I think when I first started to really really get Mary was Advent 2013. Because at that time, I was, as they say, "very great with child." I was so 'great' I couldn't tie my own shoes. I was exhausted. I was weary of this 9 months of this journey. And I couldn't imagine my husband saying to me "we gotta go load up for a road trip so I can go pay some taxes." However you say "Are you kidding me!?!" In ancient Aramaic, I'm sure Mary at least thought it.
On the Fountains of Carrots podcast last week, I was able to talk to the girls about how unique a person-- a presence-- St. Mary (Our Lady, Madonna, Mary Mother of God, Theotokos, The Virgin Mary, a woman of many endearments) is. She is vulnerable and tender, but she is fierce (in the best way) strong, protective and stoic. She has human emotion but unimaginable strength. It's a concept that was hard for me to understand (and to paint) until I went through the process of pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
Because your little one is your heart--- before you even lay eyes on them. And its a vulnerable feeling for your heart to be out in the world, to see them cry or in pain or not feeling well-- you want to make it all better and take on their pain yourself. You want only the best and the most happiness for them, but life is often messy, bittersweet and hard.
And so as we make our way through Lent, especially Holy Week, I can't help but think of Mary and what must have been going on in her heart. I can't imagine her great joy and terrible sorrow. And did she know from the beginning?
That's why in my Madonna and Child paintings, she is content and joyful, but also measured and strong. There's a whole lot of life coming. And some of it she will have to be unimaginably strong for. She has to see it through to the end.
Mary, in my eyes, is much more than a passive supporting character on a Christmas Card. She is fascinating and dynamic. She's a strong woman, no doubt about it. Her life didnt just happen to her. She went for it with open arms and heart. I really admire that. No wonder I keep coming back to her with my paint brush, again and again.