacred Cow is tethered. Other nations of the earth have used the lion and the eagle as the symbols of their ideals; the Hindu people have taken the cow as the symbol of their religion, not fully understanding its meaning until Christianity gives them the true feminine principle: the Mother of God. If a lamb can be used by the Holy Spirit as the symbol of Christ, Who sacrificed Himself for the world, then one is wrong to frown upon the Indian for taking, as the symbol of his faith, an animal who gave him all that he needed for his life.

Japan, too, has its feminine principle of religion. For centuries, the Goddess of Mercy called Kwanon has been venerated. It is interesting that the Buddhists, who already know this Goddess of Mercy, and who have come to learn of the Blessed Mother, have seen the first as the preparation for the second. Becoming Christian, there is no need for such Buddhists to turn their back on Kwanon as evil; rather, they accept her as the far-off foreshadowing of the woman who was not a Goddess, but the Mother of Mercy Itself. Very becomingly, the Japanese artist Takahira Toda, who came from a family of Buddhist priests, became a member of Christ's Mystical Body after seeing the similarity between Kwanon and the Virgin Mary. In his picture "The Visitation of Mary," he reveals the typical Japanese Virgin, demure and solitary, who has just felt within herself the full meaning of the words she pronounced to the angel, "Be it done unto me according to Thy word." A painting of the Nativity by the Japanese artist, Teresa Kimiko Koseki, pictures the babyhood of Our Lord, and here only one characteristic distinguishes the Japanese Madonna from the countless other mothers of Japan and that is the halo of light above her head. In a very extraordinary painting by Luke Hasegawa, the Blessed Mother appears standing, surrounded by a wire fence which may either signify a fenced-in missionary compound or, perhaps, a home, where motherhood is best understood. From this enclosure the Madonna, towering almost as high as the mountains in the background, looks down with affection upon the city and the harbor and the world of commerce not yet conscious, perhaps, that she is the true Kwanon for whom the Japanese have been longing for centuries.

Wherever the people are primitive, in the right sense of the term, there is devotion to motherhood. The so-called "Dark Continent of Africa" has been close to nature and, therefore, to birth; when Christianity began to reveal the fullness of the mystery of birth and life, Africa interpreted the Madonna and the Child in terms of its own native culture. Mary, who had predicted that all generations would call her blessed, must have had it in mind that one day there would be a literal fulfillment of the words that are used of her in the liturgy: Nigra sum sed formosa "I am black but beautiful!"