From Vultus Christi:
An Opening Onto the Kingdom of God
It was only after several visits to the sanctuary of Our Mother of Perpetual Help that I looked, and saw, and understood the significance of the mosaic in the apse. The apse of a church generally symbolizes an opening onto the Kingdom of God. An apse is, in some way, more window than wall, even when it is solid. This explains the meaning of the images traditionally found in the apse of our churches: Christ in glory; Christ in majesty; Christ seated on a rainbow and on the clouds of heaven. Looking closely at the image in the Church of Sant’Alfonso, I see that, at the heart of the apse that symbolizes the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, there is another opening: the wound in the Sacred Side of Christ.
Pilgrimage to the Heart of Christ
The iconography of the Church of Sant’Alfonso suggests that every pilgrimage to the image Our Mother of Perpetual Help becomes, by her maternal mediation, a pilgrimage to the wounded Side of Christ and — through the wound in His Side — into the Holy of Holies that is His Sacred Heart. I think that my Redemptorist friend, Father Scott, would agree.
The Open Side of Christ
The Child held fast in His Mother’s embrace is the “Beautiful One” (Is 63:1) “clothed in a robe sprinkled with blood, and His Name is called the Word of God” (Ap 19:13). Just as His Mother’s Heart was open to receive Him in His littleness and weakness, so is His wounded Side open to receive us in our littleness, in our weakness, and even in our sin. So is His Blood poured out to cleanse, to refresh, and to heal. The way to the Heart of Jesus passes through the Heart of His Mother.