Archives for December 2011

Mary and her Mother with Books

 My ongoing affection for the saints inspires me to mark today December 8, the Feast of the Conception of Mary the Blessed Virgin. Her mother Anna, fruitful in old age and married to her third husband Joachim, so the legend goes (Anna isn’t in the New Testament), would give birth to Mary nine months later on September 8. Mary’s son Jesus was conceived by a Word, but Mary had a father. According to an evolving belief that arose in the 7th century, her conceiving was free of original sin, a mystery that belongs to the province of the theologians. Her being without sin anticipated Mary’s great maternal task ahead as the Virgin of Nazareth, and prepared for the redemptive work of Jesus. One of the things I treasure about the Mary depicted by the artists is that she was a girl who loved books. If you go to the museum and look at the paintings, you see she’s often reading. She’s studying when the Angel interrupts her to tell her she’s going to have a baby. On the flight into Egypt, Mary sits on a donkey, reading. In a cozy family setting, Joseph rocks the baby, while Mary reads a book. How can you not love this picture? It’s a picture that goes back to her girlhood. Her mother Saint Anna is shown as her teacher, with mother and daughter poring over books. Anna may point or raise her finger to show she’s a seer, sibyl, prophetess. A profetissa, a heavenly ancient woman. Murillo, Lorenzetti, Leonardo and many others painted her. Presenting her daughter at the temple, she looks elderly and wise. She can see the future. When Mary gives birth, Anna may be in the scene with a sorrowful face foreseeing what will happen to this baby. Later artists portray her as a grandmother with a book. Even later her name turns to Nana, a nanny gathering children around the fire, reading stories.

Copyright 2013 Marcelle Thiebaux