Many of my Mother Mary statues are the well-known image of Our Lady with hands downwards and gentle expression. How we have grown to know and love the image of the soft Mother aspect of Mary. In recent times we are uncovering the aspects of the lost gospels and the covered up iconography of a strong resilient Mary. Today in this world of challenging changes we find ourselves confused and looking for a consoling figure and at the same time a determined comforter that is in all honesty the kind of Mother we need right now.
In this time of homestead living I find the time to read more of Mary and the renewed relationships with books such as The Way of The Rose (Clark and Finn 2019. A delectable book for the modern Marian devotee and a new vision of Her role in Our World at present. I invite you to read this one!
So back to the image of my statues, I have more Mary’s than I thought! The curiosity now has me gripped as to the image we see in our minds eye of the Mother. The women of the cross and their roles and characters are certainly women of courage and strength and did we ever need a strong feminine to lead us by the hand, but now.
My curiosity is sparked by the iconography unearthed in the book Mary and the Early Christian Women (Kateusz 2019). In this book the early images of Mary are not the taught stature I have grown up with, that we all have been conditioned to recognise. In the early images Mary stands arms raised to the heavens (Image: Mary, Rome, Perret Catacombes). In the gospel of Bartholomew Mary says “Let us stand up in Prayer’ and the Apostles stood behind her” (p.26). This is strikingly different to the depictions we have seen time after time, circulating our imagination of the spiritual feminine over the ages. Here, hands raised, leading prayer is the Mother Mary. So when did our Mary statues change demeanour? When did our acceptance take us from the early iconography of the upstanding woman leading prayer with hands raised above her head to the hands below her waist? I am not at all critical as the imagery here is both significant. For me the strong woman of spirituality is Mary, hands raised or not, hands to the great earth beneath us or above to the heavens, both are significant and meaningful. I just wished to point out the early imagery and the change over time of Our Lady of both land and sky, sea and air, location and omnipresent.
Rabbula Gospels illumination of Mary. © Alinari Archives, Florence
Other Posts of Mary and Iconography include:
Clark and Finn (2019) The Way of the Rose: The radical path of the Divine Feminine hidden in the Rosary, Penguin Random House Publishing
Kateusz A (2019) Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership, Palgrave MacMillan Press