Mary the Dawn, Christ the perfect day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the heavenly Way.
Mary the Root, Christ the mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the sacred Wine.
Mary the Wheat-sheaf, Christ the living Bread;
Mary the Rose tree, Christ the Rose blood-red.
Mary the Font, Christ the cleansing Flood;
Mary the Chalice, Christ the saving Blood.
Mary the Temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored.
Mary the Beacon, Christ the haven’s Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision blest.
– Medieval Hymn
These paintings are a metaphor for the struggle of my own experience to know Christ and seek to become more like his mother Mary. The metaphors in this poem, and others found throughout art history, continue to open my understanding of Christ’s relationship with his mother.
The tree, the vine, the branches – these images evoke the memory of our mother Eve, whose disobedience was redeemed in the act of Mary’s obedient “May it be to me as you have said”. Through Mary’s “yes”, the shriveled tree of humanity bears fruit again, and through Christ is able to blossom into life and love again.
The open door, the window, the light – these paintings are about listening and opening oneself to God as Mary did: opening her heart to receive His guidance and love.
Mary, Our Lady, the Madonna, Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin, she is probably the most painted woman in Western art history. It is a daunting task to approach her in a new way, one that is not sentimental, or kitschy, or trite.
Mary, perhaps more than any other figure, is the perfect model, for she was chosen for the greatest mission ever given – to be the God-bearer. She must have felt small and inadequate in the face of such a joyful, sorrowful and great charge, but she did not give way to fear or self-doubt as I so often do: she only trusted that God would provide all that was needed to carry out the task He had given.