Ever since the 17th century, pilgrims have been drawn to Vilnius to visit the miraculous image of the Holy Mother of Mercy. Placed in the chapel above the eastern gates of the city known as the Gates of Dawn, the dark Madonna, her neck humbly bent, graciously looks over the Lithuanian capital under her patronage. For nearly four hundred years, Catholics and Orthodox alike have prayed together in front of our Holy Mother of Mercy. Even before our Lord’s revelations of His divine mercy to St. Faustina in the 1930s, pilgrims were already coming to Vilnius as the City of Mercy, where the intercession of the Mother of Mercy has testified to the inexhaustible divine mercy of our Savior.
Pope St. John Paul II, in his encyclical about Divine Mercy “Dives in misericordia”, also wrote about the merciful Mother of God:
Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God's mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the Mother of mercy: our Lady of mercy, or Mother of divine mercy; in each one of these titles there is a deep theological meaning, for they express the special preparation of her soul, of her whole personality, so that she was able to perceive, through the complex events, first of Israel, then of every individual and of the whole of humanity, that mercy of which "from generation to generation"105 people become sharers according to the eternal design of the most Holy Trinity. (Dives in Misericordia, 9)
In October 1937 in Kraków, Jesus directed Sister Faustina to honor the hour of His death – three o’clock in the afternoon – in a special way. He called this hour the hour of great mercy for the whole world, saying to her:
“….as often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul….Try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant…. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice.” (Diary, 1572)
On several occasions when Our Lord appeared to St. Faustina, He made known to her His desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy. That Jesus would request the first Sunday after Easter, which marks the end the octave of the Solemnity of the Resurrection, to be universally celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy reveals how interconnected is the Paschal Mystery of the Redemption with the mystery of Divine Mercy. After all, the Paschal Mystery – Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection – is the greatest revelation of God’s merciful love.
In His words to St. Faustina, Jesus said that the Feast of Divine Mercy is the last hope of salvation for poor sinners:
“Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation, that is, recourse to My Mercy.” (Diary, 965)
“I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.” (Diary, 699)
The Lord asks with sincerity and compassion that souls go to Confession and receive Holy Communion, for then a whole ocean of mercy will be poured out on that soul:
When you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. […] Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. (Diary, 1602)
When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. (Diary, 1385)
No soul will be justified until it turns with confidence to My mercy; and this is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the Feast of Mercy, and on that day, priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable mercy. (Diary, 570)