Parthagica Directory 05
Yes, I believe that it is right and wholesome to do this, because the most treacherous and cowardly thing we can do is to disbelieve in life. Those old dreams and visions were true enough, and they will be true again. They represent the real life to which we must try to return. We must try to build up the conception afresh, not feebly to confess that we were all astray. We cannot abolish evil by confessing ourselves worsted by it; we can only overcome it by holding fast to our belief in labour and order and peace. It is a temptation which we must resist, to philosophise too much about war. Very few minds are large enough and clear enough to hold all the problems in their grasp. I do not believe for an instant that war has falsified our vision of peace. We must cling to it more than ever, we must emphasize it, we must dwell in it. I regard war as I regard an outbreak of pestilence; the best way to resist it is not to brood over it, but to practise joy and health. The ancient plagues which devastated Europe have not been overcome by philosophy, but by the upspringing desire of men to live cleaner and more wholesome lives. That instinct is not created by any philosophy or persuasion; it just arises everywhere and finds its way to the light.
This leads us to a consideration that I have delayed till now. The black image is the central feature of Oropa; it is the raison d'etre of the whole place, and all else is a mere incrustation, so to speak, around it. According to this image, then, which was carved by St. Luke himself, and than which nothing can be better authenticated, both the Madonna and the infant Christ were as black as anything can be conceived. It is not likely that they were as black as they have been painted; no one yet ever was so black as that; yet, even allowing for some exaggeration on St. Luke's part, they must have been exceedingly black if the portrait is to be accepted; and uncompromisingly black they accordingly are on most of the wayside chapels for many a mile around Oropa. Yet in the chapels we have been hitherto considering--works in which, as we know, the most punctilious regard has been shown to accuracy--both the Virgin and Christ are uncompromisingly white. As in the shops under the Colonnade where devotional knick-knacks are sold, you can buy a black china image or a white one, whichever you like; so with the pictures--the black and white are placed side by side--pagando il danaro si puo scegliere. It rests not with history or with the Church to say whether the Madonna and Child were black or white, but you may settle it for yourself, whichever way you please, or rather you are required, with the acquiescence of the Church, to hold that they were both black and white at one and the same time.