Sunday, November 11, 2012

What "seeing birth as sign" may tell us about Mary as spiritual mother

From the book:

For Mary, accepting motherhood meant to focus her energy and attention--in her case quite literally and directly--on God.  This was her untarnished experience of motherhood.  So what does this say about the rest of her vocation, as spiritual mother to all humanity?  What does it mean for her to be the spiritual mother?

One of the most famous icons of Madonna and child is the Virgin of Tenderness, the patron of Russia (see image).  The icon, initially written in 12th century Constantinople, features Mary cradling the baby Jesus near her face as he clings to her.  Jesus gazes lovingly at her eyes while Mary, gesturing to the infant Son of God, gazes serenely at you, the viewer of the icon.  Spiritually, this icon communicates beautifully one of the central tenets of Mariology: everything in Mary’s life was dedicated to leading others to the Son of God.  And that she was given to us, pure gift, as a spiritual mother.  A witness, yes, a sister, yes, a model for Christian discipleship, yes: but the primary relationship between Mary and the people of God is one of motherhood.  Indeed, in this picture, she is holding him up for us to see.  But what a phenomenology of birth shows us is striking: the state of quiet alertness so common to the first hour of birth is the state with which she beholds us.  She looks at us with the mother’s gaze: Mother of God and spiritual mother of you as well.  

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